Follow-Ups on TSA’s TWIC Extension
The official Federal Register Notice from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allowing the extended expiration date (EED) Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) has been published. Notes summarizing a special conference call during which TSA rolled out the EED TWIC policy are now available online. Some Congressmen have commented on the policy.
As previously scheduled, on June 19, the TSA published the official Notice (which will formally exempt many TWIC holders from their card’s normal expiration provisions) in volume 77 of the Federal Register, starting at page 36406. The details had become available on June 15 through a series of documents posted on TSA’s TWIC website.
Additionally, Walter Hamilton, a Senior Consultant at ID Technology Partners, has kindly posted on the web his summary of TSA’s special conference call with the TWIC Stakeholder Communication Committee, during which the Extended Expiration Date (EED) TWIC policy was rolled out on June 15. Interesting takeaways from this summary include TSA’s estimate of approximately 1.3 million TWIC holders eligible for the extension and the answers to several questions: (1) TSA will discuss with its contractor whether employers so desiring will be able to perform a batch payment on behalf of their employees. (2) Deployment of a mobile enrollment facility to large volume sites (which was done for some original enrollments) will also be discussed with the contractor. (3) The EED TWICs will be issued on current card stock and thus will be less susceptible to antenna breakage than earlier TWICs. (4) Workers will be able to change their PINs when picking up their EED TWICs (and won’t even need their old PINs).
Finally, three Congressmen have weighed in on the extension policy in formal statements. I would characterize their comments as lukewarm support—the policy is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, expressed pleasure that the Administration had listened to his concerns about the renewal process and noted that, although the policy does not fully address his concerns, it does allow TWIC holders to renew at a reduced rate and with only one trip to an enrollment center. “Under current law, starting this October, workers would be required to go through the time and expense of renewing their TWICs, even though, over the past five years, DHS has made little progress in establishing standards to deploy the biometric readers needed to properly read the TWICs.” Congressmen Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) (a member of the Homeland Security Committee) issued a joint press release applauding TSA and the Coast Guard for “limited relief of TWIC burdens.” It quotes Scalise as saying “While today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, there’s more work to be done in order to ensure that burdensome red-tape and regulations are eliminated from this program once and for all.” Richmond commented in a similar vein “While today marks a significant victory in our efforts to relieve the burden on workers, we must continue to fight for further reform.”
While Scalise and Richmond appear simply opposed to requiring two visits to an enrollment center to obtain a TWIC under any circumstances, Thompson seems to suggest that things could be seen differently once the TWIC Reader Requirement rule is in effect. Other Congressmen have expressed similar sentiments, including “[w]ithout an approved reader, the TWIC is little more useful than an expensive library card.” This lines up with TSA’s rationale for issuing the exemption “in the public interest.” According to TSA’s Notice, “[d]ue to the fact that readers are not yet required by regulation or in widespread use, we believe the burden associated with the full renewal process is not currently justified.” But will full implementation of the TWIC Reader Rule make that much of a change for many TWIC holders? The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that the Coast Guard published in March 2009, would require only the highest risk category of vessels (those handling CDCs in bulk or certificated for more than 1,000 passengers), and the facilities that receive them, to use TWIC readers to establish a biometric match with the holder on each entry. Medium risk vessels (those handling hazardous materials, other than CDCs, in bulk, or flammable or combustible liquid cargoes, or certificated for between 500 and 1,000 passengers) and facilities that receive them, as well as Outer Continental Shelf facilities, would be required to check the authenticity and validity of the card with a reader on each entry, but would be required to perform biometric matches only at least once a month on a random basis. The rest of the time, identity verification would be by visual comparison of the holder and the picture on the card. All of the remaining MTSA-regulated vessels and facilities with secure areas fall in the ANPRM’s lowest risk category and would not be required to use TWIC readers, but would continue to use the TWIC as a flash pass (subject to the visual checks required by 33 CFR sections 104.265(c) and 105.255(c) currently). Biometric matches and electronic authentication and verification would occur only during Coast Guard spot checks once or twice a year.
Since the ANPRM attracted substantial public comment, it is not possible to predict how closely the Coast Guard’s Proposed TWIC Reader Rule will hew to the APNRM model. But there have been indications that, in light of various Congressional activities, the proposed requirements may be further lessened for lower-risk entities. If so, it would suggest that the security benefits of the fully implemented TWIC Program will be rather less than originally conceived. To apply TSA’s rationale for the EED TWIC, quoted above, readers might be “required by regulation,” but not for a major portion of the TWIC holding population, and how much “in widespread use” they were would be debatable. It seems likely that, for many TWIC holders, the “expensive library card” analogy will remain apposite even after the implementation of a Final Rule on TWIC Reader Requirements. Would, under these circumstances, “the burden associated with the full renewal process” be “justified” for those TWIC holders?
NOTE: This post may be copied, distributed, and displayed and derivative works may be based on it, provided it is attributed to Maritime Transportation Security News and Views by John C. W. Bennett,http://mpsint.com.