Transportation Worker ID program criticized again at House hearing

The Transportation Security Administration expressed confidence in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential at a June 18 House hearing, despite repeated criticism at that hearing and other congressional hearings on the program.

Rep. Candice Miller, chairman of the Border and Maritime Security subcommittee, described TWIC as “no more than an expensive flash pass and is not being used as originally designed.”

The Michigan Republican quoted a recent Government Accountability Office report at the June 18 hearing, where the GAO reiterated much of the same report it made at a May 9 congressional hearing.  “Eleven years after initiation, DHS has not demonstrated how, if at all, TWIC will improve maritime security,” she said.

Truckers account for a hefty percentage of the 2.5 million cardholders. The TSA is responsible for enrollment, security threat assessment, systems operations and maintenance. The Coast Guard establishes and enforces access control standards and is leading efforts to develop a TWIC cards reader rule.

That rule is to define if and under what circumstances facility and vessel owners and operators are to use readers to verify that a card is valid. The comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the matter ended June. 20.

At the hearing, Government Accountability Office’s Steve Lord presented the GAO report titled, “TWIC Reader Pilot Results Are Not Sufficiently Complete, Accurate, and Reliable for Informing Congress and the TWIC Card Reader Rule.”

That GAO recommended Congress consider repealing its mandate that the TSA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, issue final regulations requiring the deployment of card readers consistent with the pilot program’s findings. Also, Congress should consider demanding the DHS assess and evaluate the effectiveness of using TWIC with readers for enhancing port security.

These recommendations “would be consistent with the recommendation that we made in our May 2011 report,” Lord said.  These then could then be used to promulgate a final regulation, he added.

The TSA’s Stephen Sadler acknowledged the GAO recommended against using the pilot program as basis for a final TWIC regulation. Still, the pilot provided valuable information to the agency, Sadler stated.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa asked the Coast Guard to postpone the rulemaking until the card readers are thoroughly reviewed and tested.” Replacing trained security guards with card readers that have not been properly evaluated does not improve port safety,” the Hawaii Democrat stated.