GAO: TWIC does not have its sea legs

Transportation Security: DHS Should Address Key Challenges before Implementing the TWIC Program

The Transportation Security Administration could encounter problems with its secure credentialing program at maritime ports because of poor testing, according to the Government Accountability Office.

One problem is that TSA chose too small of a sample for a test deployment. The Transport Workers Identification Card (TWIC) program is expected to cover 750,000 maritime workers, but TSA's test of the program included only 1,700 cards, the GAO reports.

TSA and the testing contractor attributed the low turnout to a lack of volunteers enrolling in the program. They also ran into technical difficulties enrolling volunteers, such as obtaining the fingerprints to conduct background checks.

TSA has plans to address these testing difficulties, but the agency still "faces the challenge of enrolling and issuing TWIC cards to 750,000 workers at 3,500 maritime facilities and 10,800 vessels—a significantly larger population of workers," the report states.

Other problems must be addressed, too. For example, the oversight agency noted that TSA hadn't tested whether biometric readers can work properly in maritime environments because test card readers lacked the ability to connect to agency databases.

TSA does not seem to understand how technical problems with TWIC could create serious business interruptions, disrupting the flow of commerce, according to GAO. The report emphasizes that TWIC needs further testing to “ensure that key components of the programs work effectively and strengthen contract planning and oversight practices” before awarding the final contract for the cards.

TWIC is in prototype phase. TSA is shopping around for a potential contractor to implement the card program by the end of this year. According to the report, TSA officials said they did not plan to conduct additional testing of access control technologies before the implementation of TWIC.

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