Improvements said needed on TWIC enrollment

The Transportation Security Administration needs to improve its outreach program to the approximately 1.2 million workers required to have smart cards for unescorted access to secure areas of U.S port facilities and vessels by next April, a labor attorney told a House panel today.

Laura Moskowitz, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee that poor outreach efforts by TSA and its contractor Lockheed Martin have contributed to low enrollment. Stephanie Bowman, the federal governmental affairs manager for the Port of Tacoma, Wash., also said the  government needed to play a greater role in communicating about the card program.

The 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act mandated the Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) program for developing and issuing secure biometric identification cards, and a 2006 law added more requirements to the card program, The final rule governing TWIC was published in early 2007.

According to the Government Accountability Office, 492,928 of the 1.2 workers who will need the card had been enrolled as of September, meaning that TSA and Lockheed Martin still need to enroll 59 percent of the projected employees to meet a deadline of April 15, 2009.

Maurine Fanguy, TSA's program manager for TWIC, said the deadline would be reached. Judith Marks, president of transportation security systems at Lockheed Martin, said the organizations were able to meet the deadline and needed only for the rest of the employees to enroll.

A TSA spokesman said the TWIC program had conducted extensive outreach to industry associations, labor unions, and maritime and truckers' organizations to inform workers about possible disqualifying crimes and an appeals and waivers process.

Lockheed officials also said they had been involved in a multi-faceted outreach campaign for the TWIC program and improved the help desk call center's efficiency.

Moskowitz, whose group has helped represent more than 100 workers who have applied for the cards file appeals and seek waivers after being initially denied the credential, said TSA and Lockheed should also specifically tailor communications to workers with criminal records to explain what would disqualify them.

She also said information contained in FBI files may not be up to date and TSA should work to fill in any missing information to ensure that it is not incorrectly disqualifying workers. Moskowitz said her group had identified incomplete state arrest records, incomplete information on overturned convictions, non-felony offenses as information included in the materials used in background check that  resulted in erroneous denials.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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