House chairman outlines problems with TWIC enrollment
The Transportation Security Administration is under fire again from Congress for problems with its program to distribute tamper-proof identification cards for access to secure areas of ports and vessels by maritime industry workers and service providers.
According to House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the Help Desk for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential is plagued by poor customer service that is making it difficult for workers to enroll for the program. The Help Desk is operated by Lockheed Martin Corp., which is operating under contract to TSA to help implement the TWIC program.
More than 1.2 million workers are expected to require a TWIC card for unescorted access to port facilities.
Workers who contact the Help Desk are often placed on hold for hours and given misleading or inaccurate advice, and some waterfront employers are considering hiring special administrative personnel just to shepherd their workers through the TWIC enrollment process, Thompson charged in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Thompson asked for details about penalties TSA has reportedly imposed on Lockheed Martin for not meeting performance requirements, how it plans to remedy the situation and who will bear the cost.
'The Help Desk has proven to be yet another poorly designed and managed program that is negatively impacting those individuals who comprise the valuable eyes and ears of our nation’s transportation system,' Thompson wrote.
Lockheed Martin has opened more than 100 fixed enrollment centers and dozens of mobile sites nationwide. More than 250,000 workers had enrolled as of early May and thousands more are processed each week. But many ports are reporting slow enrollment of their workforces. Enrollment began at the Port of Wilmington, Del. in October 2007.
Earlier this month, the TSA extended the deadline by seven months for mariners, port workers and other personnel to obtain a TWIC card. The government will now require persons at most ports to obtain their card by April 15, 2009, rather than Sept. 25 of this year. ' Eric Kulisch