Heritage Homeland Security University

By Janice Kephart on October 5, 2009
Editor's Note: Janice Kephart presented the information below at Heritage Homeland Security University on October 1, 2009. Accompanying the presentation is a table containing status updates of various national security programs.

The following is an overview of Border ID Programs and a comparison of where these program were under the Bush Administration and where they stand today under the Obama Administration.

Most of these programs are based on the 9/11 Commission recommendation that we must assure that people are who they say they are and are authorized to gain the privilege they are seeking, whether it is to enter the country, work, or get a driver license, for example. A few of these programs have been on the books since 1996, like E-Verify, but most of them are post-9/11 programs. You will see the programs listed in blue down the left column and a series of columns describing the programs and their current status, broken down by the shift in U.S. leadership. The chart is meant to be a take-away from this talk, and for now, I just want to highlight some important nuggets.

A look at progress

On the border:


(Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) requires a passport or equivalent for every person seeking entry into the U.S. and is a key 9/11 recommendation. By the end of the Chertoff era it was on track for full deployment for June 2009. Passport Cards for border crossing were meeting projected sales. WHTI was carried out and deployed and I am very relieved, after the huge backlash received from border/trade councils and Canada for years, there is a 95 percent compliance rate and the Canadians are actually slightly more compliant than Americans. In addition, in the past six months, passport card sales have surged another 1.3 million.

Enhanced Driver Licenses (EDLs) are a driver license U.S. citizens can use to cross a land border that has been pre-vetted for citizenship. EDLs are operational in four states (WA, NY, VT, and MI) and considered a win for the states and for consumers. EDLs are WHTI-compliant and hopefully will be deemed REAL ID-compliant as well, for use at airports and other critical infrastructures.

US-VISIT, the biometric program that vets those entering the United States, has successfully deployed ten print scanners to all ports, has added more data sets to verify identity, and finally--after over a decade of Congress pushing--there may finally have been a successful pilot for Exit that involves Customs and Border Protection, not the airlines, conducting Exit inspection on the jetways in international terminals.

And new traveler programs were in effect under Chertoff and can now be applied for online, including two new ones as of late last year: (1) for U.S. citizens called Global Entry, and (2) the Electronic System Travel Authorization for visa waiver travelers that pre-vets passengers prior to travel through terror, criminal, and immigration data and produce an electronic I-94 or denial and will soon totally replace the traditional paper I-94 used for entry into the United States.

Within the border:


(national driver license standards) has regulations in place and has received two series of grants from Former DHS Secretary Chertoff. Just about every state is more secure in its vetting of applicants than they were on 9/11 and most have more tamper-proof cards as well. Secretary Napalitano promised repeal and has been working on that since she took office. The PASS ID bill, which came out of DHS, the National Governors' Association, and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee initially negated any notion of security. But PASS ID has received some aggressive opposition, some of its deepest flaws are mostly healed at this point. It remains to be seen if the ongoing negotiations will enable this legislation to get onto the Senate Floor, and whether the House will actively pursue it.

E-Verify, the highly successful work authorization program was initially viewed with much skepticism by Secretary Napolitano. But as of July 2009 it was showing a 274 percent growth rate in employer use since 2007, with over 500,000 worksites using the program. You may recall E-Verify received no support for the federal contractor rule or its continued authorization. However, it appears the program has proved its value to the administration as the federal contractor rule is in place and the administration is now supporting the program. We are hoping for a more lengthy reauthorization in this cycle.

On the vetting side, improvements continue. Now adding in the digital photo that was used when the U.S. passport was applied for, as well as visa application photo/data to help employers assure they have not been presented with a photo-substituted U.S. passport or U.S. visa in a foreign passport. What it does not have is access to driver license photos or birth records for those claiming U.S. citizenship.

TWIC (port workers' credential for sensitive areas) had reversed many of its problems and completed credentialing by April 2009. The readers have completed their initial evaluations and DHS hopes that by spring some choices are made to get TWIC fully operational.

Some insights on remaining issues:

Passport vetting

: A March 2009 study by the GAO found that while the U.S. passport is a secure document, our State Department is not properly vetting U.S. passport applicants. Undercover government investigators were able to use stolen social security numbers, bad vital records info and fake driver licenses--with no extra scrutiny--to apply and receive U.S. passports with no incident. The State Department is trying to fix this, but are having a problem of obtaining driver's license data to assure against fraudulent licenses being used to get a passport. Birth record information will come on board as soon as possible. This problem of obtaining driver license information, and to a lesser extent birth record information, is experienced with E-Verify and by states working with REAL ID.


Overall, what I think can be said today with some measure of confidence is that while Secretary Napolitano started her tenure as DHS Secretary on more than shaky ground--with her initial non-support of E-Verify, her seeking repeal of REAL ID, and silence for months on many of the ID programs that began to be taken for granted and considered mainstream post-9/11 Commission and post Secretary Chertoff--she has begun to create a more seamless transition into these programs, embracing many of them and carrying them significantly forward to their next generation.

This includes US-Visit and finally a potential answer on Exit, TWIC perhaps, E-Verify (assuming reauthorization), and continued improvement on land ports of entry infrastructure. Of course, nothing is perfect, and I continue to be highly skeptical of PASS ID, the borders are not secure (a new DHS report admits 90 percent of borders are not secure), and worksite enforcement policies are questionable as well.

However, that is another discussion, and as far as border ID programs are concerned--whether they are a setup to show 'rule of law' strength and to garner support for amnesty or otherwise--this is good progress for a more secure and efficient U.S. border platform.