DHS publishes final rules on smart credentials

TWIC Implementation in the Maritime Sector final rule

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The Homeland Security Department has issued the final rules for its smart credentials program, saying it will start enrolling port workers in March.

The rollout will begin at several small ports, but eventually the agency plans to issue the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to 750,000 port employees, longshoremen, truckers and others who work at maritime locations nationwide.

As each port joins the phased rollout, DHS will notify workers when enrollment will begin and establish a deadline by which they will be required to carry a TWIC card.

Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration completed a name-based security threat assessment on port employees and longshoremen. But all TWIC applicants will undergo a comprehensive background check before receiving a card, according to the final rule.

The card will show the individual's photograph and name, an expiration date and a serial number, while an integrated computer chip will store additional personal data, a personal identification number chosen by the individual and a fingerprint template.

During the early phases of the rollout, security workers will visually verify that the card matches the holder’s identity and check the card for signs of tampering. Electronic scanning will be limited to spot checks and to vessel and facility inspections, according to the rules. DHS will not require general electronic scans until the card reader technology has been tested and additional regulations finalized.

Most cards will cost between $139 and $159 and be valid for five years. The enrollment records will be stored on a secure TSA system.

Although TSA said it will begin card enrollment in March, the agency has yet to award a contract for card production and implementation. The agency also must resolve issues with TWIC that were brought to light in an October 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office. GAO criticized TSA's testing of the cards, saying that a test of 1,700 cards failed to represent the 750,000 workers who will eventually hold the cards.

GAO also noted that card readers have not been tested in adverse weather conditions and extreme temperatures.

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