WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced a full committee hearing to review the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The TWIC program is a nationwide ID program intended to address security vulnerabilities within America’s ports by providing government security officials the ability to conduct background checks and verify the identity of transportation workers with access to secure port areas.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Good afternoon. One of my top priorities as Chairman of this Committee is to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to protect our nation’s transportation systems and keep them safe from attack.
Just this week, we learned of a plot hatched by Osama bin Laden to plunge American rail cars off a bridge or into a valley. It is likely one of many attacks he plotted involving our nation’s transportation network. We know that these networks are prime terrorist targets. This includes our nation’s ports.
In 2002, Congress passed legislation to help shore up our nation’s port security. The legislation created a nationwide identification card for transportation workers, known as TWIC. The goal of TWIC was to make sure only certain people could gain access to secure maritime facilities. Among other things, it mandated background checks for all TWIC applicants.
But the GAO’s report on the TWIC program reveals significant shortcomings in how this program is run. According to their report, the TWIC program has a poor track record with internal controls—such as rooting out fraud in applications—and little accountability for how money is being spent and how effectively it is being used.
This lack of controls and safeguards is concerning. As the report reveals, GAO investigators were easily able to fraudulently obtain TWIC cards using false identification documents and use those cards to access secure areas of numerous ports.
Additionally, not enough has been done to ensure that TWIC holders maintain their eligibility. TSA is often unable to validate an applicant’s immigration status or ensure that TWIC holders haven’t committed disqualifying criminal offenses after receiving a TWIC.
This lack of oversight is disturbing. Also disturbing is the apparent lack of accountability over how funds for this program are being spent. More than $420 million have been spent on the TWIC program in the 10 years since its creation. According to GAO estimates, we’re slated to spend another $694 million to $3.2 billion on it in the next 10 years.
But, as the GAO report shows, this money is being spent without proper cost controls or a cost-benefit analysis. No one has bothered to study whether less costly port security measures might work better than TWIC.
I want the TWIC program to live up to its mandate. I want our nation’s ports to be more secure. But as today’s report reveals, things need to change—and fast. The program needs stronger fraud controls. We also need to take a clear, hard look at whether we are getting enough return on our investment. Is the money we’re spending on TWIC being used wisely? Are there other security programs that would cost less but work as well as TWIC? These are questions we need answers to.
In the coming months, I will introduce a port security authorization bill which will address shortcomings in port security credentialing. I look forward to working with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, the Government Accountability Office, as well as our stakeholder community to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep our ports secure and our travelers safe.
Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.)ChairmanU.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee examining the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. Sen. Lautenberg who chairs the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, released an unclassified report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) outlining major homeland security risks posed by the ID program currently in use at maritime facilities.
The following are Senator Lautenberg’s prepared remarks from today’s hearing:
“I welcome everyone to today’s hearing, which I called because we have serious concerns about the government’s efforts to make America’s ports more secure. Our maritime facilities are global gateways—providing American businesses and consumers with access to the world marketplace. Ports are a vital part of our economy, but they have also been identified as targets for terrorist attacks.
“My state is home to the country’s most at-risk area for a terrorist attack—a stretch that includes major hubs like the Port of New York and New Jersey, which handled more than $140 billion in cargo last year.
“To improve security at our ports, nine years ago the government created a worker identification program—known as TWIC—to make sure access to the nation’s ports is limited to people who belong there, such as dock workers, cargo handlers and other professionals. After several delays, the program is now up and running, and the government has issued almost two million TWIC cards.
“But a recent Government Accountability Office investigation raises a disturbing question: Are America’s ports actually safer now than they were a decade ago? The GAO has identified serious problems with TWIC—including startling evidence that this program might actually diminish the safety of our ports.
“At this Committee’s request, the GAO conducted covert testing. Investigators were able to fraudulently obtain TWIC cards and use the cards to access secure locations. Not only were they able to access the port facilities, but they were able to drive a vehicle with a simulated explosive into a secure area.
“Fraudulent and counterfeit cards like the ones used by investigators could also be used as identification at airports or military facilities. The problems don’t stop with fraudulent cards. There are also issues with criminal background checks, immigration checks and a lack of safeguards to determine if an applicant even needs a TWIC card.
“Despite these alarming findings, the Transportation Security Administration has so far failed to close the gaping holes that plague this program. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security, which heads the TSA, has not even conducted a review to determine if the card program helps or hinders security at our nation’s ports.
“Given the critical importance of our ports, it is unacceptable that we are spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a program that might actually be making ports less safe. According to estimates, it could cost as much as three billion dollars to deploy the cards over a 10-year period—and this doesn’t include the cost of the sophisticated biometric equipment needed to read the cards.
“We must thoroughly examine and correct the TWIC program and make sure we are focusing our resources where they are needed most—the areas that present the highest risk. So I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the status of the program and how we can best implement changes to make sure our port security programs are effective and the money we spend is improving safety at our ports.”
U.S. Representative John Mica (R-Fla.)ChairmanU.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Witness Panel 1
Mr. John S. PistoleAdministrator, Transportation Security AdministrationU.S. Department of Homeland Security
Rear Admiral Kevin CookDirector, Prevention Policy, U.S. Coast GuardU.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mr. Steve LordDirector, Homeland Security and JusticeGovernment Accountability Office