Chairman Ted Stevens' Opening Statement:
We welcome the witnesses who will appear before the Committee today, and thank them for their willingness to participate in this hearing.
The purpose of our hearing is to examine the status of TSA’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential – commonly known as the “TWIC” program. The emphasis of our discussion will be to review policy and management issues that have prevented TSA from fully launching this program.
The Commerce Committee first authorized a transportation worker credential in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, and then again in 2002 and 2004 when the Committee developed and reauthorized the Maritime Transportation Security Act. These laws authorized the development and issuance of biometric security cards to transportation workers who satisfy background checks for entry into secure areas in maritime, as well as other secure transportation facilities.
In authorizing the TWIC program in each of these measures, this Committee recognized that our ability to secure the nation's ports hinges upon our ability to verify in a timely manner the identity of port workers, and prevent unauthorized access to secure maritime areas when necessary. The current inability of port operators to identify who is on their property at any given time should be considered a significant security vulnerability that must be addressed immediately.
Evidence of the need to verify the identities of workers at our ports occurred in my home state in 2003 during a two-day lockdown of the Alyeska pipeline terminal at the Port of Valdez during a heightened terrorism alert. Terminal officials spent hours sifting through the employee documentation and databases in an effort to determine who was on the port premises. Had the TWIC program been in place, officials would have been able to quickly determine which employees were authorized to be in the secure areas of the terminal, which would have allowed officials to focus on the threat situation.
Despite a stipulation among stakeholders that an interoperable TWIC program would significantly enhance security at the nation’s ports, the program has experienced internal and external challenges. While TSA has struggled with timely decision-making, vendors, port authorities, states, and other stakeholders have complained about the lack of communications.
Secretary Chertoff on April 25th announced that DHS would begin conducting name-based background checks on the initial group of 400,000 maritime workers throughout the United States. This is an encouraging step toward the full realization of the program, but it has been over three and one half years since Congress first authorized a transportation worker credential. Therefore, Senator Inouye and I have introduced legislation, along with 40 other original cosponsors, that would set a hard deadline for the Secretary to launch the program. This program is just too vital to port security to risk more delays.
We look forward to seeking answers on questions today. Thank you very much for coming. I want to state I have examined both the Los Angeles port and the Seattle port, and had a full briefing in Seattle of their security measures. They’re very costly security measures I might add, so we can understand some of the delay.
Questions and Answers of Panel I:
Senator Stevens: That’s very fair, thank you very much for making it short. We have already a system in place for the HAZMAT clearances through FBI, which the truckers pay for. Now would this be a redundant fee they have to pay now to get the TWIC screening process?
Mr. Jackson: No. In fact, if you have a HAZMAT certificate that has already allowed us to do the background investigation components, then you would be able to achieve a TWIC at a reduced rate.
Senator Stevens: So the hazardous material handlers, all of them, if they have that HAZMAT certificate by the FBI, they will be alright?
Mr. Jackson: They still would have to get a card, so they would pay a fee for the card and would go through the enrollment process. But the card would be less expensive to them because we would not need to replicate those portions of the background work that have already been done in order to give them the HAZMAT license. So we’re handing out a new identifier, which wasn’t been done with the HAZMAT review.
Senator Stevens: Are there any restrictions for the TWIC that will not be required for HAZMAT?
Mr. Jackson: On the criminal history background check we have aligned in our NPRM the requirements for the hazardous material and the TWIC for maritime worlds. So the same type of offenses that would exclude you from getting a hazardous materials certification would exclude you from the TWIC card. That’s is a subject of our Notice of Proposed Rulemaking so we’re soliciting comments from the industry about whether and to what extent those two should remain in perfect alignment. But we have gathered that data on the hazardous materials.
Senator Stevens: Would the cards be valid for the same period of time?
Mr. Jackson: Under the TWIC card it’s substituting for the hazardous material with a new biometric card. So it’s not a substitute for the hazardous materials. That is in essence an addition to your commercial driver’s license certification.
Senator Stevens: So HAZMAT endorsement does not require biometric clearance?
Mr. Jackson: It does, fingerprints, yes sir. So for example, that would be another example of if we we’ve taken your fingerprints for HAZMAT we don’t need to take them again TWIC.
Senator Stevens: We’re going to a series of clearances that your department is going to handle. Let’s see Secured Flight, Registered Travel, TWIC, and you’re running into things like HAZMAT and other entities. Is there any change to get them all together so that if a person is going to be in three different zones they’re going to be able to have just one card?
Mr. Jackson: Yes, sir, and that’s an excellent question. We are trying to find an architecture and, where possible, cards that will give us multiple uses. For example, we have the TWIC program. But we also have Border Crossing cards, nexus, century and fast, we have our Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirement for a card that will allow for border crossings. We have potential registered traveler programs domestically and internationally. There are a multiplicity of biometrically enabled cards that are contemplated for the transportation and overall security world that we hope to able to bring together. I’ll give you just one example of how we do that administratively: we’re intending to create a common area for appeals, one common place, so that we can have the most efficient and customer-friendly place to go to get problems cleared here for these kinds of cards if their is a concern, a question, or an issue about background checks.
Senator Stevens: We’ve got a real problem on the floor right now with the immigration bill. A lot of the people here, are they going to be involved with immigration issues?
Mr. Jackson: The idea is that we would use the same set of tools and capabilities that if, as the President requested, the Congress approves a temporary worker program, it would require the same type of biometrically enabled card. So that the same central data architecture that we are using for TWIC would be a precursor for how we would handle what would be a large inflow of background investigation and card issuances after we’ve associated that program. Yes sir, we’re trying to align this multiplicity of unaligned programs and tools as best we can and as fast as we can.
Senator Stevens: I think we know it’s an enormous problem, but there also have been enormous delays. We stated this in 2001 as I said in my opening statement said, and now, we’re appraoching the midpoint of 2006. Are we on top of any of the problems that have caused the delays in the past?
Mr. Jackson: I think we are sir. I am going to say two things. I want to just state upfront that I share your frustration, and I may have kicked your frustration up a notch internally inside the department. I think that we have taken too long to get this done. We’re committing to you to make this a priority. We believe we have cut through the issues necessary to get there. We have requested a little bit of flexibility recently from our appropriators to do some reprogramming necessary to make this work. We’re going to make this a priority. We share your sense that its taking too long. I will say that in the defense column that this has been more complex do to the proliferation of technologies and standard-setting processes that are underway. We have tried to align this with the Federal Information Processing Standards, the so-called FIPS 201, which is a government wide, smart card standard-setting process which will be completed this year, which will drive the same type of technology for access to federal facilities. What we wanted to do was make sure that as we created this massive TWIC deployment here and in subsequent and other modes that we were aligned with what the federal government was doing. We are similarly aligned with the presidential directive under HSP 12, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, that sets requirements for biometric and technology standards associated with this world of activity. So we’re trying to get the whole federal government’s programs that are doing things into technical alignment, that takes some considerable amount of work. Then we have tried to work with the ports and the industry to make sure that we are not big sticking them and not understanding their business operational needs and requirements for making this work well. So that we do not cause their businesses to implode. We are committed on an ongoing basis to continuing that dialog, has eaten up some time. I am telling you then despite those issues we could have and should have moved faster. I will concede that to you, but we are moving at a forced march right now and we’re not going to let up.
Senator Stevens: Let me ask you a probably unfair question. Did you explore the concept of having a private firm take on this whole thing and with the agency to produce the proof that is needed in all these areas whether its HAZMAT or its TWIC or others areas like traveler card would be. It does seem to me that each agency is going to be going through the same process and there ought to be some area out there where they have people who have the experience and the know how who could take on the job and it looks to me like the amount paid for the card would pay for that service. Am I wrong?
Mr. Jackson: It is not an unfair question at all and we have looked very closely at this and I will tell you it is around the nexus of the issues you have just raised that we have made some fundamental changes under Secretary Chertoff’s direction in how we will implement this program. We had, I’m going to say earlier at the department, a more government-centric concept of operations of how this would work. In this model that we have published our regulations to implement, which we will be soliciting outside industry support to help integrate, we have a better partnership that leverages the capabilities. I might just take to walk through what this looks like. We have to go around to three hundred plus ports and find locations to set up intake systems. We have to find space. We have to go in and enroll individuals, and for this purpose we will have an outsourced contract. We will be in a partnership to make sure that the firm finds real estate, sets this up…
Senator Stevens: Why don’t you just turn it over to the private firm to do it?
Mr. Jackson: That’s exactly what we’re doing, sir. We’re contracting that out.
Senator Stevens: But you’re saying we’ve got to find these spaces.
Mr. Jackson: We don’t. We’re giving that to the private sector to do that job. So then we’ll work with them to take the data and manage it through the process of approval. Some of that is inherently governmental. Making the nexus between the FBI data, the criminal history record checks, there is an inherently governmental component to this operation. We’re going to outsource a substantial amount of this work in a close partnership that allows us to protect privacy and to manage the program and get the results.
(Later in the Hearing)
Senator Stevens: Just one last question. I am not sure about the fee that you’ve proposed in this proposed rulemaking. Does the fee that you’ve indicated there cover the complete cost of enrollment, the threat assessment, and credential production? Does it not, for instance, cover the cost of the card readers and the other infrastructure that each port will have to have?
Mr. Jackson: No, sir. It does not cover the cost of the port-centric infrastructure. I will tell you that that will be a subject of a subsequent rulemaking to walk through the technologies that will be needed to do fingerprint capture upon presentation of credentials at a gate or a facility. So we are working this in a two-step process. First, we are going to get the cards issued it will be a biometric photo that have biometric capabilities, but we will not immediately at a given port impose a requirement that the readers be in every private terminal and every gate to manage this. That will be a process that the captain of the port with the Coast Guard’s strong engagement here with the industry will work through a plan and a timetable, which will be done on a port-by-port basis is the current thinking. And that will follow in the relatively near term after the issuance of cards at each of these facilities. So it’s a two-step process.
Senator Stevens: Well back in the days when it was proposed that every gun owner have identification in order to purchase ammunition etcetera, we went through this process and determined at the time that the least expensive process would be to issue a card with a number on it and that would be presented like a credit card to the dealer and just run through a card reader and the FBI system would respond with a photo, etcetera, of the person that had that card. That whole idea was rejected but it was one of the things we had looked into. Why haven’t we looked at the idea of everyone gets a card and there is a central identification system that you access just like a credit card?
Mr. Jackson: Well there’s a combination of central and distributed systems in this TWIC Model. It is centralized in the approval and the continuous checking against updated terrorist watch lists. So you get approved, that goes through a central switch that’s an inherently governmental function to look at some of these lists. You’re issued a card. The sheer volume of in-and-out transactions would mitigate against having a real-time check each time you did this. So what we do is we take and authorized list of TWIC participants and download that to the facilities that need to access. It also allows us to be able authorize and ultimately access the multiple port facilities and multiple ports for a single TWIC card. So it’s a combination of centralized functions and speed. The speed of actually being able to read one of these cards and be able to move in and out takes sometime on the order of a third of a second in our field tests. So we need that high throughput, high volume. I’m talking about roughly 750,000 TWIC cards in the maritime world that would go out and be used on a daily basis in high volume.
Senator Stevens: Thank you very much. We appreciate your answering the question and we also appreciate your appearance here today. We look forward to working with you on the overall problem.
Questions and Answers of Panel II:
Senator Stevens: First, let me say Mr. Cummings that I appreciated the courtesy your people showed me and my staff when we did visit the Los Angeles port. Having gone to high school in that area of South Bay I can tell you that it’s changed considerably since the last century. You seem to have an access problem that goes beyond just identification, I note there is only one railroad line going in and out. You covered the question of the contents of the containers that come and go into the port. Are you working on that security also?
Mr. Cummings: Yes, Mr. Chairman. We’re working in a number of different ways on cargo security. We’re participating in “Operation Safe Commerce” which is entering its third phase and that program, as you know, is intended to identify and test leading-edge and effective and efficient cargo security measures that can then be implemented industry wide. We continue to work with terminals and with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection both at the national level and with the ports to implement their programs such as the Radiation Port Alarm Program, which is the radiation detection screening at the out gates of the terminals, and for our port that installation is nearly complete. I believe they’re just about finished with those installations.
Senator Stevens: When I was there I felt there was a question as to whether the same identification should be required of the people who drive these containers to the port as what would be required for those people work in the port. Are you going to have two sets of identifications?
Mr. Cummings: No, Mr. Chairman. The way that the TWIC program’s laid out and the way we’ve understood it during our participation in its development is that it would just the single credential that would apply to anyone who requires the unescorted access on the maritime terminal are dictated in the regulations. So to our way of thinking that, actually, would work fine. The single definition and the single card would be suitable.
Senator Stevens: Mr. Willis, a person driving a truck that’s got containers on it, it is not necessary to have the HAZMAT identification?
Mr. Willis: That container may or may not include HAZMAT. Regardless, if they’re going to have regular access they’re still going to be, under this NPRM, required to have a TWIC as are the rail workers as that we represent.
Senator Stevens: I’m saying, all the people that are involved in the trucks that come and go and all the people involved in operating the trains and cars that come and go into the port they will all have the TWIC. Is that the plan?
Mr. Willis: If they need regular unescorted access to a secure area of the port, yes, they will need a TWIC under this NPRM.
Senator Stevens: Now that brings me back to you, Mr. Cummings. There is a secure area beyond which everybody has to have it. What percentage of the port is actually a secure area?
Mr. Cummings: Mr. Chairman, in our port, as you’re familiar from your visit, the port complex is fairly broad. It encompasses the two port authorities and the two cities. Within it are these fifty individual terminals. For our port that’s where the security begins. It’s at the gate of each of those individual facilities and for the most part they have deemed that the entry into their restricted area, because they consider everything within their gates their responsibility to maintain security over: the highlines, the cargo transition points, all the buildings and so forth. So they are, for the vast majority, just maintaining the one, single perimeter. So that will be the point at which unescorted access within that area will require the TWIC.
Senator Stevens: So you’re not going to have a single entry into that port are you?
Mr. Cummings: No, sir. We’ll just maintain the current structure with the fifty individual terminals.
Senator Stevens: If a person has a card, and wants to go to any one of those terminals, that same card will let get into any terminal, right?
Mr. Cummings: According to the regulation, only if that individual facility has listed that person on their system. In other words, each of these fifty terminals will then have the authority to only grant this unescorted access to those TWIC card holders. So the first step, Mr. Chairman, would be to get a TWIC card. The second step would be to present yourself at a facility and convince them that you need unescorted access on their terminal. They will then enter you into their system, their database and you will then proceed.
Senator Stevens: That’s what I was getting at. That means every one of those terminals has to have a card reader?
Mr. Cummings: Absolutely, yes, sir. Multiple, probably, in most cases.
Senator Stevens: You’ve got the same problem as them?
Ms. Himber: Yes. Most of the facilities in the Delaware River have designated the entire perimeter, and anything inside the external perimeter is a secure area.
Senator Stevens: As I recall getting into the Port of Los Angeles, it’s going to be a redundant thing, you’re going to have a couple places where you to have to be identified, right?
Ms. Himber: Right. And you might have multiple truck lanes at the main gate so each one of those lanes, potentially, would have to have a reader, plus a visitor lane.
Senator Stevens: Mr. Willis, in terms of what your people are doing, as I understand it, you question the financial impact on the individual right?
Mr. Willis: That’s correct.
Senator Stevens: Well, who’s going to be required to make sure the persons operating these vehicles have cards? The owners of trucks or the individual mover?
Mr. Willis: Well I think how it’s going to work is that if you curl up to a port you’re not going to be able to have unescorted access unless you have a TWIC. I think with the truck drivers it’s going to be a complicated issue because many of these, most of these I believe, are independent contractors. I think that with the folks that work regularly in the ports and those who work in the rail, obviously they have a consistent employer. So there is going to be some connection there and some ability to communicate with those workers and make sure that they are applying for the TWIC in a timely manner, and some infrastructure.
Senator Stevens: Are there any other identifications that are required of your members to be involved in this activity?
Mr. Willis: Well, clearly there are a whole set of documents, as you mentioned, that the mariners need and the Coast Guard is trying to figure out how you merge those and that’s going to be something that we are very interested in.
Senator Stevens: And they have to have their own driver’s license right?
Mr. Willis: Our members you mean or the mariners?
Senator Stevens: Your members.
Mr. Willis: Well, we do represent the truck drivers, the port workers, the mariners and the rail workers, so you know to get a CDL obviously you need a driver’s license. And for the port workers the TWIC would be the main identification.
Senator Stevens: Well currently isn’t their an Identification card they have?
Mr. Willis: Sure, for the individual ports, and I can’t speak for all of them, but ports already have current identification.
Senator Stevens: Do you have it, Mr. Cummings?
Mr. Cummings: We do not have a port identification card. So the access to our terminals right now is based on a driver’s license or for our longshoremen their union card.
Senator Stevens: how about you, Ms. Himber?
Ms. Himber: Some ports in the Delaware region have issued port site specific cards and others are using a driver’s license.
Senator Stevens: And who pays for them now?
Ms. Himber: The individual facility.
Senator Stevens: I’ve got some questions I’d like to submit to you. We’ve got go to the floor to have a vote but I appreciate very much your help. We might be able to work to find a way to reduce the cost of these cards. And maybe, maybe you’re right that by the time we get to the quantity based concept the cost will go down. Have any of you thought about the idea of having a private companies do this? Have you Ms. Himber?
Ms. Himber: We’ve thought about it. In fact we even talked about it at one point during the course of the pilot program. About two years ago, we met with TSA and others from Florida all the way up the to New York on the East coast and looked at other opportunities to do this. But at that time we were told by TSA that they were nearing completion of whatever the current phase was so we discontinued those discussions in favor of the TWIC.
Mr. Willis: I would only add that if you’re going to have, and clearly this is where TSA is going, if you’re going to have a private contractor issue these cards and participate in this program, there are significant requirements both in statute and regulations as far as protecting the privacy of the worker, making sure that the information stays for the use of security purposes and isn’t disclosed to employers or the public and that these cards have to be given out in a quick fashion and quick turn around time so that any private entity that does provide these services will have to look at it to make sure they are prepared to do that and that there is a process whereby that can be assured.
Senator Stevens: That’s true, but they are going to contract that out anyway.
Mr. Willis: Exactly.
Senator Stevens: As a practical matter it’s going to be in some private sector, I just don’t know why the whole thing wasn’t looked at as being a private sector objective and something that could be nationwide and that would bring the cost down considerably. We might work with you to make sure the system works and our bill will set a drop-dead date, any of you disagree with that? (All indicted physically that the agreed.) Thank you very much, we appreciate your coming.
Daniel K. InouyeSenatorStatement of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye
Hearing on the Transportation Workers Identification Credential
May 16, 2006
Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Congress recognized that it not only had to improve the security of the nation’s transportation infrastructure, it had to improve the security of its transportation workforce as well.
The Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) program was specifically created to provide thorough and efficient background checks of all transportation workers, yet five years later, the program has made very little progress.
As required by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), the Administration was able to conduct hundreds of thousands of background checks on airline employees in a relatively short time period. This speedy effort to evaluate aviation workers helped restore the traveling public’s confidence in commercial air service and helped minimize the economic damage. As a result, air travel continues to expand and is now in greater demand than at any previous point in aviation history.
Because of the Congress’s direction and the tragedy’s impact on the economy, the Administration acted with an extreme sense of urgency in the immediate, post-September 11 environment when it came to aviation. That sense of urgency has all but disappeared for other modes, and the Administration’s work on TWIC proves it.
The program has been plagued by cost overruns and missed deadlines and has produced few positive results. The background check program for truck drivers driving hazardous materials has been criticized for its poor conception, redundancies, and high costs. The program for the maritime sector, by most accounts, is still at least two years away from being deployed.
There have been no successful attacks on our transportation systems since September 11, and while that is obviously laudable, it is no guarantee of future success. The TWIC program is an important component of our transportation security system, and it must move forward. It has remarkable potential to eliminate key vulnerabilities and improve operational efficiency.
This potential can only be achieved if the requisite sense of urgency is restored. If the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) cannot motivate itself to turn TWIC around, then it will be up to Congress, through far more vigilant oversight, to provide the motivation. Too much time and money have been wasted already.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Michael P. JacksonDeputy SecretaryDepartment of Homeland Security
Witness Panel 2
Mr. George CummingsDirector of Homeland SecurityPort of Los Angeles
Ms. Lisa HimberVice PresidentMaritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay
Mr. Larry WillisGeneral Counsel, Transportation Trades DepartmentAFL-CIO