First 5,000 port employees register for TWIC

Published 18 October 2007

TWIC, an identification card program designed to enhance port security, has been plagued by delays cost overruns, but it is here at alst; two days ago, Wilmington, Delaware port employees were the first to register

Better late then never. About 5,000 workers at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware, began enrolling two days ago in DHS’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, an identification card program designed to enhance port security. Govexec’s Jill Aitoro writes that this step comes after criticism from legislators and security experts that the program, established in December 2001, has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Nearly a million workers still are waiting to enroll in the program, and card readers have yet to be installed. “The Department of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation on why it has taken five years and millions of dollars to roll out the TWIC card,” said Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The department has yet again demonstrated an inability to successfully implement a program that is vital to our nation’s homeland security. These failures can be directly linked to high turnover and the lack of quality leadership from the political managers at the department.”

This is one of the world’s most advanced, interoperable biometric-enabled programs, with more than a million workers expected to enroll over the next year,” Maurine Fanguy, the program’s director at DHS’ Transportation Security Administration (TSA), told Aitoro. “For a program of that size and scale, we wanted to make sure we checked [the system].” The credentials issued to port workers comply with Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 201, which specifies requirements for personal identity verification of federal employees and contractors. These standards also apply to smart cards issued under a separate presidential mandate (Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12) requiring standard ID cards for access to federal agencies and computer systems. Note that the port worker ID program incorporates some capabilities not yet mandated by other federal smart card initiatives, including biometrics and technology allowing the cards to be read from a distance through radio frequency signals. Not all of these capabilities can be used yet. For example, there are card readers on the market that are compatible with TWIC, but they are not able to scan the credentials from a distance. The next phase of the project will set requirements for card readers.

Once requirements are proposed, the various vendor offerings will be tested early next year through a pilot program. The deadline to comply with final provisions is September 2008.