Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, convened the Subcommittee to examine the roll-out of the transportation worker identification credential (TWIC). Chairman Cummings released the following statement upon the conclusion of the hearing:
"The maritime industry began approaching me with concerns about the transportation worker identification credential (TWIC) on the day I assumed the Chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. The hearing I convened today gave the Subcommittee the opportunity to conduct a thorough examination of this credential and the changes it could bring to the maritime community.
"The goal of TWIC is to keep those who pose a risk to the security of our nation away from our transportation infrastructure. This is a critical goal, and one that as Chairman of a Subcommittee that examines port security, I strongly support.
"However, like all of the new security measures
instituted after 9/11, the introduction of TWIC requires the government to strike a delicate balance. We must ensure that we put all needed security measures in place at our ports and throughout our maritime installations - but we must also ensure that these measures do not place an undue burden on the maritime industry, interfere with the flow of commerce, or lead to the unfair treatment of workers.
"Further, we must ensure that the measures that are put in place make sense and that they counter the real threats we face rather than simply denying job opportunities to those who do not in any way threaten our nation's security.
"The Members of the Subcommittee on both sides of the aisle are deeply frustrated with the questions that remain unanswered about this credential. Of particular concern are questions regarding the installation and use of the readers that are needed to enable the TWIC to be used to control access to secure locations as well as questions about whether the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Coast Guard will truly be able to issue a TWIC to all mariners who need one by September 2008.
"Business must have predictability in order to be able to plan for success - and the maritime industry needs to have a clear understanding of how the roll-out of TWIC will proceed from this point. For that reason, I have also asked TSA and the Coast Guard to develop a timeline on the steps that will occur over the next year as we approach the 2008 deadline.
"I have also committed that the Subcommittee will reconvene in 90 days to receive a progress report from the Coast Guard and from the TSA regarding the implementation of the TWIC card.
"The TWIC's potential impact on the maritime industry and on individual mariners cannot be underestimated - and yet, a year from its full implementation, essential questions about TWIC remain unanswered. This is an unacceptable situation and the Subcommittee will continue to demand strict accountability from both the Coast Guard and TSA for the implementation of the TWIC program."