Scrap TWIC? GAO report slams port credential program

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Friday, May 10, 2013

Truck drivers and others who work at U.S. ports have grumbled for years about the expenses and hassles of obtaining a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC.

TWIC – a biometric security card capable of storing fingerprints, residency documents and other information – was designed to make ports and major warehouse areas less vulnerable to potential terrorists.

A federal investigative report released this week says the TWIC program’s efforts to implement a remote card reader system haven’t worked, and said Congress should consider scrapping the 10-year-old billion-dollar program altogether and starting over with a new credential.

The Government Accountability Office slammed TWIC in a 12-page statement released Thursday, May 9. The GAO listed eight weaknesses tied to TWIC’s remote reader program that port security could theoretically use to examine workers’ credentials. The statement also slammed TWIC generally.

GAO issued a report on TWIC to congress in 2009 that said Homeland Security “didn’t have a sound evaluation methodology to ensure information collected through the TWIC reader pilot would be complete and accurate.”

In 2011, GAO said the internal control weaknesses in the program’s enrollment, background checks and use “limit the program’s ability to provide reasonable assurance that access to secure areas … is restricted to qualified individuals.”

Thursday’s report, written by GAO Homeland Security and Justice Director Stephen Lord, said DHS didn’t follow up and correct “planning shortfalls” GAO identified four years ago.

“Given DHS’s challenges in implementing TWIC over the past decade, at a minimum, the assessment should include a comprehensive comparison of alternative credentialing approaches, which might include a more decentralized approach, for achieving TWIC program goals,” the report closes.

In summer 2012, DHS began allowing TWIC cardholders to renew their expiring cards by making one trip to an enrollment center. Cardholders will call the TWIC help desk at 1-866-DHS-TWIC (347-8942). Once their card is ready, they can pick the card up at an enrollment center.

The Extended Expiration Date program is only open to U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals because the $60 fee does not pay for an immigration status check, TSA said. Option two is available to all TWIC cardholders, who may renew by paying the standard $129.75 enrollment fee and making two trips to a TWIC enrollment center.

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