TWIC Twouble - not enough dough, says GAO

| Tuesday, December 16, 2003

In a Dec. 12 letter to Congress, the U.S. General Accounting Office cited funding difficulties in the implementation of the Transportation Security Administration’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, known as TWIC.

The cards are intended for use by those, including truck drivers, who have access to the nation’s port areas.The purpose of TWIC is to create one common and universally accepted ID for all workers in the transportation field, whether they're truckers, dockworkers, airline mechanics, caterers, ship crews or railroad engineers.

“Although no national estimates of the cost are currently available, they are likely to be substantial,” the agency said. The comments were sent to Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-SC, ranking member on the Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation. “According to a TSA official, nationwide the agency expects to issue 5 to 6 million identification cards a year from mid-2004 to the end of 2007.”

GAO noted a study for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that estimates it will cost at least $45 million to perform the necessary start-up tasks.

“Because of these significant costs, maritime stakeholders are concerned about who will ultimately pay for the TWIC,” GAO said. “One port authority official indicated the cost may be passed on to workers as a cost of their employment.”

The costs are related to installation of card readers throughout the ports, the issuance of the cards and adding staff to operate and maintain the system.