TSA moving closer to TWIC being the go-to card

By Greg Grisolano, associate editor

A legal interpretation issued by the Transportation Safety Administration moves the industry one step closer to having the Transportation Worker Identification Credential be a universal access card for high-security facilities.

TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a legal interpretation of the phrase "field of transportation" in reference to the statute that requires the agency to charge fees to recover the cost of its vetting.

The notice was published in late September. The interpretation clarifies which individuals TSA may collect and retain fees from for providing background checks and other vetting services, including the TWIC program.

The clarification specifically addresses questions TSA said it received from employers and employees in the chemical industry as to whether they fall within the scope of "field of transportation" in the administration’s vetting services.

"This interpretation states that the ‘field of transportation’ under 6 U.S.C. 469(a) includes an individual, activity, entity, facility, owner, or operator that is subject to regulation by TSA, DOT, or the U.S. Coast Guard, and individuals applying for trusted traveler programs," the notice states.

Before the interpretation, TWIC cards were good only for workers who need access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime facilities and vessels.

Doug Morris, OOIDA security operations director said the legal definition is one more step in the move toward making TWIC a universal access card.

"Originally TWIC was only supposed to be for maritime and port facilities," he said. "Now, it opens it up for basically anybody involved in transportation to get a TWIC card."

According to the supplementary information published in the notice, both federal agencies and industry stakeholders had approached TSA at various times over the last decade, asking whether their employees could enroll for security vetting and pay TSA for the service. More recently, the agency says it received inquiries from other industries "concerning the delineation of where transportation begins and ends" and that the answer was "not so apparent" before issuing the clarification.