Evolving TWIC Program Explained

By John Schwartz
TWIC Program Manager
Department of Homeland Security
Transportation Security Administration

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) biometric credential is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiative to ensure only vetted workers gain unescorted access to secure areas of a port or vessel regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. To obtain a TWIC, individuals provide biographic and biometric information such as fingerprints, are photographed, and must pass a security threat assessment conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

A chip embedded in the credential card stores data which can be read by insertion or contactless readers. The photo identification card also contains a magnetic strip and a linear barcode as alternative reading methods. This Q & A provides responses to important questions faced by future credential candidates and the more than 2 million people already enrolled in the program.

Detailed information supplementing many of the answers below is available on the TSA’s TWIC program website at www.tsa.gov/twic, the TWIC Information website at http://www.twicinformation.com/twicinfo, and at the U.S. Coast Guard Homeport site at https://homeport.uscg.mil.

AAPA: There is a new contractor for TWIC enrollment. How will that impact the renewal process for a TWIC and when will this change occur?

TSA selected a Universal Enrollment Services (UES) provider to take over expiring enrollment contracts, including TWIC. This provider will establish new enrollment sites, largely in the same geographic areas, and will begin transitioning responsibility early next year. TSA anticipates a 50-percent increase in the number of enrollment centers, which should facilitate applications.

AAPA: There have been reported problems with TWIC card antennas being broken. Can you report what TSA has done to address this problem?

Some TWIC cards can be impacted by normal wear and tear, temperature and humidity, and use. Future action will be determined, as necessary.

AAPA: Many ports offered mobile enrollment centers and used bulk payments for TWICs. What process should they follow if they want to do this again during the enrollment period? How should this be timed?

During the transition period to UES, the contractor (Lockheed Martin) is offering mobile enrollment and activation services to companies or entities interested in receiving (and able to fund) on-site TWIC services and bulk payment options. This applies to initial or card renewal enrollments as well as for obtaining extended expiration date (EED) TWICs.

AAPA: What is the difference between renewing cards the normal way or using the three-year extended expiration date TWIC. Why might a worker want to get one or the other?

Schwartz: The three-year EED TWIC, at a reduced fee of $60, is offered because the Final Rule has not been promulgated for TWIC card readers. The EED TWIC will be accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard, port and vessel operators. It is a one-time temporary extension of the current card; upon expiration, all EED TWIC holders will be required to enroll for a standard five-year TWIC. Those TWIC holders who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals or who do not wish to use the EED TWIC option now, may renew their expiring TWICs with a five-year card, at an

AAPA: Which agency is responsible for the final TWIC reader rule (TSA or U.S. Coast Guard) and what is the timeline for those regulations?

Schwartz: The TWIC reader regulation is a DHS-wide priority and the Coast Guard is responsible for the TWIC reader rulemaking. The Coast Guard intends to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, to consider the findings of the TWIC reader pilot program and to and readers deployed at the facilities with the highest risk within three years.

AAPA: If a port wants to buy TWIC readers before the final rule goes into effect, are there guidelines for which readers to buy? What is TSA’s long-term plan to approve readers?

TSA maintains a list of readers that initially provided guidance to facility and vessel operators participating in the TWIC reader pilot. This Initial Capabilities Evaluation (ICE) list may still be used to guide operators in making reader decisions now. However, by the end of this year, TSA expects to replace the ICE list with a new Qualified Technology List of card readers certified under the future TWIC reader rule.

AAPA: If a worker was required to get a waiver last time, will the renewed TWIC require the same paperwork? What is the time frame for that process?

Schwartz: No. If an applicant is renewing for a five-year TWIC, waiver documentation will only be required if new disqualifying or potentially disqualifying activity is identified. All previous offenses on which a waiver was granted would not require re-submission. If a waiver is required, an applicant should expect to receive a letter with details surrounding the offense and further instructions within 30 days.

AAPA: Can a corporate personnel department apply for TWICs on behalf of coworkers, if appropriate information is provided?

Schwartz: A company can provide a list of employees who are eligible for EED TWICs, along with a bulk payment, to the TWIC contractor and have the card orders processed on behalf of the employees. Each employee would then complete the in-person activation and issuance process. A company cannot apply for an initial or full renewal card on behalf of their employees since new personal data, fingerprints and photograph are necessary.

AAPA: Why can’t the TWIC card be sent by mail like other documents such as passports and drivers licenses? Is TSA considering changing the process in the future?

The primary purpose served by the second visit to to prevent fraudulent activation and security risk of having someone else use the card to access secure areas and facilities. TSA and U.S. Coast Guard believe that this could be accomplished through alternative means and are reviewing options.

John Schwartz is the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program manager for the Transportation Security Administration. Prior to joining in 2003, he served 30 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, retiring at the rank of captain. Mr. Schwartz holds an undergraduate engineering degree from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and graduate degrees from The American University in Public Administration, and the Naval War College in National Security and Strategic Studies.

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