Transportation Worker Identification Credential:

Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Should Be Reassessed

GAO-13-610T: Published: May 9, 2013. Publicly Released: May 9, 2013.

Additional Materials:


Stephen M. Lord
(202) 512-4379


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

This statement today highlights the key findings of a report GAO released yesterday on the TWIC program that addressed the extent to which the results from the TWIC reader pilot were sufficiently complete, accurate, and reliable for informing Congress and the TWIC card reader rule. For the report, among other things, GAO assessed the methods used to collect and analyze pilot data since the inception of the pilot in August 2008. GAO analyzed and compared the pilot data with the TWIC reader pilot report submitted to Congress to determine whether the findings in the report are based on sufficiently complete, accurate, and reliable data. Additionally, we interviewed officials at DHS, TSA, and USCG with responsibilities for overseeing the TWIC program, as well as pilot officials responsible for coordinating pilot efforts with TSA and the independent test agent (responsible for planning, evaluating, and reporting on all test events), about TWIC reader pilot testing approaches, results, and challenges.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony discusses GAO's work examining the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. Ports, waterways, and vessels handle billions of dollars in cargo annually, and an attack on our nation's maritime transportation system could have serious consequences. Maritime workers, including longshoremen, mechanics, truck drivers, and merchant mariners, access secure areas of the nation's estimated 16,400 maritime-related transportation facilities and vessels, such as cargo container and cruise ship terminals, each day while performing their jobs.

The TWIC program is intended to provide a tamper-resistant biometric credential to maritime workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of facilities and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA). TWIC is to enhance the ability of MTSA-regulated facility and vessel owners and operators to control access to their facilities and verify workers' identities. Under current statute and regulation, maritime workers requiring unescorted access to secure areas of MTSA-regulated facilities or vessels are required to obtain a TWIC, and facility and vessel operators are required by regulation to visually inspect each worker's TWIC before granting unescorted access. Prior to being granted a TWIC, maritime workers are required to undergo a background check, known as a security threat assessment.

For more information,contact Steve Lord at (202) 512-4379 or

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