Panel finds TWIC riddled with problems

The Transportation Workers Identification Credential program continues to be plagued by performance shortcomings, technical glitches, poor communications and other problems, according to a report from the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee's TWIC Working Group.

The panel, chartered to advise the Homeland Security Department on implementing the new ID cards, has identified more than a dozen problems the panel says are causing the program to fail, according to a July 22 report obtained by Federal Computer Week.

“Unresolved problems…help to foster the sentiment among stakeholders that the TWIC program is broken,” the 17-page report states. The “Coast Guard and TSA must address the issues identified in each of these areas if they hope to generate higher rates of enrollment, sustain stakeholder cooperation and meet compliance dates.”

TWIC is a biometric identification card being produced for about 750,000 maritime workers under supervision of the Transportation Security Administration. A $70 million contract for TWIC card production and enrollment was awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. in February 2007. Port workers initially were supposed to begin using their cards for entry to secure port facilities by September, but the deadline was pushed back to April 2009 for much of the country.

Meanwhile, goals for delivering the cards are not being met, according to the working group.

“Though we recognize that steps have been taken to improve card production and delivery times, after nine months of operation, TSA is still not delivering cards within the seven to 10 days after enrollment, which was the time frame industry required and which TSA agreed was a target goal; and the agency is not even reaching the 30 days after enrollment as outlined in the final regulation,” the report said.

Technical problems continue to slow enrollments, the group said, especially the inability of the biometric scanners to accurately record and process enrollee fingerprint templates. For example. at the Port of Long Beach, of more than 200 enrollments attempted, seven were unsuccessful due to fingerprinting failures. In some ports, as many as 8 percent of enrollees cannot complete enrollment due to fingerprinting issues, the panel said.

Other technical problems that affect implementation of the program include incorrect information on the card; darkened photos; expiration date errors; and security features failing to print, the report added.

Some applicants report waiting for several hours at enrollment centers, while others report having to visit an enrollment center repeatedly for as many as six visits. The TWIC enrollment systems on the East Coast tend to slow down around noon, when the West Coast systems are getting started, the report said.

Communication and customer service also present difficulties, the report said. These include the TWIC Web site being down for maintenance; complicated password creation processes; difficulties in Web site navigation; enrollment center schedule changes not reported; and people failing to be notified, or being notified incorrectly, when their cards are available.

The group also listed numerous concerns regarding extending facility access privileges to rail workers, utility workers and other critical infrastructure employees; accessing information on lost, stolen and revoked cards; poorly chosen enrollment center locations; and failures to communicate information to enrollees, port operators and other stakeholders.

According to the TSA Web site, about 490,000 workers have pre-enrolled for the TWIC, 460,000 are fully enrolled and 283,000 cards have been issued.

However, the extension of the compliance date actually may have had the unintended result of keeping initial enrollments low, according to the report.

“Of major concern to all stakeholders are the low enrollment numbers. The National Maritime Securi y Advisory Committee suggests that extending the compliance date may not necessarily have helped in this regard and in fact may have provided an additional excuse for those who have purposely delayed enrolling,” the report said.

The panel recommended providing an extra year’s enrollment at no cost to people who met the original deadline of September 2008.

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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