Jackson: TWIC procurement, reprogramming due soon

The Homeland Security Department plans to request proposals for a Transportation Worker Identity Credential systems integrator as early as today, deputy secretary Michael P. Jackson said in testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee this morning.

Jackson added in subsequent remarks to reporters that the department seeks to jump-start the Transportation Security Administration program with $15 million in funds drawn from other agency funds via a reprogramming request that would require Congressional approval.

'The purpose of this hearing is to examine the policy and management issues that have prevented TSA from issuing TWIC cards,' committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said as he opened the hearing.

Stevens, ranking minority member of the committee Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) raised various problems in the TWIC program, including cost overruns, schedule delays and the potential duplication of the TWIC by other existing credential programs.

Jackson responded that DHS' senior leadership had fully re-examined the program in a process that has generated a plan to outsource the nongovernmental parts of the TWIC enrollment and other functions. 'We are moving at a forced march now and we will not let up,' Jackson said of the department's pace of TWIC deployment.

'Today we will put out a procurement,' Jackson testified. 'We will outsource a substantial amount of this [TWIC] work,' he said.

'The procurement will allow us to get a single integrator for the capture of biometric information [that will be passed on to TSA for clearance],' Jackson said.

DHS also is working to complete a regulatory process that will lead via a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to final rules for TWIC applicants.

He added that DHS plans to begin issuing TWIC cards by the end of the year. The department will deploy TWIC card readers at port facilities later, he added.

'We are working to create a common area for appeals, if there is a question, concern or problem,' Jackson said, referring to DHS' multiplying array of programs that require background checks. Those programs include TWIC, the Registered Traveler program and several programs that grant border crossing cards. The central facility also could handle appeals of approval for the proposed guest-worker program, Jackson said.

From a technical perspective, Jackson said DHS planned to harmonize TWIC cards with the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12credentials that federal employees and contractors soon will be required to carry and the National Technical Information Service's Federal Information Processing Standard 201-1 for identity documents.

In remarks to reporters, Jackson said that DHS planned to purchase additional equipment for a TSA card-manufacturing facility in Corbin, Kentucky, to handle the burden of producing the cards. The small Kentucky town is in the home district of Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

Separately, Jackson said that DHS' Citizenship and Immigration Services agency was the administration's choice to handle the processing of workers allowed into the country under President George W. Bush's proposed guest-worker program.

Jackson said DHS has been working with the White House on legislation that would provide supplemental funding needed to support the administration's newly announced immigration reform package.

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