Senate committee's doubts about TWIC grow

Challenges persist with TWIC program: GAO

Implementation delays and high costs are draining confidence in the Transportation Security Administration’s Transportation Workers Identity Credential program, members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee told TSA officials April 12.

TSA officials blamed the delay on the agency’s need to adopt and test new standards before fully implementing the TWIC program, which will issue biometric smart cards for use as a standard identification badge for nearly 850,000 maritime-port transportation workers nationwide.

The program was supposed to start this month, but it has been delayed until the fall, said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

“I don’t think there can be a lot of optimism that this program can meet any of the targets that have been outlined,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). The hearing was a follow-up to a similar one a year ago.

The TWIC program will require 770,000 maritime and port employees at 3,500 facilities and on 5,300 vessels to carry a smart card that includes biometric and personally identifiable data. Workers will be expected to pay $137 for the card and background check. Final rules for the cards were published in January 2006. The program has gone through several prototype phases and several contractors before the award of a $70 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the rollout.

Government Accountability Office officials criticized the prototype card as “underwhelming,” noting that TSA’s sample for a test deployment was too small to get an accurate measure of the card’s effectiveness.

“It’s not off to a very auspicious start,” said Norman Rabkin, managing director for homeland security and justice at GAO.

Compounding the delays are new card architecture standards, which cleared a public-comment period in February. Those comments could require more testing of the standards, which could further delay the next step for TWIC implementation.

“We’re not going to move forward until the testing is done,” said Kip Hawley, assistant secretary at TSA. He called the network behind the card “complex.”

Featured

  • FCW PERSPECTIVES
    sensor network (agsandrew/Shutterstock.com)

    Are agencies really ready for EIS?

    The telecom contract has the potential to reinvent IT infrastructure, but finding the bandwidth to take full advantage could prove difficult.

  • People
    Dave Powner, GAO

    Dave Powner audits the state of federal IT

    The GAO director of information technology issues is leaving government after 16 years. On his way out the door, Dave Powner details how far govtech has come in the past two decades and flags the most critical issues he sees facing federal IT leaders.

  • FCW Illustration.  Original Images: Shutterstock, Airbnb

    Should federal contracting be more like Airbnb?

    Steve Kelman believes a lighter touch and a bit more trust could transform today's compliance culture.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.