Port worker ID program faces more delays

Published 2 June 2008

TWIC faces more delays: The help line at Lockheed Martin, the contractor in charge of implementing the post security program, take on average 16 minutes to answer calls — and government studies that most callers hang up after an average wait of eight minutes

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential program (TWIC), the post-9/11 program to provide special identification cards to every worker with access to seaports could face more delays because workers are not getting help when they apply. AP reports that the contractor, Lockheed Martin, is taking sixteen minutes to answer calls to the help desk instead of the three-minute standard the government requires, according to the agency that oversees the program. Port workers use the help line for questions about the card and the status of a background check. About 70 percent of the callers hang up after waiting about eight minutes, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The agency has asked Lockheed to provide a plan for meeting the three-minute wait time. The company is trying to resolve the problems, spokeswoman Leslie Holoweiko said. She said Lockheed created an automated system for self-service and average wait times have already dropped two minutes.

By next 15 April, 1.2 million workers are expected to be enrolled in TWIC. Enrollment, which began in October, was at 309,472 as of last Friday. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Representative Bennie Thompson 9D-Mississippi), said “the phones are ringing and nobody’s home to answer their questions.” Thompson said he has heard that some workers have waited for hours to reach the help desk and that they do speak to a representative, they are given inaccurate or misleading answers. The $70 million-plus program has been criticized because of potentially intrusive background checks on the workers and the $132.50 cost of the card, which workers pay. In addition, the department has not deployed machines to read the cards. There are plans to test the machines later this year.