Some people really love stovepipes…

…otherwise there wouldn’t be so many.

Congress demands progress on advanced ID cards  (FCW)

“We’ve spent billions and we have nothing to show for it,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) at a June 19 hearing addressing lagging implementation of fingerprint and iris recognition technology. Mica, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations, noted various examples of flawed federal biometric ID efforts, including the Transportation Workers Identification Credential, or TWIC card, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s new pilot’s license — which does not include a photo of the licensee.

“It’s mind boggling that we have nothing close to meeting with the intent of the 2004 law,” said Mica. “Is there any sense of urgency here?” asked Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the subcommittee’s ranking minority member.

Witnesses included managers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, FAA, Customs and Border Protection and the State Department.

It’s stunning that pilots licenses still don’t have photographs on them. Lots of good information awaits those who click the link.

TWIC hasn’t been popular with transportation workers…

…but I get the sense that the transportation workers don’t oppose the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) on principle, rather, implementation just hasn’t worked out. The U.S. General Accounting Office seems to share workers’ assessment.

Scrap TWIC? GAO report slams port credential program (Land Line Magazine)

Truck drivers and others who work at U.S. ports have grumbled for years about the expenses and hassles of obtaining a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC.

TWIC – a biometric security card capable of storing fingerprints, residency documents and other information – was designed to make ports and major warehouse areas less vulnerable to potential terrorists.

A federal investigative report released this week says the TWIC program’s efforts to implement a remote card reader system haven’t worked, and said Congress should consider scrapping the 10-year-old billion-dollar program altogether and starting over with a new credential.

As we have discussed in other TWIC-related posts, the interoperability issues involved in having one card that works at every port, warehouse, transshipment hub, border, etc. haven’t been overcome and the administrative load on those required to carry the card have been heavy.

UPDATE:
See also:
TSA Defends TWIC Reader Program (Homeland Security Today)

“TWIC readers determine whether a card is authentic, valid and issued by TSA,” Sadler testified. “The readers also check that the card has not expired and, by accessing the cancelled card list, can determine if the card has been revoked or reported lost or stolen. When used in the biometric mode, readers confirm through a biometric fingerprint match that the person using the card is the rightful owner of the card. The TWIC card and reader system can perform these checks virtually anywhere with portable or fixed readers because connectivity to an external database is not required. [ed. emphasis mine]

How does the italicized part work? Without at least intermittent connectivity to an external database how are lost cards to be rejected?

More on TWIC Expiration for Truckers

TSA offers three-year TWIC card renewal plan for certain cardholders (Land Line)

Beginning in August, TSA will allow current TWIC cardholders whose TWIC cards expire on or before Dec. 31, 2014, to pay $60 and make one trip to an enrollment center. Cardholders will call the TWIC help desk at 1-866-DHS-TWIC (347-8942). Once their card is ready, they can pick the card up at an enrollment center.

See also:
TWIC: Licensed Hazmat Truckers Can Skip a Background Check, Save Money
Why is the TWIC So Expensive?

TWIC: Licensed Hazmat Truckers Can Skip a Background Check, Save Money

Proposed TWIC changes could ease burden on truckers (Land Line)

Currently, truckers seeking the credential are forced to make multiple trips to enrollment centers, many without truck parking and often hundreds of miles from drivers who do not live in metro centers.

The SMART Port Security Act, HR4251, passed out of the committee late last week. The bill, if passed into law, would mandate a single trip to enrollment locations for TWIC applicants.

Also, according to the article, eliminating a duplicate hazardous materials background check for truckers that already have hazmat licenses will save applicants either $27.25 or $22.25. Of course, the costs to drivers aren’t just measurable in dollars. In addition to the financial outlay, the TWIC process can be a hassle.

That would seem to validate my Friday post, Why is the TWIC So Expensive?, which assigned the lion’s share of the cost of a TWIC card to the multiple layers of background checks and bureaucratic overhead, rather than biometrics.

Why is the TWIC So Expensive?

TWIC Relief Proposal Unanimously Approved by Homeland Security Committee (TMCnet)

Over the past five years, roughly 2.1 million longshoremen, truckers, merchant mariners, and rail and vessel crew members have undergone extensive background checks and paid a $132.50 fee to obtain these cards. Unless Congress or the Administration acts, starting this October, workers would be required to go through the time and expense of renewing their TWICs. Compelling hardworking Americans to undertake the expense and hassle of renewing their cards is not justifiable given that the basic requirements for biometric readers to match these cards with the cardholders have not been issue by the Department of Homeland Security.

Five years on, the earliest Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs) will be expiring soon and renewing them isn’t cheap.

From TSA.gov:

The fee for a renewal TWIC (valid for 5 years) is the same amount as the initial enrollment fee, which is currently 129.75* since another security threat assessment will be performed and a credential issued those individuals who successfully undergo this assessment. Individuals also have the option to enroll with a comparable credential and pay a reduced fee. * Effective March 19, 2012, the enrollment cost was reduced from $132.50 to $129.75 due to a FBI fee decrease.

Transportation workers are peeved that they pay for an ID with all sorts of biometric technology bells and whistles while the ID management systems that they use daily don’t take advantage of the card’s capabilities.

But the TWIC is expensive for reasons other than biometric enrollment. The TWIC applicant must provide: biographic information, identity documents, biometric information (fingerprints), a digital photograph and pay the fee. A TSA employee has to go through all this stuff.

Then, the TSA conducts a security threat assessment on the TWIC applicant sending pertinent parts of the enrollment record to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) so that appropriate terrorist threat, criminal history, and immigration checks can be performed.

This, to say the least, is not a cheap process and my guess is that the labor costs, not technology cost, of issuing a TWIC accounts for a huge proportion of the total. The opportunity cost inflicted on the applicant also seems pretty high (i.e. getting a TWIC is a major annoyance).

So then, what of the Homeland Security Committee desire to remove the TWIC renewal requirement? I guess that depends upon why it was originally determined that the TWIC should be renewed every five years.

According to the TSA: “The renewal process consists of the same steps as the original enrollment process (optional pre-enrollment, in-person enrollment, and card activation.) These steps are required since a security threat assessment is required on all applicants, confirming they still meet eligibility requirements” (emph. mine).

If the cards are expensive because the processing costs are high and background checks are expensive. Are the costs unacceptably high? Is $26 per year too expensive? How much does it cost other entities (FBI, military) to keep ID’s current? Who should pay: the worker, their employer, the government, or some combination of the three?

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