Senate Commerce Committee to hold TWIC hearing
May 04, 2011
The Senate Commerce Committee announced today that it will hold a hearing on Tuesday, May 10 to review the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.
The hearing is entitled “Are our Nation’s Ports Secure? Examining the Transportation Worker Identification Credential Program.”
TWIC is a biometric-based ID to be used by port workers to ensure that individuals who pose a security threat do not gain access to U.S. ports. Mandated by Congress in the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act in the months following 9/11, TWIC was designed to check backgrounds of as many as 725,000 airport workers, truck drivers, merchant seafarers and others needing unescorted access to transportation facilities like ships, ports, and runways.
But since that time it has run into myriad obstacles, including the cost of obtaining a TWIC card, which is $132.50, as well as the potential for TWIC to increase the costs of doing business for shippers and carriers alike. Another challenge TWIC has experienced over the years is making sure the card conforms to federal guidelines for secure identification cards and the testing of the card to make sure that it works with other Homeland Security Department screening programs.
TSA began issuing TWIC cards in October 2007. The TWIC program is expected to cover approximately 1.2 million port workers who require unescorted access to ports, ships, and offshore platforms that are currently regulated by the Maritime Transportation Act of 2002.
2008, Ed Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Division of the AFL-CIO, blasted the program, calling it a “glorified flash pass.”
And in mid-April, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica held a hearing on Biometrics for Pilot Licenses and Transportation Worker Credentials. At that hearing it was noted that
there are still no approved readers in use to verify the TWIC’s biometric identifiers, while TSA is still conducting the pilot program for the reader technology.
“Without any readers, TWIC is about as useful as a library card,” Mica said.
TSA has spent $420 million on the TWIC program, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and has estimated that up to $3.2 billion may be spent by the federal government and the private sector over a ten year period, not including the cost of deploying readers.
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