Port Security:

Better Planning Needed to Develop and Operate Maritime Worker Identification Card Program

GAO-05-106: Published: Dec 10, 2004. Publicly Released: Dec 10, 2004.

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As part of a multilayered effort to strengthen port security, the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 calls for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue a worker identification card that uses biological metrics, such as fingerprints, to control access to secure areas of ports or ships. Charged with the responsibility for developing this card, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), within DHS, initially planned to issue a Transportation Worker Identification Credential in August 2004 to about 6 million maritime workers. GAO assessed what factors limited TSA's ability to meet its August 2004 target date for issuing cards and what challenges remain for TSA to implement the card.

Three main factors, all of which resulted in delays for testing a prototype of the maritime worker identification card system, caused the agency to miss its initial August 2004 target date for issuing the cards: (1) officials had difficulty obtaining timely approval to proceed with the prototype test from DHS, (2) extra time was required to identify data to be collected for a cost-benefit analysis, and (3) additional work to assess card technologies was required. DHS has not determined when it may begin issuing cards. In the future, TSA will face difficult challenges as it moves forward with developing and operating the card program, for example, developing regulations that identify eligibility requirements for the card. An additional challenge--and one that holds potential to adversely affect the entire program--is that TSA does not yet have a comprehensive plan in place for managing the project. Failure to develop such a plan places the card program at higher risk of cost overruns, missed deadlines, and underperformance. Following established, industry best practices for project planning and management could help TSA address these challenges. Best practices suggest managers develop a comprehensive project plan and other, detailed component plans. However, while TSA has initiated some project planning, the agency lacks an approved comprehensive project plan to govern the life of the project and has not yet developed other, detailed component plans for risk mitigation or the cost-benefit and alternatives analyses.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2004, we reported on efforts by the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) to strengthen port security, as required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002. The Act requires that the Department of Homeland Security issue a worker identification card that uses biological metrics to control access to secure areas of ports or ships. Among other things, we reported that without a comprehensive plan in place for managing the project, TSA would face difficult challenges as it moved forward with developing and operating the maritime worker identification card program. We further reported that failure to develop such a plan places the card program at a higher risk of cost overruns, missed deadlines, and underperformance. Based on this finding, we recommended that TSA develop a comprehensive project plan for managing the remaining life of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. In 2008, during our review of the TWIC program, we found that TSA had responded to our recommendation by completing a project plan for managing the program. Dated April 21, 2005, this plan, the Program Management Plan, describes the overall management approach for the TWIC program. The plan is intended to form the basis for all other management support plans that are utilized by TWIC program management. This effort helped inform TSA's implementation of the TWIC user enrollment, card activation, and issuance processes.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that TSA meets the challenges it is facing in developing and operating its maritime worker identification card program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the TSA Administrator to employ industry best practices for project planning and management by developing a comprehensive project plan for managing the remaining life of the project.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2004, we reported on efforts by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to strengthen port security, as required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002. The Act requires that the Department of Homeland Security issue a worker identification card that uses biological metrics to control access to secure areas of ports or ships. Among other things, we reported that as TSA moves forward with developing and operating the maritime worker identification card program, TSA will face difficult challenges without detailed component plans for risk mitigation or a cost-benefit and alternatives analyses for the program. We further reported that failure to develop such plans placed the card program at higher risk of cost overruns, missed deadlines, and underperformance. Based on these findings, we recommended that TSA employ industry best practices for project planning and management by developing specific, detailed plans for risk mitigation and cost-benefit and alternatives analyses for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. In 2008, during our review of the TWIC program, we found that TSA had responded to part of our recommendation by completing a document titled Risk Management Plan, dated May 5, 2005, and a document titled TWIC Analysis of Alternatives, dated February 15, 2005. The risk management plan details the processes and tools to be used by TWIC program management to identify and manage risks. The plan further defines the risk management strategy that the project team will follow to mitigate and/or prevent risks. The analysis of alternatives document provides context to the development of the TWIC program alternatives and describes the principal features of each alternative considered. These efforts helped inform TSA's implementation of the TWIC user enrollment, card activation, and issuance processes. However, no cost benefit analysis has been developed.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that TSA meets the challenges it is facing in developing and operating its maritime worker identification card program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the TSA Administrator to employ industry best practices for project planning and management by developing specific, detailed plans for risk mitigation and cost-benefit and alternatives analyses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration

 

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