Port Security - TWIC Plagued With Mang, Funding Problems

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

TWIC plagued with management, funding problems
Federal budget not backing security project
By Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOT
The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 called for the Department of Homeland Security to issue a worker identification card that uses biological metrics, such as fingerprints, to control access to secure areas of ports and ships. Charged with the responsibility for developing this card, the Transportation Security Administration, within DHS, initially planned to issue a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) in August 2004 to about six million maritime workers, around half of those who will ultimately be required to carry the card.
That implementation never happened. Instead, several months after the August deadline, the TSA began a TWIC prototyping phase in Florida, Philadelphia-area and Southern California ports, with a national roll out now projected for sometime next year.
What happened? The Government Accountability Office recently issued a report that identified planning and management shortcomings in TSA’s TWIC program. But the TWIC’s problems may go far beyond that, most significantly, in the so-called public-public-private funding scheme which calls for TWIC to receive federal, port authority, and private money, a plan which differs considerably from other federal identity management and security programs.
According to the GAO, three main factors caused the agency to miss its initial August 2004 target date for issuing the cards: “(1) officials had difficulty obtaining timely approval to proceed with the prototype test from DHS, (2) extra time was required to identify data to be collected for a cost benefit analysis, and (3) additional work to assess card technologies was required.”
The GAO also noted that TSA will face further difficulties as it moves forward with developing and operating the card program. These include developing regulations for TWIC eligibility requirements and, “one that holds potential to adversely affect the entire program,” the lack of a comprehensive management plan for the project.
The GAO blames poor TSA management for cost overruns, missed deadlines, and under performance. TSA failed to follow established industry best practices for project planning and management nor did it develop a comprehensive project plan to move the program forward. “While TSA has initiated some project planning,” the GAO concluded, “the agency lacks an approved comprehensive project plan to govern the life of the project and has not yet developed other, detailed component plans for risk mitigation or the cost-benefit and alternatives analyses.” GAO recommended that TSA get working on these things, “to help ensure that TSA meets the challenges it is facing in developing and operating its maritime worker identification card program.”
Non-federal agencies
The GAO analysis, while significant, may not scratch the surface of other problems that TWIC may yet experience. TWIC is not the only federal identity management program that employs biometrics. Other major programs, such as DHS’s US-VISIT, which is designed to keep tabs on tourists, and the Defense Department’s Common Access Card (CAC) program, which is designed to provide identity management for all physical and network facilities, are fully funded by the federal government. But in the case of TWIC, TSA expects port authority and private contributions for its implementation. This feature of the program, as much as its management problems, may cause difficulties getting TWIC fully under way.
In contrast to TWIC, DoD and DHS have made their commitments to CAC and US-VISIT abundantly clear. In August 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz penned a memo saying that all aspects of Pentagon physical and information security should incorporate biometrics within the next ten years. US-VISIT was funded to the tune of $680 million in fiscal years 2004 and 2005, and is expected to get continued funding next year.
But TWIC, although it was mandated by Congress in

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.