It’s In The Cards

Dennis Bryant began his article in last month’s issue of the Maritime Reporter & Engineering News with this interesting analogy:

“On September 17, 1944, thousands of British paratroopers landed up to 100 miles behind German lines in Holland to secure bridges so that Allied forces could circumvent the Siegfried Line and hopefully bring World War II in Europe to a swift conclusion. Unfortunately, Operation Market Garden didn’t work out. The bridge at Arnhem proved to be ‘a bridge too far’ and was outside the reach of supporting ground troops. The Allies were forced to retire and regroup and the end of the conflict was delayed many months, resulting in numerous additional casualties.

“The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program may be headed down the same path.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office(GAO), in a 40-page report, was even more direct. In December of 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) established the TWIC program in order to mitigate the threat of terrorists and other unauthorized persons from accessing secure areas of the entire transportation network. [That was almost five years ago … and billions of dollars.]

To evaluate the status of the program, the GAO examined:
• what problems were identified during TWIC testing and what key challenges do the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and industry stakeholders face in implementing the program; and
• to what extent did TSA experience problems in planning for and overseeing the contract to test the TWIC program.

To address these issues, GAO interviewed DHS officials and industry stakeholders, reviewed documentation regarding TWIC testing, and conducted site visits to testing locations. The GAO found that DHS and industry stakeholders face three major challenges in addressing problems identified during TWIC testing and ensuring that key components of the TWIC program can function effectively.
• The first challenge is enrolling and issuing TWIC cards to a significantly larger population of workers in a timely manner than was done during testing of the TWIC program. In testing the TWIC program, TSA enrolled and issued TWIC cards to only about 1,700 workers, short of its goal of 75,000 workers. According to TSA and the testing contractor, lack of volunteers to enroll in the testing program during testing, and technical difficulties in enrolling workers, such as problems obtaining workers’ fingerprints to conduct background checks, led to fewer than expected enrollments during testing.

[TSA faces the challenge of enrolling and issuing TWIC cards to 750,000 workers at 3,500 maritime facilities and 10,800 vessels — a significantly larger population of workers.]

• The second challenge will be ensuring that the access control technology required to operate the TWIC program, such as biometric card readers, works effectively in the maritime sector. Few facilities that tested the TWIC program used biometric cards that will be required when the program is implemented. As a result, TSA has obtained limited information on the operational effectiveness of biometric readers, particularly when individuals use these readers outdoors in the harsh maritime environment. In addition, most testing facilities lacked the technology to connect with TSA’s national database to obtain current information on those workers already issued TWIC cards who have subsequently been identified as a potential threat to security or whose cards have been lost or stolen.

• The third challenge DHS faces is balancing the added security benefits of the TWIC program in preventing a terrorist attack that could result in a costly disruption in maritime commerce with the impact that the program could have on the daily flow of commerce. For example, if an individual worker or truck driver has problems with his or her fingerprint verification on a biometric card reader, it could create a long queue, delaying other workers and trucks waiting in line trying to enter secure areas of the port. TSA and the Coast Guard have acknowledged the potential impact that the TWIC could have on the flow of maritime commerce and, as a result, plan to obtain additional comments on this issue from industry stakeholders in the second rulemaking pertaining to access control technology. Given the large investment required by the federal government and maritime industry to implement the the TWIC program, it is important that solutions to these problems are developed and tested prior to implementation to help ensure that the program meets its intended goals without further delays and that government and maritime industry resources are used efficiently.

[“Given the large investment by the federal government and maritime industry, etc., etc.” Let’s not forget that both the federal government and the maritime industry extract what constitutes their ‘large investment’ money from the taxpayer/consumer.]

The ‘intended goals’, of course, have already been spelled out in the “Observer” by Mr. Paul Harris in his September 10th article, entitled, “How U.S. merchants of fear sparked a $ 130bn bonanza.” We reprinted that article in its entirety in our Vol. IX, Art. 12 commentary.

Not many people were aware of some of the most significant developments that have taken place since 9/11 and we owe a vote of thanks to Mr. Harris for shining a spotlight on some of those shenanigans. “Five years after the World Trade Center fell,” he wrote, “a highly lucrative industry has been born in America — homeland security. There has been a goldrush as companies scoop up government contracts and peddle products that they say are designed to make America safe.

“The figures are stunning,” Mr. Harris revealed. “Seven years ago there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,312. Now there are 33,890. The money is huge . Since 2000, $ 139bn of contracts have been dished out. By 2015 annual federal spending on the industry could be $ 170bn.”

[Wanna bet that five years from now the TWIC program will still be in its testing stages, and that its ‘intended goals’ will continue to be to ‘peddle products …designed to make America safe’?]