A major defense contractor handling the Transportation Worker Identification Credential has lost 3,000 applications for the program, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security announced last week.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS, lashed out at the TWIC program in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week.
“Many of these applicants work in ports where TWIC compliance is currently being enforced,” Thompson wrote. “Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, these workers are not only unable to gain admittance to their worksites, but must also recommence this lengthy application process.”
Thompson asked Chertoff to respond to several questions about the TWIC program, including:
- What process has DHS required the contractor to use to expedite the application process for the 3,000 workers who must enroll again?
- How many individuals work at ports that first required TWIC on Oct. 15, Nov. 28 and Dec. 1? Of those, how many have applied for but not yet received a TWIC card?
- Does DHS know how many individuals have requested appeals and waivers for ports that have come into compliance as of Oct. 15, Nov. 28 and Dec. 1? If so, please provide this information by port. Similarly, does DHS know how many individuals have submitted appeals and waiver requests for ports that will be required to enforce the program as of Dec. 30, 2008?
The TWIC program eventually will require more than 1.5 million port employees, longshoremen, mariners, truckers and others who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports to have background checks before being issued cards with their biometric data and residency documentation.
Nationally, TWIC cards will be required for truckers and other port workers who need unescorted access into secure areas by April 15, 2009, although most ports are implementing earlier mandatory TWIC enforcement.
OOIDA has been critical of several TSA processes during the TWIC rollout including the price of enrollment and the ability of foreign nationals to access ports without background checks required by TWIC applicants from the U.S. One filing of the Association’s comments on TWIC can be found here.
Joe Rajkovacz, the Association’s regulatory affairs specialist, told Land Line that Lockheed Martin receives a healthy portion of TWIC’s $132.50 application fee. Rajkovacz said the company should make the situation good for truck drivers and others who have lost work time due to the mishandling of TWIC applications.
“As far as I’m concerned, Lockheed Martin owes these drivers restitution,” Rajkovacz said. “It’s their screw up; they’re the ones that need to make it right. Unfortunately, with government contracts, the normal customer service that would apply in the real world doesn’t apply here.”
Thompson said DHS didn’t respond to his own and other Congressional members’ suggestion to improve infrastructure “to meet the demands of the TWIC enrollment process.”
“Because of this refusal, it appears that port workers who are willing and able to report to work are unable to gain access to their respective worksites,” Thompson wrote. “Given the current economic uncertainties, it is troubling to consider that these individuals may suffer unmerited harm solely due to the actions of an apparently inert bureaucracy.”
According to the Transportation Security Administration, 465,979 TWIC cards had been activated by Dec. 4. An estimated 114,000 truck drivers had enrolled.
Standard TWIC enrollment costs $132.50, although workers with “current, comparable” threat assessment background checks such as hazmat endorsements, Merchant Mariner Documents or Free and Secure Trade (FAST) cards may obtain a TWIC card for $105.25. The card is designed to last five years.
Replacement cards for those who lose or damage their TWIC card cost $60, according to the TWIC Web site at www.tsa.gov/twic.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer