Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TWIC Hassle

Long waits at understaffed enrollment centers, jammed phone lines, computer glitches, card processing problems. incomplete government criminal databases, and errors in fingerprint reading and file keeping. As a result, some mariners are putting it off while others have waited hours in lines, and then several more weeks before finally receiving their Transportation Worker Identification Credential.

Mandated by Congress in 2002, all U.S. Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariners, port facility workers, longshoremen and truck drivers must obtain a TWIC by April 15,2009.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that 412,000 workers had completed the enrollment process, 267,000 cards had been printed, and 157,000 cards had been activated and picked up. The average enrollment time nationally was just over nine minutes. Initial disqualification letters have been to sent to about 7,000. About 2,900 people have appealed, and 2,351 appeals were granted. Having a disqualifying offense doesn't result in an automatic denial of a card, as a waiver can be filed to determine whether the offense is a security threat.

Many mariners have sailed through the enrollment, but others have experienced problems. Delays have been caused by problems with card activation and software configuration for the card management system. In addition, checking the status of an application has been delayed by fingerprint rejections, a backlog of card printing and poor communications regarding card availability.

Mariners have been told to return to redo their fingerprints. while others have complained that they were never notified as promised that their cards were ready. Mariners have to go back to the enrollment center which for some is hours away, after they enroll to pick up their cards. TheTSA says its for security reasons, the mariner must receive the card in person.

Some mariners have been told to come back because of computer glitch kept indicating that the application is in error. There has been alot of frustration with the process.

There are plenty of examples of the system not working very well, and there's lots of blame to go around, from the service delivery by the contractor Lockheed Martin to the agency in charge of the program.

The agency does'nt totally understood the needs of the workers affected by the TWIC mandate. They are dealing with people's livelihoods because without this document, they can't work. The TSA has not moved quickly to solve problems and has not been receptive to ideas on how to fix them.

There also seems to be some confusion within the ranks of TSA about the TWIC. Some mariners have said that TSA workers would not accept the card as a proper form of identification at many airports, even though the card was issued by TSA.

For alot of mariners who have gone through process and received the card, it seems like its unnecessary and duplicative, but one that they accept.There are two persistent problems with the TWIC program, the long waits when mariners call in for help, and problems with card production.

There have been eight of the 12 machines used to make TWIC cards have been returned to the manufacturers, thus delaying card production. It's hard to determine which is more astonishing the fact that the facility producing these cards is experiencing a 66 percent machine failure rate or the fact that this machine failure rate has resulted in a tenfold increase in the card production schedule. Every production delay increases the likelihood that the April 15th deadline will not be met.

Also the "help desk" designed to answer workers questions about TWIC are putting callers on hold for much longer than the three minutes mandated in the contract with Lockheed Martin.

The help desk has proven to be poorly designed and managed program that is impacting those individuals who comprise the valuable eyes and ears of our nation's transportation system. Workers are being asked to stay on hold for hours at a time to receive information that is often incorrect and misleading.

Lockheed Martin said it has taken steps to correct problems. Oookay.