Monday, October 7, 2013

HR 3202 Introduced – TWIC Review

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post Rep. Jackson-Lee (D,TX) introduced HR 3202, the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act. This bill would mandate an independent assessment of the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) program.

Presumably this bill is in response to the GAO report presented to Congress, but there is no mention of that report or the specific research recommended in the report. Instead this bill would require the DHS Secretary to commission a study by an “independent not-for-profit laboratory with appropriate expertise” {§2(a)} and submit a report to Congress on that study within one year of the enactment of this bill.

The Study

As mandated by this bill the study would have to address:

• The extent to which the program addresses known security risks in the maritime environment;
• The extent to which the program has addressed which internal control deficiencies identified by the Comptroller General;
• A cost-benefit analysis of the program; and
• Consideration of alternate biometric technologies.

The report that the GAO recommended, a review of the TWIC Reader Pilot, is not mentioned in this report.

The Club

To ensure that DHS actually complies with this mandate the bill includes a rather large stick. Section 2(e) provides that the Department cannot put the final TWIC Reader Rule into place until Comptroller General informs the Congress that the completed study is “substantially responsive to the recommendations of the Comptroller General” and the Department has published a list “of transportation security card readers that are compatible with active transportation security cards”.

GAO Recommendations Ignored

As I mentioned earlier the Government Accounting Office published a report this spring that questioned the results of the TSA TWIC Reader Pilot Study. They identified a number of problems with the study plan and execution. In their conclusion they noted:

“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.”

This recommendation is not addressed in this proposed legislation. It may be part of the proposed amendment in the form of a substitute that Ms. Jackson-Lee is supposed to present at the mark-up hearing for this bill on Wednesday.

Moving Forward

The markup of this bill by the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee (of which Rep. Jackson-Lee is the Ranking Member) has already been postponed once. If and when the Congress finally gets moving again on non-spending issues (which could be next year the way things are going) this bill will probably make its way to the floor of the House where it will be passed with substantial bipartisan support. The same will probably happen in the Senate.

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