Bill Would Reform Enrollment Process in Flawed TWIC Program.
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced legislation today that would reform the burdensome enrollment process of the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) program, which provides biometric identification cards to mariners and other transportation workers in order to allow them unescorted access to secure areas of ports, vessels, and other maritime facilities. Under current rules, merchant mariners, port employees, truck drivers, and other workers are required to make repeated visits to a TWIC enrollment center in order to apply for and obtain credentials. For some applicants, the nearest enrollment center can be hundreds of miles away from their home or workplace, requiring two expensive and time-consuming round trips. By contrast, comparable secure identity documents such as passports and merchant mariner credentials require only one in-person visit and can be returned to qualified applicants by mail.
Senator Ayotte’s legislation would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to reform the TWIC enrollment process to require only one in-person visit to an enrollment center. Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “Current TWIC requirements place a financial burden and time constraints on workers who rely on these cards for employment,” said Senator Ayotte. “As millions of TWICs approach renewal beginning in 2012, it is critical that we resolve this problem. My legislation would remedy one of the TWIC program’s major flaws and ensure that workers do not have to make multiple, costly trips in order to receive TWIC cards.”
Senator Ayotte raised concerns about the TWIC enrollment process during a Commerce Committee hearing in May in questions she posed to Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole. During the hearing, Senator Ayotte also expressed concerns regarding the results of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that uncovered serious deficiencies in the TWIC program, which have raised doubts about its overall effectiveness. GAO investigators were able to access secure facilities at U.S. ports during covert tests using counterfeit or fraudulent TWIC cards. GAO also found that program controls in place are ill equipped to positively identify or confirm an individual’s identity. Senator Ayotte is continuing to press for additional reforms to close the critical security gaps identified by GAO.