GAO Says No to Mailing TWICs to Homes

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued its congressionally required report on the feasibility of (1) mailing Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs) to applicants’ residences and (2) allowing applicants to receive their TWICs at enrollment centers of their choice. The report was required by section 818(b)(1) of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. While there is no problem with allowing applicants to choose the enrollment center where they will pick up their TWICs, the GAO concluded that “several factors limit the ability of DHS to mail TWICs to an approved applicant’s residence.”
The GAO reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been allowing approved applicants to designate the enrollment center for the activation and issuance of their TWICs since February 2009. Modifications to TSA systems and procedures to allow this alternative to using the enrollment center at which the individual enrolled cost about $187,000, plus an additional $230,000 for transferring cards to alternate enrollment centers.
The GAO found that mailing TWICs to applicants’ homes would conflict with DHS and TSA policy that the TWIC Program comply Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Publication 201-1, which deals with requirements applicable to personal identity verification of federal employees and contractors. FIPS 201-1 mandates that the applicant be personally present for a biometric match before receiving the ID. While it would be possible abandon the policy of complying with FIPS 201-1, TSA indicated it would require “significant and potentially costly changes” to existing systems, processes, regulations, and contracts involved in issuing TWICs. TSA estimated this would take an effort on a par with the four-year technical evaluation and prototyping period that preceded implementation of the TWIC Program in its current form. TSA also noted that the costs would likely increase the price of a TWIC, as the law mandates that the program be paid for by user fees. For its part, the GAO felt that accurate cost estimates could not be developed without knowing the specific program requirements needed to mail TWICs to applicants’ homes.
Apart from the costs, the GAO noted that both TSA and the Coast Guard had expressed security concerns related to mailing TWICs to individual residences. It would increase the chances of having a large number of lost and unaccounted for cards that could be used by persons who had not undergone background checks. If TWICs are not delivered in person, the agencies think it’s very important “to ensure that an authentic TWIC—activated or unactivated—did not end up in the wrong person’s hands.”
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By Professional Mariner Staff