DHS ramps up TWIC program

The Homeland Security Department is kick-starting national deployment this year of new biometric security credentials for transportation workers, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced today.

By the end of summer, DHS will check the backgrounds of 400,000 port workers as part of its distribution of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), Chertoff said.

“It is fundamental that individuals who pose a security threat do not gain access to our nation’s ports,” he said in a statement. “The name-based checks will provide an immediate security boost while we simultaneously complete the work to implement a secure national transportation worker credential.”

Initially, the program will screen longshoremen and maritime employees of facility owners and operators, DHS officials said. Eventually all transportation workers will need TWICs to enter secure areas without escorts.

The U.S. Coast Guard will collect workers’ biographical information and pass it on to the Transportation Security Administration, which will screen workers through the Terrorist Screening Center, DHS officials said.

TWIC cards will eventually include biometric information, but the Coast Guard will not collect it at this time, DHS officials said.

The department will soon publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for TWIC, which will contain more information on the program, Chertoff said.

TSA has already started seeking a contractor to help enroll workers in the TWIC program, DHS officials said.

TSA tested TWICs last year. It issued more than 4,000 prototype cards to workers at 26 sites in six states, DHS officials said.

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