DHS releases final report on TWIC reader pilot

Friday, March 9, 2012

Editor's note: This article was updated March 12 to incorporate comments from Don Bruce, director of compliance services for JTAC Consulting and chairman of the Houston/Galveston Area Maritime Security Committee's TWIC Reader Task Group.

WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 27 issued its final report on the Transportation Worker Identification Credential reader pilot program.

More than 30 models of readers—contact and contactless, fixed and portable—were available during the pilot. Seven ports participated in the pilot program: the New York/New Jersey port complex; Annapolis, Md.; Norco, La.; Vicksburg, Miss.; Brownsville, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Long Beach, Calif. The cost of the pilot, including all costs associated with the acquisition and installation of the TWIC readers, was about $15 million, all of which was paid for by Port Security Grant funds.

The report does not include the final TWIC reader rules, but does include some key findings from the pilot, which the U.S. Coast Guard will use to prepare the final TWIC reader rule. The final rule will include the lessons learned from the pilot and general guidance, but will not offer a "one-size-fits-all" approach because of the uniqueness of each facility, the report says.

The value of the pilot report to maritime security directors is debatable. The report doesn't offer anything to the "boots-on-the-ground security directors," Don Greenwood, president of Don Greenwood & Associates, a consulting firm that helps maritime facilities navigate the TWIC program, told Security Director News. "It's just satisfying a congressional mandate that they make a report."

However, Don Bruce, director of compliance services for JTAC Consulting and chairman of the Houston/Galveston Area Maritime Security Committee's TWIC Reader Task Group, called the TWIC reader pilot report "one of the two most important TWIC documents that will be issued"—the second being the TWIC Final Rule. Bruce said the report provides some real estimates of the costs that will be involved, and demonstrates the anticipated impact to operational security at facilities. "The report shows that there is much more to be considered when implementing a TWIC solution than in a normal physical access control solution. It will take more time, more money and more recourses than expected," Bruce said. "The report shows that there are several ways to acquire, integrate and implement a TWIC solution. And with each different way, there are opportunities to have impacts that aren’t part of the desired goals."

Here is a selection of the pilot's key findings:

  • "The pilot participant with a dedicated network that was only used by the TWIC readers and PACS showed faster transaction times, higher validation rates and fewer technical issues than those of other pilot participants which shared the network with other systems."
  • Using TWIC contactless readers, without biometric identity verification, to verify that a TWIC is authentic and has not expired takes less time than a visual inspection to determine the same information.
  • Using contact readers took longer, but they had fewer incomplete reader transactions than contactless readers, " as long as they were protected from debris and moisture and not subjected to excessive wear from use in high-volume situations."
  • Using biometric identity verification, regardless of whether using contactless or contact readers, takes longer than a visual inspection, "but not long enough to cause access point throughput delays that would negatively impact business operations."
  • When users were properly trained, transaction times "decreased considerably." However, training requirements were "underestimated" by pilot participants.
  • Some pilot participants experienced delays in throughput due to improperly placed readers. "Readers placed at heights or distances awkward for drivers to reach slowed access and, in some cases, created a danger to drivers trying to reach misplaced readers," the report says. "There was also difficulty reading messages on the screens of readers not shielded from direct sunlight, which prevented users from determining the cause of access denial."
  • The time and effort to implement the TWIC readers varied depending on a number of factors, including a facility's existing physical access control system.

Following is the 24-page executive summary of the report prepared by JTAC Consulting. Summary - TWIC Reader Pilot Report