Getting Back to BASIC Airport Security

Airport consortium works on developing industry standard for biometric access control

In an attempt to prevent the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from imposing government-mandated access control standards, the airline industry has decided to form the Biometric Airport Security Identification Consortium, or BASIC.
The goal of the consortium is to create a framework from which the nation’s airports can adopt a biometric-enabled access control system for its employees.

What initially began as a six-airport pilot project in the spring of 2008 has transformed into a major industry initiative that now encompasses nearly 40 airports, ranging from small local operations to some of the largest and busiest airports in the nation.
According to Lori Beckman, former director of security for Denver International Airport and founder of Aviation Security Consulting, the TSA was discussing implementing biometric standards for airports in late 2007, which was a concern for her and other airport security officials, given that they had imposed requirements for the current access control systems being used by airports during the ’90s.

“The way that it was promulgated was just horrible for airports — it was expensive,” Beckman says. “The service providers were not ready to roll out what the TSA wanted and it was just really messy. A lot of (systems) had to be replaced in a few years and we didn’t want to go down that road again.”

This time around, Beckman says that airports wanted to try and work with their existing access control equipment and build on that without having to completely reconfigure their systems.

According to Carter Morris, senior vice president for transportation policy at the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), working with legacy access control systems is the one of the biggest reasons airports have decided to take part in the BASIC program.

“It’s absolutely critical because airports have already made investments in these (access control) systems. It doesn’t need to be a whole new system; the goal is what can we add incrementally that accomplishes the same thing,” Morris says. “Those are the types of issues airports are keeping an eye on. We don’t want to create a framework that throws a whole bunch of good stuff away just so you can put in an incremental piece of technology.”

Morris adds that implementing technology that is “future proof” is a big part of the BASIC program given the current state of the economy and lack of resources by many airports to be able to voluntarily install new access control systems.

Despite the fact that implementing biometric hardware for an access control system may be the most important step in the BASIC process, Beckman says that it is the last phase of the pilot and that many other things have to be taken into account before it can be accomplished — including the compiling of biographical information in an acceptable format to the government, exchanging biometric information and trying to determine what type of biometric to use. “We’re trying to pull all those processes together and make them more functional,” she says.

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