Leaders say TWIC testing should be free

Port operators should not have to pay a 25 percent share of the cost of a program to test readers for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) this year, said the chairman of and the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

The Homeland Security Department set a requirement that the five port operators participating in a TWIC card-reader demonstration program share the cost of deploying the tests of the identification card. The participating port operators are the port authorities of Los Angeles; Long Beach, Calif.; Brownsville, Texas; and New York/New Jersey, along with Watermark Cruises in Annapolis, Md.

Last year, Congress waived the cost-sharing for those port operators. Lawmakers allocated $6.1 million to cover the costs to the ports. However, DHS' Transportation Security Administration now wants to use those funds for other purposes.

“Waiving the cost-sharing requirement for the five card reader pilot locations was the right thing to do,” Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the homeland security committee, and Peter King (R-N.Y.) said in a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee.

“Reprogramming those funds, as TSA is now proposing, would impede progress on the card reader pilots and potentially undermine the success of the pilot,” Thompson and King wrote, adding that the port authorities involved also oppose the reprogramming.

For now, the TWIC card is being implemented as a stand-alone identification, without readers, due to concerns raised a year ago among port operators and maritime executives about the technologies involved. They worry that the cards and readers may not work properly in the marine environment. TSA is conducting the pilot tests to deploy the card-reader technologies in the field and demonstrate their effectiveness.

TSA has opened about 100 enrollment centers nationwide to help register workers for the cards. However, enrollment has been slower than expected, and the deadline for enrollment has been pushed back to April 15, 2009.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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