Internal weaknesses limit port security system: report

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Washington – Internal control weaknesses regarding processes for enrollment, background checking and use potentially limit the security of a Transportation Security Administration maritime worker identification program, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report (.pdf file).

TSA and the U.S. Coast Guard in October 2007 began enrolling individuals in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program. The program requires individuals with access to the maritime transportation system to be issued a high-tech biometric transportation security card.

According to the report, released May 10, the Department of Homeland Security asserted in its 2009 and 2010 budget that absence of the program would leave America’s critical maritime port facilities vulnerable to terrorists.

A GAO investigation of the program revealed:

  • The background checking process is unable to provide assurance that only qualified individuals can acquire TWICs.
  • No process exists for discretionary authority when applicants are found to have extensive criminal convictions.
  • No process exists for workers who receive a TWIC to maintain port-access eligibility.

GAO investigators recommended DHS conduct a risk and cost assessment of the program that includes addressing internal control weaknesses.

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