Supporters of a robust risk management agenda for the Transportation Security Administration received the bad news that Verified Identity Pass, the company that operates the CLEAR Registered Traveler program, abruptly ceased operations yesterday.  VIP cited a lack of funding from its investors for the decision.

Whether Registered Traveler can continue without its primary vendor remains to be seen.  But any company or association attempting to implement Registered Traveler will face an uphill climb with a skeptical TSA which sees Registered Traveler as a distraction from its primary security missions, and with airline opposition, which views Registered Traveler as a competitor to its lucrative amenity programs.

TSA initially supported Registered Traveler during the Tom Ridge era at DHS, as a method to target security resources on less-known travelers and to enable low-risk frequent travelers a consistent and fast security review.  However, TSA washed its hands of RT in 2008, arguing it could never ensure that an unknown “clean skin” terrorist could exploit any security protocol change, leaving Registered Traveler as only a fast-lane program.  Despite considerable public appetite for the program with over 200,000 loyal subscribers, operations at over 20 airports, and some airline partnerships, investors in Registered Traveler apparently saw the lack of TSA support as a reason to place their monetary bets elsewhere.

So unless another Registered Traveler vendor somehow picks up the elaborate enrollment and facilitation infrastructure, starting this morning, it looks like we are in for a system for a while where every traveler will get the same security screening, even if they are willing to pay for a background check and biometric verification, and for the TSA resources necessary to run their checkpoints.  Time will tell whether TSA’s caution was justified, or whether RT was just an idea before its time.