TSA and CBP need to work together better (than they have been). One area to do so is to begin managing TSA’s Precheck and CBP’s Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST programs as one. Consolidating management of these programs will improve security and streamline how people become certified, whether they are crossing the border, traveling on an airplane, or driving a truck. After becoming qualified, they will only have to present one DHS card to travel more expeditiously.

The history of these programs varies; they did not commence at the same time. The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) was conceived in 1995. Representatives from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), U.S. Customs Service, and five other Federal stakeholder agencies formed and established a technical concept, engineering design and relevant policies. The first SENTRI lane was deployed at Otay Mesa, California.

TSA’s PreCheck program rolled out in October 2011. Global Entry used to be called USPASS/International Registered Traveler (IRT). DHS published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register in 2009, proposing to establish an international trusted traveler program called Global Entry. PreCheck and Global Entry moved along separate paths for various reasons, including technological incompatibility, means of management, and pride of ownership.

These programs all enhance homeland security, improved efficiency on the part of TSA and CBP, and faster, more efficient movement of goods and services. Managing these programs as one would compound that efficiency and the security benefits they provide.

In practice, after certification, information for all programs in which one is participating would be contained on a single card. This would:

  1. Be more effective in terms of accomplishing the regulatory objective;
  2. Operate more efficiently and provide commensurate or better homeland security under a slightly different approach;
  3. Allow DHS to collect the necessary information once, eliminating duplication, overlap, and inconsistency;
  4. Allow the individual to only have to present one card; and
  5. Be tailored to impose the least burden on society.

To be clear, I am not talking about merging the different programs into one and calling them by a new name. Instead, I am talking about managing them as one. This is not something new. For example, I have a Class C driver’s license that permits me to drive a motor vehicle under 26,001 lbs. But there are at least two other types of drivers licenses I can obtain— a Class A license allowing me to drive any single combination of vehicles (e.g., tow any trailer), and a Class B license allowing me to drive motor vehicles weighing more than 26,001 lbs. They are issued by one agency and permit me to drive in any state and most any country.

TSA and CBP have been working together, but progress has been slow. DHS needs to develop some internal performance metrics with the desired effect of managing these various programs as one.

Gary S. Becker is the Chief Economist for Catalyst Partners, LLC. In this role, Becker offers economic analyses to clients on matters relating to homeland security, including the cost impact of proposed and final rulemakings. He offers advice on how to save money while achieving desired security benefits. Read More