Moving target
After nearly five years, TWIC still riddled with problems, prompting congressional action

By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential eventually will allow port security with digital card readers to remotely check your authority as you drive onto a port.

Unfortunately for some TWIC cardholders, not everyone got all their digits.

TSA recently announced that TWIC cards issued before April 5, 2011, may be missing a digit of its “Federal Agency Smart Credential Number.”

The snafu affects some 26,000 TWICs, TSA said.

“Due to a card production system error, the number of characters in the FASC-N on some TWICs was shortened, causing readers to not recognize the card as a valid TWIC. TSA will issue a replacement TWIC at no cost to you if you have a card with a truncated FASC-N.

“If your card has this issue, it is still valid and provides evidence of your eligibility for unescorted access to secure areas,” TSA said.

TSA has spent $420 million on TWIC, and the federal government and private sector may spend as much as $3.2 billion on TWIC during the next 10 years, not including the card readers themselves.

More than 1.9 million U.S. workers have enrolled in the TWIC program. The first enrollments began in 2007 and will expire beginning in 2012.

Standard TWIC enrollment costs $132.50.

Expiration extension sought
Truckers and other enrollees have spent time and at least $132.50 to get their TWIC cards, but the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t held up its end of the bargain as required by law.

Because the agency hasn’t published a final TWIC rule and because card holders will begin seeing their cards expire beginning in fall 2012, several members of Congress have asked for an extension of the current TWIC cards.

U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-MS; Loretta Sanchez, D-CA; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX; Henry Cuellar, D-TX; and Cedric Richmond, D-LA, signed on to a letter asking TSA not to require TWIC holders to renew their cards until parent agency DHS can complete the required rulemakings.

In a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, the five congressional members pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security was required by the SAFE Port Act of 2006 to issue a final TWIC regulation by April 2011, but still had not published the final rule. The final rule would create technical requirements for TWIC biometric readers to be used at ports.

“We do not believe that these workers should be required to take time out of their busy days and pay an additional $132.50 to attain new cards when DHS has not fulfilled its statutory responsibility to issue a final regulation for TWIC readers,” the letter reads.

Pistole has hinted he’s open to modifying the TWIC renewal timeline.

Streamlining needed
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, has introduced legislation that would reform a portion of the program. Ayotte’s bill would limit TWIC enrollment center visits “to require not more than 1 in-person visit” unless “extenuating circumstances” justify a second trip.

“As millions of TWICs approach renewal beginning in 2012, it is critical that we resolve this problem,” Ayotte said.

Companion legislation was introduced this past fall in the House of Representatives.

OOIDA supports the bill.

“Since its inception, the TWIC program has had its flaws, inconvenience to drivers being one of them,” said Laura O’Neill, OOIDA director of government affairs. “Senator Ayotte’s bill is recognition that pulling drivers off the road in order to repeatedly deal with credentialing is counterproductive. We appreciate her efforts and support anything that helps drivers get their time back.” LL