TWIC fees cut

Applicants for Transportation Worker Identification Credentials will pay slightly less starting March 19 and a more significant fee reduction recently kicked in for certain TWIC holders seeking a hazardous materials endorsement.

Following its last cost review, the FBI announced it would lower the fee for a fingerprint-based criminal history records information check. The result was the Transportation Security Administration cut its TWIC application fee by $2.75 to $14.50 because the CHRI charge is part of the TWIC enrollment cost.

TWIC holders who enrolled before March 19, which includes more than 352,000 truck drivers, will not receive a refund.

On Feb. 27, TSA began reducing its fee for certain TWIC holders who applied for a Hazardous Materials Endorsements Comparable Security Threat Assessments (HMESTA) from $89.25 to $67.

Applicants must fill out the HME STA application online or over the phone to confirm TWIC STA validity and that one year or more remains before TWIC expiration.

However, state statutes, license cycles and system limitations currently prevent most states from offering the lower price of $67. As the remaining states begin to offer comparability, qualified applicants will see a reduced HME STA fee.

Currently, the only jurisdictions where this decreased fee is available are Arizona, Nebraska, California, North Carolina, Delaware, Oregon, District of Columbia, South Dakota, Hawaii, Utah, Missouri and West Virginia.

In November, Mississippi Rep. Bennie G. Thompson and four other Democrat House homeland security committee members asked the TSA to allow an extension for TWIC renewals.

The agency has not fully implemented TWIC as required by the SAFE Port Act of 2006 and has not issued final regulations for the biometrics readers. This month, nearly a year after the mandated deadline, the rules still are not out. The representatives said cardholders should not have to renew before TWIC’s biometric security enhancements are realized and the program is fully implemented.

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Thompson also sponsored the Transitioning with an Improved Credential Program Act, which would extend each worker’s renewal deadline until Dec. 31, 2014, or when DHS issues the final reader rule.

The bill, H.R. 1105, was referred to committee with 12 co-sponsors March 25. Following that, Congress considered three additional bills to make TWIC enrollment and renewal less cumbersome for applicants. Last November, the TSA announced 26,000 TWIC cards issued before April 5 were improperly encoded and may not work with TWIC readers. A card production system error reduced the number of characters on the card, causing readers to not recognize the card as valid.

More information on that issue and on TWIC is available here. Congress is now securitizing TSA/DHS as it considers 2013 agency appropriations.

On March 8, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ DHS budget hearing was postponed, but the House DHS oversight subcommittee proceeded with its hearing on eliminating department costs waste and fraud.

Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the Government Accountability Office and the DHS Inspector General continue finding numerous cases of department waste, fraud, abuse, and duplication.

GAO’s Cathleen Berrick, Homeland Security and Justice Issues managing director, testified TSA security assessments for hazardous material trucking companies overlap with FMCSA efforts. Over the next five years, avoiding TSA reviews on companies less than two years after a FMCSA review could save $164,000.

Ending TSA reviews on carriers with a FMCSA review during the same five-year period could cut $373,000, while eliminating all TSA reviews on hazardous material trucking companies could save more than $1 million, Berrick said.