TWIC status check

The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 established the Transportation Worker Identification Card program, which requires employees who need unescorted access to secure areas of ports to use a tamper-resistant biometric credential.

The final compliance date for issuing TWIC cards was recently pushed back seven months, to April 15, 2009.

However, a final rule for the card readers has not yet been published. Officials say they haven’t issued a final rule because the readers will need to use original technology that, as required in maritime environments, will let readers scan the smart cards without making contact.

Last month, the Transportation Security Administration issued a notification to vendors that asks for information on products that could meet specifications for a pilot program that tests biometric card readers. The results of that test would contribute to a separate final rule for the readers. TSA is implementing the TWIC program in conjunction with the Coast Guard.

“There are going to be substantial security benefits even using the card visually,” said Cmdr. Peter Gautier, chief of the Coast Guard's cargo and facility division, in discussing the decision to go ahead with card specifications and enrollment without the final rule in place. “But we need to work on the reader side of things and the specification side — there was no contactless standard [for a reader] that existed and still no contactless standard exists, so that’s why we published the final rule not with a reader requirement.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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