Port security measures delayed — again

TSA pushes back TWIC card distribution to work on infrastructure and standards

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program has hit another snag. The program will be delayed again while the Transportation Security Administration and its contractor resolve standards and infrastructure issues.

The latest delay — the third since fall  2006 — has annoyed some lawmakers who expressed their concerns in a recent Senate hearing. “After six years and $99.4 million, we still do not have access controls in our ports,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). “We need to get this program on track and on schedule.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) echoed that complaint. “I don’t think there can be a lot of optimism that this program can meet any of the targets that have been outlined.”

TSA awarded Lockheed Martin a $70 million contract in January to establish TWIC enrollment centers. TSA officials had expected to begin issuing the secure identity credentials to U.S. port workers and maritime employees in March. However, the necessary infrastructure and standards are not yet in place, according to industry sources and TSA officials.

A previous TWIC contractor developed a prototype infrastructure. When Lockheed Martin took over the TWIC project from that contractor, BearingPoint, the company found the infrastructure could not handle an implementation on the scale that TWIC requires, sources said. That infrastructure must support the enrollment and credentialing of 770,000 maritime and port employees at 3,500 facilities and on 5,300 vessels.

“We’re working to make sure the backend system supplied by the previous contractor is fully operational and secure before we move forward on enrollments in Phase IV,” said Leslie Holoweiko, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman.

The program has also been delayed so TSA can align the TWIC standards with Federal Information Processing Standard 201, created to comply with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. “We made the decision to bring TWIC into alignment with the new federal government biometric standards,” said TSA Administrator Kip Hawley in his testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee April 12.

The FIPS 201 standard includes interfaces for contact and contactless card readers, which the early TWIC standard did not. Maritime organizations warned TSA that port and maritime environments require contactless readers that can read the credentials of workers who could take time only to pause to wave their cards at the reader machines.

TSA asked representatives of the National Maritime Advisory Council and industry to draft a new a TWIC standard that includes specifications for contactless readers. The group submitted those specifications to TSA in February, and the agency  is reviewing them, said Walter Hamilton, chairman of the International Biometric Industry Association.

After TSA makes a final decision on the new standard, the agency will give the specifications to industry to produce card readers. Card issuance will occur simultaneously at 134 ports managed by Coast Guard Captains of the Port, said John Schwartz, assistant director of the TWIC program in TSA’s Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing Division.

However, Schwartz, would not say whether TSA has set another date to begin issuing the cards. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said at the hearing that TSA would not start issuing cards until sometime in the fall.
GAO: TWIC has management challengesNorman Rabkin, managing director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office, has identified three major problems with the Transportation Security Administration’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

In recent testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Rabkin said TWIC faces challenges in:
  • Educating workers. TSA could have trouble identifying and educating the large number of port workers who will use the TWIC program.
  • Timely enrollments. TSA has yet to lease offices for card-enrollment centers at many ports.
  • Background checks. Maritime organizations are concerned that many workers could be disqualified from getting TWIC cards because they haven’t had the necessary background checks. TSA has established an appeals and waivers process, but a large backlog of appeals could bog down the system.
— Wade-Hahn Chan


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