Wednesday, May 8, 2013

TWIC Reader Pilot Hearing

Last Sunday in my blog post about upcoming congressional hearings I noted that the hearing scheduled for tomorrow before the Subcommittee on Governmental Operations of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee on “Federal Government Approaches to Issuing Biometric IDs” might contain mention of the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC). I was wrong; this hearing will be just about the TWIC and it appears that it could get nasty.

There are currently two witnesses listed on the O&GR web site:

• Mr. Stephen Sadler, TSA
• Mr. Stephen A. Lord, GAO

The witness testimony is already posted to the site and you would be hard pressed to see two diametrically different views about the TWIC. As one might expect Mr. Sadler’s testimony has all sorts of good things to say about the TWIC. Mr. Lord’s testimony, on the other hand is a fairly scathing (couched in appropriate bureaucratese) attack on the competency of the TSA effort to conduct the TWIC Reader pilot.

The GAO report identified “eight areas where TWIC reader pilot data collection, supporting documentation, and recording weaknesses affected the completeness, accuracy, and reliability of the pilot data” (page 6). They were:

1. Installed TWIC readers and access control systems could not collect required data on TWIC reader use, and TSA and the independent test agent did not employ effective compensating data collection measures.
2. Reported transaction data did not match underlying documentation.
3. Pilot documentation did not contain complete TWIC reader and access control system characteristics.
4. TSA and the independent test agent did not record clear baseline data for comparing operational performance at access points with TWIC readers.
5. TSA and the independent test agent did not collect complete data on malfunctioning TWIC cards.
6. Pilot participants did not document instances of denied access.
7. TSA and the independent test agent did not collect consistent data on the operational impact of using TWIC cards with readers.
8. Pilot site records did not contain complete information about installed TWIC readers’ and access control systems’ design.

Lord’s report concluded by saying, in part:

“Given that the results of the pilot are unreliable for informing the TWIC card reader rule on the technology and operational impacts of using TWIC cards with readers, we recommended that Congress should consider repealing the requirement that the Secretary of Homeland Security promulgate final regulations that require the deployment of card readers that are consistent with the findings of the pilot program; and that Congress should consider requiring that the Secretary of Homeland Security complete an assessment that evaluates the effectiveness of using TWIC with readers for enhancing port security.”

Tomorrow’s hearing will be interesting.

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