Changes coming for TWIC enrollment centers

TSA consolidates enrollment services with a contract to MorphoTrust
Monday, April 16, 2012

WASHINGTON—The Transportation Security Administration is expanding the number of enrollment centers where individuals can register for and receive their Transportation Worker Identity Credential.

The TSA last week selected MorphoTrust, formerly known as L-1 Identity Solutions, as the contractor for its new Universal Enrollment Service, which will become the provider of enrollment services for multiple TSA programs, starting with TWIC. UES will provide more than 300 enrollment centers, which will include the 137 enrollment centers currently operated by Lockheed Martin for TWIC, according to a TSA spokesperson. At its peak, the program is expected to enroll more than 600,000 applicants per year.

The news is "a positive step in the evolution of the TWIC program," John Martin, president of JTAC Consulting, which helps clients navigate the TWIC program, told Security Director News. The increase in enrollment centers will address one issue the Government Accountability Office identified in a recent report on the TWIC program: That people in remote areas were forced to drive as much as 300 miles to get to a TWIC enrollment center, then return again when their card was ready, Martin said. "Certainly the large volume of enrollment centers, which should reduce the amount of travel and the amount of time away from work for those employees who have to go get a TWIC card, would reduce your operating costs," he said.

However, the other key factor Martin pointed out is that the five-year contract is worth $248 million, significantly higher than the previous five-year contract held by Lockheed Martin to provide enrollment services for TWIC. "That cost is going to be absorbed somewhere," said Martin, who also happened to manage TWIC enrollment centers for Bearing Point, the McLean, Va.-based management and technology consulting firm, during Phase III of the TWIC program. "It's either in the TSA budget, which I would find a little hard to believe because the TSA had their funding reduced, or it's going to be passed into the cost of the card."

According to a TSA spokesperson, the higher contract value reflects the fact that other TSA programs will migrate to UES for enrollment services. "There isn’t any direct contract-line-item to contract-line-item comparison possible between the enrollment processing under UES and the cost of similar services under TWIC because the requirements under the respective contracts are different, the services are packaged differently, and UES will service populations beyond TWIC," the spokesperson wrote in an email.

Martin also believes the new UES and increase in enrollment centers may be a precursor to using TWIC to satisfy the identification requirements for high-risk chemical facilities covered by the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. "The original intent of the TWIC program was that it would be adopted across all the transportation-related areas of critical infrastructure. So it was rolled out to MTSA"—TWIC falls under the Maritime Transportation Security Act—"first because they already had the enforcement arm for it—i.e., the Coast Guard—but then as you started getting into it, beyond that then they were looking at CFATS and trucking and aviation and rail and so forth because those are all elements of national infrastructure," Martin said.

The TWIC program will be the first to be covered by the UES, but the TSA expects it to provide enrollment services for other programs that require enrollment and registration services, including applicants for Hazardous Materials Endorsement Threat Assessment Program and the Alien Flight Student Program, according to a TSA spokesperson.

MorphoTrust is not a stranger to providing enrollment services and ID issuance solutions to government clients. The company currently provides driver license issuance services to 41 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia; the facial recognition solution for the FBI’s Next Generation Identity program; and the multi-modal biometric software for the Department of Defense Enterprise, according to a company news release. It currently employs approximately 1,100 people and operates over 1,200 ID service centers across the United States, the release said.

A major challenge for MorphoTrust will be training, Martin said. "Training staff at the enrollment centers on the duties and responsibilities of a 'Trusted Agent' will take time," Martin said. "One of the issues that was identified in the GAO report was the problem with Trusted Agents being able to recognize fraudulent or fictitious enrollment documents. Starting new centers with newly trained staff will certainly present some of these challenges. However, based on their experience in other government programs I would cautiously give MorphoTrust the benefit of the doubt that they’ll be able to clear the training and orientation hurdles."