The Transportation Worker Identification Card, a biometric identification credential is broken. The Department of Defense announced Dec. 10 that the program mandated 10 years ago and managed by the Department of Homeland Security does not meet Department of Defense security standards. Serious questions need to be asked about why this multimillion-dollar program has failed.
The TWIC program was one of the first maritime requirements put into place after September 11th. The goal was to ensure that terrorists could not enter U.S. ports. Port workers, including truckers transporting DOD goods, were required to undergo background checks to get a TWIC credential. If you did not have a TWIC credential, you couldn't enter the port, the port facilities, or go aboard ships docked at the port.
The Department of Defense's announcement is a significant blow to the DHS program. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent by DHS over the past 10 years to create this program. The DHS told TWIC holders their credentials met federal government standards and that they did not have to apply for additional credentials.
Serious questions should be asked about today's announcement. Is there a problem with the DHS background checks? Is there a problem with the interoperability between the DHS and DOD systems? Why are the TWIC holders themselves having to suffer because the federal government can't resolve the problem?
The nearly 2 million men and women who have applied for TWIC credential deserve an answer. Attaining a TWIC credential costs more than $100 and requires applicants to undergo intrusive background checks in addition to taking significant time off of work to get them. These men and women completed this process because they knew it was for the good of the United States. It is now time for the U.S. government to fix its internal problems and not make America's transportation workers bear the burden of the government's failures.
K. Denise Rucker Krepp is former chief counsel, U.S. Maritime Administration, and senior counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. She can be contacted at email@example.com.