Congress made a decision to delay the implementation of the land border requirements for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) until mid-2009 in the FY 2007 DHS appropriations bill, a change which has begun to prompt a look at alternate options to the proposed PASS card, at least at the state level. For example, yesterday the AP looked at a new proposal by Washington state and British Columbia focused on scanning drivers’ licenses:
Washington state on Monday asked the Department of Homeland Security to authorize a three-month pilot project for scanning driver’s licenses at the border with British Columbia.
Gov. Chris Gregoire hopes a successful display of technology will persuade the government that passports won’t be needed for all border crossings starting in the summer of 2009. She and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell are trying to streamline the crossings as the region prepares for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
….Gregoire announced a proposal for a 90-day test of hand-held wireless scanners by U.S. border agents at the main Blaine crossing and possibly at Port Angeles. The devices, developed by Port Townsend-based Mobalissa, can scan the bar code on the back of U.S. and Canadian driver’s licenses to check for fakes and to see whether the name is on a security watch list of either country.
The scanners, which can “read” all 50 state licenses, will cost $150,000. The devices already are being used at some military installation gates.
Given the challenges to date in implementing the WHTI requirements (which were the main reason for the Congressional postponement), and the unclear business case for the PASS cards, I think it makes sense for DHS to encourage these types of alternate pilot projects. There is no guarantee that this concept will succeed, and it potentially has throughput challenges. But given the critical importance of getting this right, it’s imperative that multiple options are considered within the next year.