The Transportation Security Administration has issued more than 3.5 million biometric credentials — otherwise known as TWIC — as of October 2015 to individuals needing unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime facilities and vessels.
According to a Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report, the TSA has not been providing enough oversight and guidance to ensure that the TWIC program operates properly. Specifically, there are problems with the background checks and threat assessments for the TWIC.
The inspector general’s report found that:
- Fraud detection techniques are not monitored and used in completing the background check
- Adjudicators may grant TWICs even if questionable circumstances exist
- Key quality assurance and internal control procedures are missing from the background check and terrorism vetting processes
- New efforts tested for continuous vetting for disqualifying criminal or immigration offenses lack measures to determine the best solution.
These issues exist, partly, because TSA leadership relies on the TWIC program office to implement necessary improvements. The TWIC program office, however, focuses more on customer service than effectiveness of the program. Additionally, because of TSA’s organizational structure, the TWIC program office lacks visibility into and authority over the other offices within TSA that support the TWIC program. As a result, there is a risk that someone with major criminal or immigration offenses maintains access to secured areas of maritime facilities.
The report recommends:
- That the Assistant Administrator, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Transportation Security Administration identify a coordinating entity with authority, responsibility and accountability to provide regular guidance and leadership across all security threat assessment processes and supporting offices.
- That the Assistant Administrator, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Transportation Security Administration conduct a risk analysis of the security threat assessment processes to identify areas needing additional internal controls and quality assurance procedures.
- That the Assistant Administrator, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Transportation Security Administration improve TWIC program-level performance metrics to ensure they align with the program’s core objectives and direct management officials to use these metrics for all the supporting offices.
- That the Assistant Administrator, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Transportation Security Administration review current TWIC Security Threat Assessment guidance to ensure it provides adjudicators the necessary information and authority to complete Security Threat Assessments.
- That the Assistant Administrator, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Transportation Security Administration establish measurable and comparable criteria to use in evaluating and selecting the best criminal and immigration recurrent vetting option.
The TSA concurred with the report and is implementing corrective actions.