TWIC program found ‘inaccurate, unreliable’
The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) latest assessment of the results of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) reader pilot program of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found the test results to be “incomplete, inaccurate and unreliable for informing Congress and for developing a regulation about the readers.”
Among other things, the GAO said DHS did not correct planning shortfalls; installed TWIC biometric card readers could not collect required data; and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) did not collect complete data on malfunctioning TWIC cards.
In short, GAO concluded that 11 years after the TWIC program was initiated, “DHS has not demonstrated how, if at all, TWIC will improve maritime security.”
GAO recommended that “Congress should halt DHS’s efforts to promulgate a final regulation until the successful completion of a security assessment of the effectiveness of using TWIC.”
GAO called for a reassessment of the TWIC-card reader program “before the additional investment of funds is made to install TWIC readers at the nation’s ports, at considerable taxpayer expense.”
Senate approves WRDA 83-14
The Senate amended and voted 83-14 May 15 in favor of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2013.
Michael Toohey, president and chief executive of Waterways Council Inc., applauding the Senate’s action, said in a press release that the bill included amendments to remove the “over-budget and long-delayed” Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; the remainder of the cost will be paid 100 percent by revenue from the general treasury, not cost-shared 50/50 through the trust fund. He said the Senate’s action will free up around $750 million to the trust fund to complete priority navigation projects.
Other highlights of the Senate WRDA bill include provisions to authorize $25 million for dredging of shallow-draft ports on the Mississippi River; to establish a levee safety program, including creation of a levee safety board; and to implement project delivery reforms recommended by the Capital Development Plan. One title calls for the gradual increase of expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund so that full use will be achieved by 2020.
Continuing, Toohey noted that the WRDA bill increased the threshold for major rehabilitation, from the current $14 million to $20 million, and included prioritization of navigation projects and revamping of project delivery processes “to achieve on-time and within-budget performance.”
Also welcomed by the industry, WCI said, was passage of increased funding for inland waterways port dredging to be released from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
Not included in the Senate bill was a provision to increase the diesel fuel user fee, a revenue initiative that by law has to originate in the House.
11 groups named to Waterways Users Board
The Secretary of Defense has approved the selection of 11 representative organizations to serve on the Inland Waterways Users Board.
The organizations/companies, whose two-year terms extend to May 27, 2015, are AEP River Operations, Alter Logistics Inc., American Commercial Lines, AmherstMadison Inc., Bruce Oakley Inc., CGB Enterprises, CONSOL Energy Inc., Ingram Barge Co., Kirby Corp., Parker Towing Co. and Tidewater Barge Lines.
The Army Corps of Engineers said on May 11 that it is in the process of confirming the individuals who will represent the approved companies.
Senate panel approves Foxx for DOT
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted May 10 to approve the nomination of Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte, N.C., to be Secretary of Transportation.
Foxx, who turned 42 on April 30, began his political career in 2005 with his election to City Council as an at-large representative and served two terms before being elected the youngest mayor of Charlotte in 2009. As a council member, Foxx was chairman of the Transportation Committee, was a member of the Economic Development & Planning Committee, and served as the council’s representative to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Development Corp. and the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization.
A graduate of Davidson College and New York University’s School of Law, Foxx was an attorney at Hunton & Williams law firm, a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and staff counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.
TSA to unveil ‘OneVisit’ plan for TWIC holders
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) disclosed recently that it soon will implement a “OneVisit” initiative designed to ease the burden on eligible applicants and individuals needing a replacement Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).
Testifying before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, Steve Sadler, assistant administrator of the TSA Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said the first phase of the initiative that will enable individuals to apply for and obtain a TWIC with one visit to an enrollment center will begin in Alaska this summer. The initiative is expected to expand nationwide next year.
Matsuda quits Maritime Administration
Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda has resigned after less than two years in the position.
Matsuda, who was sworn in as maritime administrator June 25, 2010, gave no reason for his departure, nor did he disclose his future plans. He said only that he had decided to “move on from my position at the Maritime Administration later this month (May).”
Selected to take the helm as acting administrator was Deputy Administrator Chip Jaenichen, Matsuda said.
Matsuda served as the Department of Transportation’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy from March 2009 until his appointment as Deputy Maritime Administrator in July 2009.
Pittsburgh port building ‘Wireless Waterways’
The Port of Pittsburgh Commission is looking for partners to participate in the construction of a wireless broadband network along the rivers in Pittsburgh.
The network, called Wireless Waterways, consists of the Network System Infrastructure, which will be expandable, and an Interoperability Test Bed, said James R. McCarville, executive director of the commission. The project has been under construction for nearly a year by the commission’s contractor, CONXX Inc., Johnstown, Pa.
Experiments within the Test Bed were set to begin this month, McCarville said. The Test Bed will explore “the integration of disparate sensors, communications and information management systems to develop innovative and cost effective ways to better use waterway transportation, water quality monitoring, safety and security.”
McCarville said the system will be designed for the “industrial” Internet, and will be able to transmit large volumes of data from sensors, cameras and other devices.
Parties interested in proposing testing should contact the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill modifies criteria for dredging small ports
A bill to modify the criteria used by the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge small ports has been introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
The legislation (S. 732) would set the tonnage requirement for consideration of dredging of small ports by the Corps at a minimum of 500,000 tons, as calculated by the relevant port authority.
The bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for consideration.
Project delivery process ‘crippled’ by endless analyses
Members of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, concerned, as have been many before them, that Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects seem to take forever to complete, held a hearing June 5 to try and find out why project delivery takes so long and what, if anything, is being done about it.
Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), subcommittee chairman, said in an opening statement that while projects have to be reviewed by the public and other state and federal agencies, “the level of analysis required by other laws and regulations are crippling the project delivery process.”
Noting that the study for the Sabine-Neches Waterway navigation project was authorized in June 1997, 14 years before the Corps of Engineers’ report went to Congress, Gibbs said: “We are literally studying infrastructure projects to death…It is no longer acceptable that these studies take dozens of years of years to complete.”
Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the subcommittee, complained that politicians and technical experts have managed to put together “a mind-numbing convoluted multi-layered flow chart that now includes a minimum of 21 major steps along the journey” toward a Corps Chief’s Report.
The only witness scheduled for the hearing, Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, touched on the subcommittee’s concern with project delivery, and told of a strategy calling for a planning modernization effort.
To attack that problem, Walsh said, the Corps developed an initiative called SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Risk-Informed and Timely) Planning, which encompasses a new approach to investigations, accountability and portfolio management.
“The goal under SMART Planning is to complete most feasibility studies within three years for $3 million or less,” Walsh said. “The end product is a decision document that has been fully coordinated by three levels of the organization (Corps headquarters, the Corps division office and the Corps district office) from study inception to completion. As shorthand, we are calling this goal ‘3x3x3.’”
Walsh said the Corps expects to move into full implementation of the new approach in the new fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1.
Transforming the way the civil works program is delivered, Walsh said, “requires state-of-the-art processes and a highly skilled workforce that is capable of responding to current and future demands. The strategy is to have reliable and efficient methods of delivery by linking technical capabilities to uniform national standards, maintaining core competencies and having consistent methods, processes and approaches throughout the Corps.”
Ingram executive named to freight committee
Craig Philip, chief executive of the Ingram Barge Co., was among 47 transportation executives named May 30 to the National Freight Advisory Committee by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Among other officials of water-related operations were Kristin Decas, Port of Hueneme; Michael Jewell, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, AFL-CIO; Paul C. LaMarre III, Port of Monroe (Mich.); Andrew S. Lynn, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and Port of Houston Authority.
The first committee meeting is scheduled for June 25 at the Department of Transportation in Washington. The agenda will include an overview of the freight provisions in the new highway bill, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), and preliminary identification committee activities.