Eliminate The TWIC
The Transport Workers Identification Card. Some call it ineffective. Some call it expensive. Some call it a means of restricting labor’s access to work. None dare call it a government boondoggle for fear of swift retribution (except, perhaps, Dr. John Carnter, Esq. See Identity Card is US Maritime Hobgoblin, February 15, 2011, Lloyd’s List.)
It is always entertaining to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearings on Capitol Hill. Inevitably the subject of the TWIC comes up. Everyone shakes their heads and smirks to one another and the questioning goes something like this:
Congressman: So, Admiral, where do we stand on this TWIC thing?
USCG Admiral: Well, Congressman, we are still working on improving the effectiveness of the system by implementing readers at all of the port facilities that will allow the cards to be used as intended.
Congressman: How many readers do we currently have operating?
USCG Admiral: None, sir.
Congressman: Why not?
USCG Admiral: We can’t get them to read the cards.
Congressman: Why not?
USCG Admiral: We are working on it sir. We have conducted extensive testing that shows…
And the dog and pony show continues like this for a half hour. At the end all parties agree that the TWIC program, five years in, is completely worthless and ineffective, has essentially been a waste of billions of dollars, has caused countless hours of inconvenience and heartache to mariners, and that, get this, we are going to continue working on it!
To date although tens of thousands of TWICs have been issued, not one port in the United States reads and confirms a card’s biometric data in order to grant personnel access to a port. Although, ostensibly you must have the card to gain access to the port and a vessel. Furthermore, because of the technological format chosen by the contractor, Lockheed-Martin, the TWIC has no possibility of ever conforming to the international standard for seafarer identity cards that has been promulgated by the International Maritime Organization and that is used by nations throughout the world.
Plain and simple, the entire program is a government boondoggle that has allowed a government contractor to line its pockets with taxpayer money. It wouldn’t be so outrageous if the cards actually worked. But right now they are technologically on par with my library card with no foreseeable solution.
The TWIC was hailed as the solution to security problems following 9/11. Here we are many years down the road, the TWIC is ineffective, and the terrorists have not won because of it. It is clear by now that whether or not the TWIC program turns out to function properly, security will not be improved as a result. It will just take longer for everyone to get down to the ship.
Since the TWIC program does not work, and since it will likely never work properly, and since it does not really improve security, and since the program continues to hemorrhage money, why don’t we just eliminate it? I can hear the collective gasp in the USCG Subcommittee hearing room now. Instead of just smirking at one another and cutting another taxpayer check to Lockheed, we should cut our losses and eliminate the program. There, someone said it. Let’s hope my TWIC is not revoked for making these statements because then I won’t be able to get down to the ship to work.