TWIC data 'irretrievably lost' on 3,000 applicants

About 3,000 transportation workers who applied for their new Homeland Security Department-sponsored identification cards have had their application data “irretrievably lost” from the cards' database, according to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Some of the workers whose data disappeared from the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) database are not able to enter their work areas because they lack the proper identification, Thompson wrote Dec. 4 in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

“Many of these applicants work in ports where TWIC compliance is currently enforced, Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, these workers are not only unable to gain admittance to their work sites but also must recommence the lengthy application process,” Thompson wrote.

The data loss occurred when an employee for the TWIC contractor apparently used a training module when taking applications, Thompson said. Those modules were not intended for that purpose and did not retain the data, which was later overwritten.

Under the TWIC program sponsored by DHS’ Transportation Security Administration, 750,000 workers at ports must get the card that complies with Federal Information Processing Standard 201 by April 2009 to have unescorted access to port facilities. Lockheed Martin Corp. is the prime contractor.

TSA said today the problem with lost data was “quickly resolved.”

“While there were a few issues with enrolling workers in training mode several months ago, the problem has been fixed and workers today are receiving their cards in less than two weeks,” the agency said in a statement. “When TSA became aware of the situation, every effort was made to contact workers whose information was not processed. Once these workers were contacted, their applications were expedited and the situation was quickly resolved.”

About 700,000 TWIC cards have been issued to date, the TSA said.

Lockheed Martin officials said today they have contacted 97 percent of the 3,000 individuals whose data was not recorded completely by the system. Of those, 70 percent have come in to complete enrollments, the company said in a statement.

The lost and incomplete records, which occurred over a period of more than a year, resulted from several types of human error, including the use of training modules, or overriding steps in the procedures, Lockheed Martin said. “We implemented new software enhancements to safeguard against this, and by this summer had reduced incomplete records to nearly zero,” the company statement said

The company said that workers whose data was affected were given expedited treatment to get new TWIC cards as soon as possible.

TSA set earlier deadlines for some ports, including Oct. 15 for New England ports, Nov. 28 for some ports in Texas and North Carolina, and Dec. 1 for the Great Lakes region.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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