Friday, May 10, 2013

Coast Guard Extends TWIC Reader Rule Comment Period

Today the Coast Guard published a notice in the Federal Register (78 FR 27335-27336) announcing a 30-day extension of the comment period for the TWIC Reader Rule. Comments are now due by June 20th, 2013.

There is nothing in the notice indicating why the extension was requested or approved. Back on April 2nd Rep. Thompson (D,MS) and Rep. Jackson-Lee (D,TX) sent a joint letter to the Coast Guard requesting a 90-day extension of the comment period and additional public meetings to be held in ‘geographically diverse maritime areas’. The reason for their request was:

“The comments and concerns expressed during the TWIC reader NPRM process will effect over 2.4 million current TWIC holders and is an important component of the Coast Guard’s multi-layered system of access control requirements and other measures designed to enhance maritime security.”

At the time of the letter was written only one TWIC Reader NPRM meeting had been announced. Since then three additional meeting have been scheduled (and held) around the country. There have been very few comments filed on the NPRM to date which brings into question the need for this extension.

Having said that, however, the recent GAO report and comments at yesterday’s hearing on the TWIC Reader pilot study may bring congressional scrutiny to the whole TWIC Reader program. This extension may inadvertently provide time for Congressional action to delay or cancel the program, ironically because of Congressional complaints (most vocally from Rep. Thompson) about the delays in the implementation of this rule. To be fair though, there would have been sufficient time for Congress to act in any case since this is an NPRM and not yet a final rule.

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