TWIC card needs double since initial estimates

The U.S. Coast Guard now says that up to 1.5 million workers could need Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards -- twice the number that some had originally estimated would need the smart cards for unescorted access to secure areas of U.S port facilities and vessels.

But before the workers who will likely need the smart cards can begin to fully use their credentials, the Homeland Security Department still faces several challenges, including greater demand than was originally anticipated and unanswered policy questions about the requirements for individual ports and card reader specifications.

Initial predictions about how many credentials would be needed for some areas in the Gulf Coast were fractions of the number of cards that the region’s merchant mariners, port facility employees, longshoremen and truck drivers will likely need. For example, initial estimates for Baton Rouge, La., were 6,000 cards, but current predictions suggest that up to 60,000 will be needed. The disparity caused increased wait times for enrollments in those areas.

The Transportation Security Administration, which is in charge of issuing the credential, and Lockheed Martin, which TSA chose last year to oversee the enrollment process, say that after initial waits caused by increased demand, the program hired more employees and cut the average TWIC enrollment time nationwide to about 10 minutes.

Judith Marks, president at Lockheed Martin’s Security Solutions, said that the company also had corrected the information technology issue that originally caused several workers to have to come back to re-enroll after their data was not forwarded to TSA. Marks testified about the TWIC card enrollment progress at a Jan. 23 hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

Although Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the subcommittee’s chairman, commended Lockheed Martin, TSA and the Coast Guard for their progress at the hearing, he also expressed concern about the reports regarding insufficient personnel and equipment being deployed in the enrollment process.

“I want to make sure that we are getting our money’s worth,” he said.

Cummings added that the subcommittee was paying particular attention to Lockheed Martin’s performance on the project because of the company’s performance on the Deepwater contract.

“I think almost every member of this committee [was] concerned about Lockheed Martin in this contract,” he said. “We said, ‘OK, let’s make sure this works out really well because we have so much depending on it.’”

Marks said at the hearing that her company had the capacity to meet the increased demand expects to get the job done by the time its initial task order runs out in October.

All mariners will have cards by Sept. 25, according to DHS plans, but the Coast Guard, which is responsible for enforcing the use of TWIC cards, is yet to announce when different port facilities will be required to start checking for the biometric ID cards or issue final rules for TWIC card readers. DHS officials said port facilities will receive notification at least 90 days before they must comply.

TSA estimates that it will have to register more than 200,000 mariners for the program by the Sept. 25 deadline. So far the agency has registered about 6,000 mariners.

Officials working on TWIC say that after a slow start they are now picking up enrollment speed, processing about 2,000 workers per day.

“Keep in mind, 90 days, we’ve just gotten started, and if you look at where we’ve come over the last two months we’ve actually enrolled over 50,000 workers,” said Maurine Fanguy, TSA’s TWIC program director, at the Jan. 23 hearing.

Workers at about 50 ports are being enrolled and officials say that issuance will increase as more of the 147 port locations begin to enroll workers and deadlines draw near. Fanguy said that about 25,000 cards have been printed and 12,000 activated thus far.

During the enrollment process, Lockheed Martin collects information including fingerprints from the worker and transmits it to TSA, which then checks it with the FBI’s criminal records, immigration records and the consolidated terrorism watch list.

At the hearing John Porcari, secretary of the Maryland Transportation Department, said that implementation program at the Port of Baltimore — one of the United States’ busiest which will require about 25,000 TWIC cards — so far had been slow.

“This can be attributed to any number of issues: cost of the card, payment arrangements by public and private institutions, and reluctance of individuals because of concerns about disqualifying background criteria,” he said in his written testimony.

The cost of a card for a worker who has never gotten a similar credential before is $132.50, with $43.25 going to Lockheed Martin for information collection, $72 for a complete security threat assessment and $17.25 for an FBI criminal history check.

The 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act mandated the TWIC program for developing and issuing secure biometric identification cards. The 2006 SAFE Port Act added additional legislative requirements to the cards and the final rule for TWIC was published in early 2007.

Under the act, some crimes preclude a worker from receiving a TWIC card. A redress and waiver request process exists for workers who are denied a credential.

Porcari also said that several unanswered policy questions, including how to deal with temporary workers who need access to the port, delivery drivers, cruise ship workers, issues with private terminals, TWIC business rules and what necessitates authorized access to a port, must be addressed.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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