The Transportation Worker Identification Credential, a high-tech secure ID card for ports, is still seeing major delays in its implementation.
“It has been six years since the Transportation Worker Identification Credential was mandated into law,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The program is far from being fully operational.”
The TWIC would provide an identification card to maritime workers who need access to secure areas at port facilities. The card stores fingerprints, as well as a digital photograph. The cardholder must also pass a background check conducted by the Transportation Security Administration.
Enrollment is still far from complete. As of September, the Department of Homeland Security, through its contractor, Lockheed Martin, enrolled about 500,000 transportation workers in the program, Thompson said during a recent hearing. The department is running out of time, and has until April to get one million additional participants on board.
Further slowing the process is the availability of scanners that can read the cards. TSA has still not deployed the required biometric readers. Despite a congressional mandate enacted two years ago that required a reader pilot program to begin in April 2007, the readers are still being tested, Thompson said.
The TWIC enforcement deadline has been postponed several times. The first deadline for full implementation was Sept. 24 of this year. It has now moved to April 15 of next year, Thompson said.
Another problem are lengthy waits on the TWIC help desk phone line, Thompson said.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., said in a statement that application forms are only in English, even though many of the applicants have a poor command of the language. The TWIC website is frequently down for maintenance and workers must make multiple trips to enrollment facilities.
But despite the headaches, there has been some progress.
TSA announced in September that all 149 TWIC fixed enrollment sites are ready for worker registration.
Maurine Fanguy, TWIC program director, said her office plans to set up more than 100 mobile enrollment centers nationwide. The mobile sites save workers time and transportation costs, she said. As of September, more than 447,000 cards had been printed and 319,000 had been activated.