TWIC card, management costs rise as program gears up

Transportation Worker Identification Credential Implementation in the Maritime Sector (.pdf)

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The Transportation Worker Identification Credential may burn a hole in some maritime workers’ wallets. They can expect to pay $139 to $159 for their first TWIC card and $60 for a replacement, according to estimated prices that appear in a final rule published earlier this month.

Certain employees, such as merchant mariners and hazardous materials workers, will pay a reduced cost of $107 to $127 per card.

Card costs have increased since the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard published a notice of proposed rulemaking in May 2006. At that time, TSA predicted that card prices would be about $10 less than the estimated prices that appear in the Jan. 3 final rule.

Projected costs for TWIC’s identity management system are up from $18 million to $44 million, a 144 percent increase, according to the final rule.

The TWIC program will issue biometric smart cards for use as a standard identification badge for nearly 850,000 maritime port transportation workers nationwide once a contract is awarded, which is expected to happen in March. TSA will require all workers seeking access to secure areas at maritime facilities and onboard vessels to have a TWIC card no later than September 2008.

The 469-page final rule incorporates more than 1,900 public comments from an open comment period and four public meetings. TSA is soliciting further comments for a rule on biometric specifications that it will issue sometime later this year.

TSA has not awarded a contract for card enrollment, although it expects to do so in coming weeks, said TSA spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. 

Union representatives said they are unsure if the cards’ high cost is justified, especially because card readers will not be available during the initial implementation.

“Not knowing really what the timetable is for the card readers makes the card less effective in its use,” said Fred McLuckie, legislative director at the Teamsters Union.

“Are there going to be flaws, ways around it?” McLuckie asked. “In not having card readers, it raises the question of what the initial value of the card is.” Card manufacturers said TSA may be acting prematurely by issuing TWIC cards before publishing a final rule on biometric specifications.

“I’m not sure we’re going to be seeing fully enabled biometric-capable cards by March,” said Neville Pattinson, director of technology and government affairs at Gemalto, a French smart card manufacturer. The company is participating in a number of TWIC program bids.

“I suspect that TSA will start issuing TWIC cards as soon as possible and then either revisit or update them as needed later in the year,” Pattinson said.

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