Transportation Worker Identification Credential: Internal Control Weaknesses Need to Be Corrected to Help Achieve Security Objectives

GAO-11-648T Published: May 10, 2011. Publicly Released: May 10, 2011.
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This testimony discusses credentialing issues associated with the security of U.S. transportation systems and facilities. Securing these systems requires balancing security to address potential threats while facilitating the flow of people and goods that are critical to the U.S. economy and international commerce. As we have previously reported, these systems and facilities are vulnerable and difficult to secure given their size, easy accessibility, large number of potential targets, and proximity to urban areas. The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) required regulations preventing individuals from having unescorted access to secure areas of MTSA-regulated facilities and vessels unless they possess a biometric transportation security card and are authorized to be in such an area. MTSA further required that biometric transportation security cards be issued to eligible individuals unless determined that an applicant poses a security risk warranting denial of the card. The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program is designed to implement these biometric maritime security card requirements. The TWIC program, once implemented, aims to meet the following stated mission needs: (1) Positively identify authorized individuals who require unescorted access to secure areas of the nation's transportation system. (2) Determine the eligibility of individuals to be authorized unescorted access to secure areas of the transportation system by conducting a security threat assessment. (3) Ensure that unauthorized individuals are not able to defeat or otherwise compromise the access system in order to be granted permissions that have been assigned to an authorized individual. (4) Identify individuals who fail to maintain their eligibility requirements subsequent to being permitted unescorted access to secure areas of the nation's transportation system and immediately revoke the individual's permissions. Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard are responsible for implementing and enforcing the TWIC program. In addition, DHS's Screening Coordination Office facilitates coordination among the various DHS components involved in TWIC. This testimony is based on a report we are releasing publicly today on the TWIC program. Like the report, this testimony discusses the extent to which: (1) TWIC processes for enrollment, background checking, and use are designed to provide reasonable assurance that unescorted access to secure areas of MTSA-regulated facilities and vessels is limited to qualified individuals, and (2) DHS has assessed the effectiveness of TWIC, and whether the Coast Guard has effective systems in place to measure compliance.

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