Transportation Security:

DHS Should Address Key Challenges before Implementing the Transportation Worker Identification Credential Program

GAO-06-982: Published: Sep 29, 2006. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 2006.

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is developing the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to ensure that only workers that do not pose a terrorist threat are allowed to enter secure areas of transportation facilities. TSA completed TWIC program testing in June 2005 and is moving forward with implementing the program in the maritime sector by the end of this year. To evaluate the status of the TWIC program, GAO examined (1) what problems, if any, were identified during TWIC program testing and what key challenges, if any, do the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and industry stakeholders face in implementing the program; and (2) to what extent, if at all, 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.

DHS and industry stakeholders face three major challenges in addressing problems identified during TWIC program testing and ensuring that key components of the TWIC program can work effectively in the maritime sector. First, enrolling workers and issuing TWIC cards in a timely manner to a significantly larger population of workers than was done during testing of the TWIC program. Second, ensuring that the TWIC technology, such as biometric card readers, works effectively in the maritime sector. TSA has obtained limited information on the use of biometric readers in the maritime sector because most facilities that tested the TWIC program did not use these types of readers. Thirs, balancing the added security components of the TWIC program with the potential impact that the program could have on the flow of maritime commerce. An independent contractor's assessment found deficiencies with TWIC program testing and recommended that additional testing be conducted to determine its effectiveness. TSA has acknowledged that there are challenges to implementing the TWIC program and has taken some actions to address these issues, including allowing more time to consider requirements for installing TWIC access control technologies. However, TSA plans no additional testing of the TWIC program. Rapidly moving forward with implementation of the TWIC program without developing and testing solutions to identified problems to ensure that they work effectively could lead to further problems, increased costs, and program delays without achieving the program's intended goals. TSA experienced problems in planning for and overseeing the contract to test the TWIC program. Specifically, TSA made a number of changes to contract requirements after the contract was awarded, contributing to a doubling of contract costs, and TSA did not ensure that all key components of the program were tested. TSA has acknowledged that problems with contractor oversight occurred because the agency did not have sufficient personnel to monitor contractor performance. TSA has taken some actions to address this problem. However, until TSA issues the contract for TWIC implementation and develops its plans for monitoring contractor performance, it is not clear to what extent these actions will ensure that the contract to implement the TWIC program will include comprehensive and clearly defined requirements and that contractor performance will be closely monitored to ensure that the program is implemented successfully and costs are controlled.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the TWIC program can be implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible, the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration, in close coordination with the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to, before TWIC is implemented in the maritime sector, develop and test solutions to the problems identified during TWIC program testing, and raised by stakeholders in commenting on the TWIC proposed rule, to ensure that all key components of the TWIC program work effectively. In developing and testing these solutions, TSA should ensure that the TWIC program will be able to efficiently enroll and issue TWIC cards to large numbers of workers, the technology necessary to operate the TWIC program will be readily available to industry stakeholders and will function effectively in the maritime sector, including biometric card readers and the capability to link facility access control systems with the national TWIC database, ensure that the TWIC program balances the added security it provides with the potential effect that the program could have on the flow of maritime commerce, and closely coordinate with maritime industry stakeholders--particularly those that are currently implementing or using biometric access control systems--to learn from their experiences.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To help ensure that the TWIC program can be implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible, TSA is currently conducting testing of the TWIC enrollment systems to ensure that they work effectively prior to implementation and is currently conducting a pilot program at maritime facilities nationwide to test biometric access control technologies to ensure that they can function effectively in the harsh maritime environment. The TWIC access control pilot program began in early 2007.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the TWIC program can be implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible, the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration, in close coordination with the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to strengthen contract planning and oversight practices before awarding the contract to implement the TWIC program to ensure that the contract to implement the TWIC program contains comprehensive and clearly defined requirements, resources are available and measures are in place to provide effective government oversight of the contractor's performance, and a communication and coordination plan is established to capture and address the views and concerns of maritime industry stakeholders during implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To help ensure that the TWIC program can be implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible, TSA has awarded a performance based contract to implement the TWIC program that contains clear performance metric that must be met by the contractor in order to receive payment. The contract also includes a quality assurance surveillance plan and incentives for excellent performance. In addition, TSA added staff with contract and program management expertise to help provide effective government oversight of the TWIC implementation contract. Furthermore, TSA and its enrollment contractor have also developed a TWIC stakeholder coordination committee and a plan to communicate with maritime industry stakeholders impacted by the TWIC program.

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