cost, criminal background check, DHS, FBI, ID, ID management, TSA, TWIC

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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