NMSAC May 2012 Meeting – Part 1

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) convened the open portion of its spring meeting at 1:00PM, May 15, 2012. Agenda topics for this afternoon session included: National Supply Chain Security; Transport Canada/USCG Regulatory Harmonization; Port Security Grants and TWIC Readers; and Vessel Detain on Board/Armed Guard Requirements.
Sadly, audio problems absent from the last few NMSAC meetings were manifest at the outset of this one. As a result, the virtual audience missed out on the presentations concerning National Supply Chain Security and Harmonization of US-Canadian Maritime Transportation Security Regulations. Some slides in the latter presentation hinted at interesting details: the Regulatory Cooperation Council program includes four “work plans” in the area of marine security and safety. These plans include deliverables, timelines, and task team members. At this point, the presentation froze on a slide with the title “Marine Transportation Security Regulations,” but no other content. Then, at the apparent end of the briefing, several slides appeared and disappeared so rapidly that there was no chance to read even their titles.
Port Security Grants and TWIC Readers
Happily, audio was available when NMSAC turned to Port Security Grants and Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Readers, with briefers from the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). LCDR Loan O’Brien led off for the USCG. She noted the highlights of TSA’s TWIC Pilot Report—the complex nature of installing an integrated TWIC reader system, the varying performance capabilities of TWIC readers themselves, training requirements for various stakeholder groups, and the durability of the TWIC cards. She also asserted that the TWIC Program provided value even without readers being in place in that (1) it provided a common ID that all in the maritime industry could recognize; (2) it ensured a fully vetted work force for the industry; and (3) it reduced the number of IDs workers needed. Finally, she commented that the TWIC Reader Pilot was informing the USCG’s development of the TWIC Reader Rule, which she expects to see published “later on this year” as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The Coast Guard is also working on updating Navigation and Vessel Circular No. 03-07, TWIC Guidance for the Maritime Sector. A NMSAC member asked what role the Committee could play in the Reader Rule’s development. The response was that NMSAC could see the NPRM when it was published and could submit comments during the 60-day comment period. Another member commented that engagement with stakeholders would be very important during the upcoming TWIC reenrollment period. It’s assumed that the Coast Guard rule will require the use of “approved” readers, but how will equipment upgrades be handled? A USCG representative stated that TSA expects to have the reader specification out this summer.
Mr. Alex Mrazik then spoke for FEMA, stating that TWIC remains a high priority of the Port Security Grant Program, although, in the absence of reader requirements and specifications, the guidance was tweaked for 2012 to focus on infrastructure. There were 355 grant applications this year, down slightly from 2011. Field review of these applications is in progress. This will be followed by national review. The mark up of 2013 Homeland Security Grants currently provides 41.5 billion for all grant programs. The Administration has proposed one National Preparedness Grant Program, with monies sent to States for allocation. Mr. Mrazik cautioned that 2007 grant monies expire September 30th and that FEMA has no authority to extend this deadline. On the other hand, authority to grant waivers to cost share requirements has now been delegated down to the FEMA Administrator, which will speed that process up considerably. Recipients of 2008 and 2009 grants are especially encouraged to seek waivers. A NMSAC member asked whether NMSAC would have any opportunity to provide input on the FY13 guidance for Port Security Grants. Mr. Mrazik said the Committee should submit comments to FEMA.
Mr. John Schwartz, of TSA, began his presentation by noting that his agency would be transitioning over the next six months from the single TWIC contract with Lockheed Martin to two contracts: the Universal Enrollment Contract (UEC) and the TSA Information Management Infrastructure Maintenance Contract. The latter has not yet been awarded; while the former went to Morpho Trust, a company that is already operating most of the TWIC enrollment centers. TSA and both Lockheed Martin and Morpho Trust are aware that the transition period will overlap with the ramp up of TWIC reenrollments, which started slow in Fall 2007 and ramped up in 2008 and 2009. Both contractors’ plans have surge capabilities built in.
The DHS Secretary has been very interested in the TWIC Program. She recently chartered a Department-level TWIC working group (staffed w/ Undersecretaries or their designees and involving the USCG, TSA, ICE, Science & Technology, among others) that will try to get a framework for “what is TWIC.” The working group recently travelled to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where members had lots of questions for port authorities and facility operators and got input on business, labor, and facility security officer concerns about the TWIC Program. While in essence a review of the TWIC Program at the five-year mark, the Group is also chartered to look at other DHS credentialing matters. The Group will be making other trips: to the Gulf Coast in June (tentatively) and to the East Coast later.
While GAO is reviewing all Pilot Study data for another GAO report, the TWIC Program remains a matter of high interest on Capitol Hill. The hottest bill (passed by the House Homeland Security Committee with an amendment) would eliminate TSA’s requirement that TWIC applicants visit an enrollment center more than once. Other bills would extend individual TWIC cards’ validity beyond their expiration dates pending issuance of the Final Rule on TWIC Readers or align expiration dates with visa expiration dates, where applicable. In response to a question, Mr. Schwartz indicated that a one-visit limitation would not require legislation, as it could be implemented as a matter of DHS policy. The requirement for separate visits to enroll and to pick up and activate one’s TWIC derived from the Deputy DHS Secretary’s decision, at the beginning of the TWIC Program, to follow, as far as practical, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) Personal Identification Verification (PIV) standards for ID cards for federal workers and federal contractors. But, whether changed by policy decision or legislation, TSA would not be able to implement a one-visit process in a short time period. First, a risk assessment and development of mitigation measures would be required. Then, TSA would have to develop the details of the new procedure and take them to the contractor(s) and negotiate cost and process changes. Good cost estimates aren’t possible until the details are known. If there were an easy way to get the card to the worker while satisfying security requirements, TSA would be all for it. When a NMSAC member noted that US passports are issued after a single visit, Mr. Schwartz replied that the existing TWIC procedures were developed on the basis of the PIV standards. NIST did a risk assessment for federal IDs.
Other questions related to TWIC card quality and durability. Mr. Schwartz indicated that there were fewer complaints about the newer version of the card. With regard to improperly coded cards that won’t work in TWIC Readers, he said people whose cards didn’t work in a reader could look their card up on the list or have the TWIC Help Desk do it for them. If a TWIC is on the list, the holder can get a free replacement card. Asked about the impact of contact readers on card durability, Mr. Schwartz said he had only limited anecdotal data from two terminals in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area. There’s a tradeoff between contact and contactless readers: A contact reader avoids the broken antenna issue, involves a positive step of inserting the card, and provides a rapid read and card decryption because reader gets the TWIC Privacy Key (TPK) off the chip. But, there’s wear and tear on the readers—they need tweaking from time to time. Contactless readers don’t suffer the wear and tear, but processing times are longer and it’s harder to get the TPK. You have to hold the card in the right position, if you move it, you have to start the cycle over. Asked again about the wear and tear on the card from being inserted into a reader, Mr. Schwartz said he had no date on card wear and tear.
He continued by identifying a major issue for TWIC Readers–there are no federal standards for card readers only for cards. Should the TWIC Program take the lead on developing federal standards for card readers? There are over 9 million federal PIV cards, while there are only about 2 million TWICs.
Asked when the TWIC would be extended to other transportation modes as originally intended, Mr. Schwartz responded that one of the reasons the Secretary had chartered the high-level working group was to look at DHS credentialing matters, such as should the TWIC be used in other areas. One candidate would be the chemical industry, where there are many facilities that are regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) and many that aren’t. The workers at the former are required to have TWICs, while those at the latter are prohibited from having them, since they don’t require access to the secure areas of MTSA-regulated faculties. TWICs could provide the necessary vetting for the latter category of chemical facilities, but someone would have to make the decision to authorize their use there.
The first task of the high-level working group is to make sure TWIC is as healthy as it can be. There are no immediate plans to use it for other purposes, but the UEC is available for future DHS credentialing efforts. It will be phased in. The new contractor will not take responsibility for all TWIC enrollment centers at the same time. Additionally, the Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) enrollment contract doesn’t expire until January 2013. At that point, that process will be folded into the universal contract. Many of the HME enrollment sites will be capable of issuing TWICs, which is one of the ways that the number of TWIC enrollment centers will grow by about 50%.
Seafarer Shore Access – Detention on Board
NMSAC began a discussion of the efforts of its working group on Seafarer Shore Access addressing armed guard requirements for foreign crew ordered detained on board their vessel. There are two categories of crew members who are typically required to be detained on board while their vessel is in US ports: those who are flight risks (deserters) and those who pose a threat to national security. Over the years the practice of requiring armed guards onboard to ensure that the latter remain on board has been expanded to the flight risks as well. Additionally, in some cases, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires armed guards onboard while the vessel comes into port, after which CBP may determine that guards aren’t necessary after all. (In the case of New Orleans, this policy requires the shipping company to pay for guards to travel to the coast and accompany the ship 100 miles up the river.) CBP’s policies are not consistent between various US ports, which becomes especially noticeable for ships traveling to more than one US port on the same voyage. Armed guards should not be required for mere flight risks. Requiring them not only places an undue cost burden on the shipping company, but also undermines the Master’s authority, as it’s his responsibility to take charge of the crew.
The Coast Guard urged NMSAC to finalize its recommendations on the issue so that they could be incorporated into an ALCOAST message that had been provided to the Committee in draft form. NMSAC agreed to study its draft recommendation and the proposed ALCOAST overnight so that it could be voted on at the following morning’s session.
Comments from the Public
A representative of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) expressed the AAPA’s concerns for the future of Port Security Grants under the proposal to combine all DHS grant programs into one and urged NMSAC to recommend to the DHS Secretary that Port Security Grants be kept as a separate program. The AAPA fears that the States are not in a position to figure out port security and are not likely to give ports a fair share of the overall total. The AAPA was disappointed by the handling of DHS grant programs this year, where Congress cut the combined programs by 40% and left it up to the Secretary to parcel the money between the various programs. Rather than 40%, Port Security Grants were cut by 58%. One major need that will become apparent over the next few years is the replacement of radiation portal monitors as they grow old. Asked by a NMSAC member why the AAPA didn’t think the States would fund port needs, the Association representative opined that, faced with a smaller pot of funding, the States would fund what they knew and were familiar with. Additionally, the States weren’t equipped to perform port risk/security assessments, unlike the Area Maritime Security Committees in the current program.
Another member of the public (OK, it was your intrepid correspondent rushing in where angels fear to tread) inquired as to what was being done to implement the standards for Facility Security Officer training enacted by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. The Coast Guard response was that this was one of a number of regulatory projects. In light of the President’s Executive Order on regulatory reform it was doubtful that anything that appeared to cost the private sector money could make it through the administrative approval process any time soon, and certainly not before the election. In the meantime, the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD’s) voluntary standards continue as the guideline. The Coast Guard is working with MARAD to improve the voluntary standards. The eventual regulation implementing section 821 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act can be expected to look a lot like the current voluntary standards.
Whereupon the Committee adjourned until the following morning, when it will deal with the Detain on Board Resolution and discuss Maritime Domain Awareness and Information Sharing.
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By Professional Mariner Staff