TSA to move forward with TWIC concept

| 3/21/2003

The Transportation Security Administration is moving ahead to develop a "smart card" for transportation employees, including truckdrivers, despite a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, Government Computer News reports.

Known as the Transit Worker Identification Credential, the card is for physical and network entry at several transportation nodes including ports, railways and airports. The agency could request proposals from industry to develop the technology this month.

However, TWIC has hit holdups, partly because Congress felt it outreached realistic expectations.

Both houses held back funding for TWIC last year, pointing out that the project has programming uncertainties.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Related Agencies called the idea of assigning single-card access to hundreds of workers at dozens of entry points "so grandiose as to be infeasible and unworkable."

Even with help from the private sector, the committee wrote, "it is unlikely that consensus across all the affected industries could be reached."

But TSA leaders said ignoring the TWIC concept could put daily routines into more disarray as work builds up.

"We have a trucker who has paid for 23 separate background investigations to enable him to have 23 separate credentials to get from Point A to Point B to Point C," said James M. Loy, undersecretary of transportation for security, speaking at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in late January.

"We have an endless list of people associated with the transportation sector in these hubs that we need to have confidence in, allowing them unescorted access into certain corners of the transportation system," Loy said.

TWIC's implications could stretch to international borders and policies, he said: "If we can set the bar high for what the credentialing package ought to be, we should be doing that."