GAO Releases Report Revealing Ongoing Problems with the Transportation Worker Identification Program

At the request of Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the GAO today released a new report revealing ongoing problems with the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The program was created to ensure better security of our nation’s transportation facilities, including ports, by strengthening worker background checks and identification. The Transportation Security Administration has failed to meet several deadlines in fully implementing this critical homeland security program.

Under the leadership of Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Lieberman, the Committee has examined this matter closely and has expressed ongoing concern about problems associated with the TWIC program. In addition, the Collins-Murray port security bill that was cosponsored by Senator Lieberman and signed into law earlier this month, addresses some of the problems outlined in the report by the GAO.

Specifically, the report concludes that TSA is continuing to experience problems in implementing technology effectively in the TWIC program and the agency continues to have problems with enrollment. In addition, the report cites significant staff turnover at DHS as an obstacle to full implementation of TWIC.

The port security bill addresses many of the issues outlines in the report by requiring DHS to issue rules by the end of this year for full implementation of TWIC and it calls for pilot programs to be conducted to test existing technology, such as biometric information as part of worker identification cards.

Following today’s release of the report, Senator Collins said, “TWIC was created to play a critical role in the nation’s transportation security and to help close serious security gaps.

“But DHS’s delays in implementation of every phase of the program are troubling. Our committee has worked closely with the GAO to identify the problems with TWIC and what should be done to alleviate these problems. This recent report indicates that many of the ongoing problems, such as that of enrollment and card processing and effective utilization of the latest technology, still exist.

“Fortunately, some of the recommendations made by the GAO were addressed in the Collins-Murray port security bill that was signed into law on October 13th. This new law requires TSA to finalize TWIC rules by the end of this year. It also directs TSA to develop and test solutions to biometric problems raised in the GAO report so as to ensure that technology is feasible and effective.

“As the GAO concluded, implementation of the TWIC program is critical and requires the commitment of strong leadership at TSA. Closing security gaps in our nation’s transportation infrastructure system through full implementation of TWIC should be a priority for DHS.”

Senator Lieberman said, “TSA dropped the ball on the TWIC program, and as a result, millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted and an effective ID program for port and transportation workers is not yet in place. For that reason, Congress provided a strict roadmap in the SAFE Port Act for issuing TWIC cards and testing the access control equipment. But we have lost precious time that we can ill afford to waste.”