TSA official defends TWIC deployment

A Transportation Security Administration senior official has strongly defended the agency's rollout of the Transportation Workers Identification Credential following a critical report from a federal advisory panel.

"We are operating at full capacity and have enrolled more than 450,000 people," said Maurine Fanguy, the TWIC program'/s director. "I am very happy about it."

Fanguy was responding to a report from the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee's TWIC Working Group that recently outlined more than a dozen problems with the TWIC program, including performance shortcomings, technical glitches and poor communication.

"Unresolved problems...help to foster the sentiment among stakeholders that the TWIC program is broken," the 17-page advisory report states. The working group called on the Coast Guard and TSA to address the issues to lift enrollment and sustain cooperation.

TWIC is a biometric identification card being produced for 750,000 maritime workers. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor under a $70 million contract. Enforcement of the card will start in April 2009.

The working group's report said cards are not being delivered within 30 days as promised, but Fanguy disputed that, saying most cards are being delivered within two weeks.

The group also said fingerprinting failures are occurring in some of the attempted enrollments, estimating a range from 3.7 percent to 8 percent. Fanguy disagreed, saying that 98.5 percent of enrollees encounter no problems with fingerprinting.

The report also detailed complaints with incorrect information on the cards, long waits at enrollment centers and poor communication. Fanguy said those concerns were outdated.

A biometric expert noted that large-scale biometric deployments typically have a few rough spots.

"In the case of TWIC, we don't see any reason why these issues cannot be worked out and resolved," said Peter Cheesman, marketing manager for International Biometric Group consulting firm.

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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