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Report to Congress on enhanced security measuresReport to Congress on enhanced security measures


May 19, 2002


The Aviation and Transportation Security Act (P.L. 107-71) was signed into law by the President on November 19, 2001. Section 109 of the Act authorizes the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security to take certain actions in eight specific areas listed in the Act to enhance transportation security. The section also requires submission of a progress report to Congress six months after the date of enactment of the Act, describing progress on the evaluation and implementation of the actions listed in the section, including any legislative recommendations that the Under Secretary may have for enhancing transportation security. This report must be submitted annually thereafter until all specified actions are evaluated and implemented or until the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) makes a decision made not to pursue further action.

The Under Secretary makes no specific legislative proposals at this point. A status report regarding each of the eight statutorily identified items follows.


ITEM #1. Require effective 911 emergency call capability for telephones serving passenger aircraft and passenger trains.

Discussion: TSA does not anticipate requiring a specific 911 emergency call capability for either of these two modes of transportation.

Regarding aircraft, TSA has decided not to pursue the extensive research and regulation that would be needed to establish a consolidated 911 air-ground capability for passengers traveling on commercial aircraft. Instead, for commercial aviation, TSA and FAA expect that flight deck crews and certain automated systems monitoring aircraft operations will be the primary source for emergency notifications. The Department of Transportation has taken a "system of systems" approach—at airports and aboard aircraft—to harden the cockpit from intrusion and protect aircraft from terrorists.

TSA is working actively with FAA and the industry to improve cockpit emergency tools that will allow for more effective emergency communication with air traffic control, the airline flight operations centers and appropriate emergency responders. These include systems and procedures that improve routine and emergency communications between flight deck and cabin crews, as well as specific flight deck technology. For example, FAA has made or is in the process of making awards this year for at least $25 million in satellite communication link demonstrations, and $3 million in cockpit intrusion warning devices, and is working closely with manufacturers on important transponder technology improvements for near-term enhanced transponder deployment.

Regarding passenger trains, TSA has concluded that significant 911 emergency notification capacity currently exists for the rail industry. Amtrak's new, high-speed Acela trains have an onboard 911 emergency call system in place. Each 911 phone call made on an Acela train is routed to Amtrak's National Communications Center in Philadelphia, where appropriate action is taken. Also, each Amtrak conductor on a train has a radio that is connected to Amtrak's Centralized National Operations Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Both centers operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Amtrak is reviewing whether to expand its 911 emergency call capability to other trains.

Commuter trains typically do not have 911 or commercial use telephones, but transit systems do use radios and a variety of onboard and track-based warning systems for use in alerting the system's transit operation center to emergencies. Transit passenger trains normally have call buttons that allow passengers to alert the driver of a train, and the drivers maintain radio contact with dispatchers. In addition, commuter rail systems often have security officers equipped with radio communication onboard their trains and/or at certain station stops.

Perhaps most importantly, a high percentage of passengers on both intercity and commuter trains have cellular telephones that can be employed for emergency notifications. TSA notes that the Department will continue to support the Secretary's "E911" initiative, a nationwide effort to improve 911 caller location capability and responder support for emergency notifications of all types, including transportation emergencies.

STATUS: Closed.

ITEM #2. Establish a uniform system of identification for all State and local law enforcement personnel for use in obtaining permission to carry weapons in aircraft cabins and in obtaining access to a secured area of an airport, if otherwise authorized to carry such weapons.

Discussion: At present, we do have such an on-going pilot program involving various Federal law enforcement agencies that TSA has authorized to travel armed. TSA has had discussions with several states to explore how state and local law enforcement officers traveling armed might be employed to assist with aircraft security. Such a program will require special training, pre-flight notification procedures and an appropriate identification card.

TSA has made important progress in selecting a uniform system of identification—a card-based biometric information system to support positive identification of individuals prior to accessing a secure area of an airport or boarding a commercial aircraft. TSA contemplates using this same card technology for identification of law enforcement officers participating in any TSA approved program by which such officials are authorized to travel armed.

After September 11, Secretary Mineta established a multi-modal technology assessment team to evaluate and design a comprehensive architecture for transportation credentialing. Now managed by TSA staff, it has coordinated extensively with various other Executive Branch agencies. Team members reviewed tools that include: anti-tamper printing, ink and optical devices; advanced smart card technology; multiple biometrics; public key infrastructure; distributed network information technology; and other advanced encryption techniques. The team is now completing its design proposal. The design includes appropriate information technology architecture and a card-based system that will support multiple biometric identifiers. Its core technology is already in widespread use by the Department of Defense today.

This card initiative is designed to support all modes of transportation with a common, secure credential that can be accepted throughout a given modal system. The card can securely verify the holder's identity (with biometrics where appropriate), verify that a required background check was completed, and link the individual to a permanent record that governs access to specific secure areas. A system-wide identification card can provide immediate benefits. To realize its full potential—at airports, for example—will likely require modifications to gate and door access equipment and procedures. The proposed solution will have robust functionality into which various transportation modes can grow.

The credential project participants have engaged in a dialog with many associations, industry and other stakeholders. Public meetings were held on January 22, March 14 and April 22-29 of this year, involving approximately 1,000 participants overall. This effort incorporates work previously completed on the Law Enforcement Officer Verification Card Program, a proposed system earlier tested prior to September 11 by the FAA for granting aircraft access for law enforcement officers traveling armed.

STATUS: Active.

ITEM #3. Establish requirements to implement trusted passenger programs and use available technologies to expedite the security screening of passengers who participate in such programs, thereby allowing security screening personnel to focus on those passengers who should be subject to more extensive screening.

Discussion: TSA is pursuing multiple actions to minimize the "hassle factor" for the traveling public. Evaluation of a trusted traveler or registered passenger program is among our priorities in this area.

To implement a registered passenger program TSA will need a simple, fast, affordable and nationally distributed technology to provide effective background clearances for a very large number of individuals. TSA is working with the Office of Personnel Management and private vendors to put in place a process that would be needed for validation of a registered passenger application. This system will be tested first on a widespread basis as TSA conducts background screening for some 40,000 airport screener positions.

Review of a registered passenger program is on going at TSA.

STATUS: Active.

ITEM #4. In consultation with the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, develop alternative security procedures under which a medical product to be transported on a flight of an air carrier would not be subject to an inspection that would irreversibly damage the product.

Discussion: The procedures relating to transport of medical products seek to ensure verification of contents without damaging the medical products being transported. Immediately after the grounding of all flights on September 11, there were some urgent needs to transport organs and other time-sensitive medical supplies that posed conflicts with the early recovery efforts. Since then, neither TSA nor FAA has been informed of significant difficulties in this area.

Transportation of sensitive medical products by airlines incorporates pre-notification processes with readily verifiable documentation. Regulations allow passengers to request a physical inspection and search of carry-on baggage instead of x-ray device screening if there is concern about x-ray damage. The existing security procedures ensure verification of contents without damaging the medical products being transported.

The TSA and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Anti-Terrorism Programs began to assess jointly the relevant security mechanisms in January 2002, and several exchanges of information have occurred since then. FDA has discussed these issues with representatives of the biotech and pharmaceuticals industries. Essentially, FDA did not find the existing process for the screening of medical products unworkable or excessively burdensome. It is TSA's judgment that alternative procedures are not needed at this time.

STATUS: Closed.

ITEM #5. Provide for the use of technologies, including wireless and wire line data technologies, to enable the private and secure communication of threats to aid in the screening of passengers and other individuals on airport property who are identified on any State or Federal security-related data base for the purpose of having an integrated response coordination of various authorized airport security forces.

Discussion: TSA is actively developing CAPPS II, which will be a second generation of the existing Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS I) technology. As currently envisioned, CAPPS II will be applied to real-time pre-flight background threat evaluation of passenger manifests, a tool that will replace and upgrade the current FAA pre-flight screening program.

The automated CAPPS II system will be capable of fusing and instantly analyzing data from multiple government and private sector sources. CAPPS II will be composed of an "intelligent" system, incorporating a neural-network and other tools to drive continuous improvement of threat analysis.

TSA has awarded contracts in a Phase 1 test involving four firms to design alternative models for a CAPPS II security scoring algorithm, and to propose program design and operating procedures. These firms were selected competitively, following TSA interviews with some 30 firms that have made proposals in this area. We have also conducted detailed conversations with the airline industry, computer reservations systems experts, the FBI, Secret Service, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Office of Homeland Security, and other Federal agencies.

The proposed CAPPS II technology will fuse threat data gathered from State, Federal, and private sector sources. Data from the existing CAPPS I program is today made available to airport security forces only through the intermediary of the airline reservation systems. The CAPPS II architecture will eliminate this intermediary role of the airlines. An important part of CAPPS II—but also of TSA's overall information support system design—will be provision of secure communications to front-line security forces.

TSA is evaluating various technology tools to convey real-time incident reporting to its entire airport screening network. All airports served by TSA must be able to implement enhanced levels of security screening immediately in response to a problem or incident happening across the country or around the globe. This subject will, therefore, be an area of ongoing focus for TSA.

TSA expects to complete a CAPPS II system design by early fall, and will brief Congress in detail in a classified setting at that point. TSA plans to proceed to CAPPS II deployment beginning in late Fall of 2002.

CAPPS II will help reduce dependency on random passenger selection for additional screening at airports—a significant contributor to the "hassle factor" that has animated public support for a possible registered passenger program. It should be noted that TSA is pursuing multiple actions to minimize the hassle factor for the traveling public. First and foremost, in a program tested at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, TSA redesigned passenger screening tools and procedures to decrease significantly passenger wait time at checkpoints. This new approach to passenger screening will be incorporated into the nationwide rollout of TSA screeners at the nation's airports this year.

STATUS: Active.

ITEM #6. In consultation with the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, consider whether to require all pilot licenses to incorporate a photograph of the license holder and appropriate biometric imprints.

Discussion: The combination of a photograph and biometric identifiers (e.g., fingerprints, retina scan) are features of the transportation worker identification card project discussed in Item # 2, above. Its implementation would mean that commercial pilots would have such a secure identification card.

The FAA is currently considering whether it should also incorporate a photo requirement for the licenses it issues to general aviation pilots. In the general aviation pilot community, considerable anecdotal evidence suggests that for many pilot transactions, such as leasing an aircraft, there is a commonplace practice of requiring a pilot to show a government-issued identification together with a pilot license.

An FAA rulemaking team with TSA membership has been formed to consider a petition from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to require pilots to carry a valid photo identification card with their pilot certificates. FAA anticipates issuing a formal notice to solicit public comment on this matter.

STATUS: Active.

ITEM #7. Provide for the use of voice stress analysis, biometric, or other technologies to prevent a person who might pose a danger to air safety or security from boarding the aircraft of an air carrier or foreign air carrier in air transportation or intrastate air transportation.

Discussion: TSA interprets this item in the legislation to refer to various biometric technologies applied as security tools. TSA's evaluation of the use of biometric tools as part of a secure transportation identification card has been discussed above.

Voice stress analysis utilizes the physiological characteristics of a human voice pattern to infer malevolent or deceptive intent. This class of technologies has not yet been proven to be effective in an airport pre-flight setting. They are, however, the subject of various laboratory experiments or research projects. One such research project, monitoring physiological changes in the body, is being conducted with TSA support by Honeywell and the Mayo Clinic.

The TSA is pursuing voice stress analysis by leveraging years of work done at the USAF Rome Laboratory in New York. The scope of effort is still being developed between TSA and Rome Labs, but it will include speaker recognition, for use in access control, as well as a survey of voice stress evaluations. It is expected that this survey will identify additional research activities that TSA might undertake in collaboration with DARPA regarding other physiological or image processing methods of suspicious behavior identification.

The TSA is also evaluating facial recognition technology. TSA is one of the sponsoring Federal organizations in a Facial Recognition Vendor Test being conducted to evaluate existing technologies of facial recognition algorithm vendors. This form of evaluation is the first step in determining the effectiveness of facial recognition technology. DARPA is actively sponsoring the development of improved facial recognition technology in their "Human Identity at a Distance" program. Through a TSA-DARPA collaborative research initiative (required in Section 137(d) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act), the TSA will be pursuing airport-oriented applications of DARPA research. One such proposed project is an anticipated "scenario evaluation" of the facial recognition in a simulated airport setting using test subjects behaving in pre-scripted roles.

The use of video surveillance and facial recognition technology may ultimately prove useful in airport applications, but it would require maintenance of an appropriate photo watch-list—a law-enforcement resource that would presumably be developed outside TSA.

STATUS: Active.

ITEM #8. Provide for the use of technology that will permit enhanced instant communications and information between airborne passenger aircraft and appropriate individuals or facilities on the ground.

Discussion: TSA and FAA see enhanced air-ground communication as a high priority and are actively pursuing technological improvement in existing equipment to achieve this objective.

The Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) is a voice and signal service for both air traffic control and air carrier company communications that provides data link services like Terminal Doppler Weather Radar information stored in the form of text and character graphic messages. Pilots can access these programs or an airline can choose to send forced messages from its host to an aircraft. Both United and American ground stations sent vital information to their aircraft on September 11th. The system currently is an uplink only and not suitable for two-way communication or emergency call capability. Other equipment installed on Boeing and Airbus aircraft as part of the Future Air Navigation System will be evaluated for use in emergencies.

Several services are used at 57 airports where voice frequency congestion is considered a serious problem. These applications uplink information via ACARS and VHF, and have significantly reduced communications traffic on crowded voice frequencies. A request-reply initiated by the flight deck is under consideration. For example, in the case of Flight Information Services, a ground-based service provider can receive a downlinked request for weather products, compile the requested information, and uplink it to the requesting aircraft for display. It is conceivable that such traffic could contain emergency or security related information exchanges. Such avenues are being explored but technological challenges remain.

Ensuring continuous transponder communication with air traffic control following a hijacking remains a major concern. A major redesign could be required, but we have learned about possible modifications that could be accomplished more quickly. These are being examined along with other alternatives that would allow setting and locking-in the hijacking code so that the hijacker cannot disable it. A panic button that initiates the hijacking code in an emergency situation with its own rechargeable power source, and an independent transponder that cannot be disabled by the hijacker are also being considered. Specialized equipment for Federal Air Marshals, in addition to standard issue cell phones, is under consideration.

STATUS: Active.


Work on six of the eight items listed under Section 109 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act will continue either as separate projects or as part of larger security enhancement efforts. Many of these topics will be regularly discussed with Members of Congress informally and in Congressional oversight hearings in the coming months. A second report on the actions regarding each of the six active areas of focus will be made in May 2003, as required by law.

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