Good morning Mr. Chairman. As I am anxious to hear from this morning's witnesses, I will be brief in my opening remarks.
In the relatively short history of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC, it is no understatement to say that the development and implementation of this program by has been at best, dismal, and it's record of achievement, disappointing.
Intended by the Congress to be a key element in securing our Nation's maritime transportation infrastructure from terrorist attacks, the TWIC program since its inception has been beset by a litany of problems.
Excessive costs, administrative inefficiencies, technical biometric glitches, and confusing or burdensome enrollment requirements routinely surface as common faults expressed by my constituents.
Some critics of the TWIC program, the Government Accountability Office in particular, question whether the TWIC has actually improved the security of our vessels, ports and maritime infrastructure at all.
Indeed, considering the fact that over two million TWICs have been issued at a cost to seafarers and other maritime transportation workers of more than $250 million, this is a sad commentary.
Fortunately, recent events reveal that both the administration and the Congress are now giving the TWIC program the type of scrutiny it deserves.
For example, since March this will be the third TWIC oversight hearing I will have participated in.
Additionally, this Tuesday the House considered legislation (H.R. 3173) to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to reform the TWIC enrollment and renewal processes, and to require, in total, only one in-person visit to a designated enrollment center.
The Coast Guard also expects to publish regulations in the Federal Register later this year regarding requirements for TWIC electronic readers.
Moreover, on June 15, the administration announced a new policy authorizing 3-year extensions of expiring TWIC's at half the cost of a full 5-year renewal.
This new Extended Expiration Date, or EED, policy has generally been greeted very positively by mariners and other transportation workers.
Despite these recent helpful steps, much work remains to be done.
To that extent, I am optimistic that this morning's hearing will serve up additional recommendations on how the administration and the Congress might best address the TWIC program's remaining flaws.
Unfortunately, some critics might prefer to point fingers and blame the administration for the myriad challenges that continue to bedevil this program.
My view is that the Congress, and especially this committee, shares a responsibility with the administration to work collaboratively to finally deliver the type of security program first envisioned when the Congress passed the Maritime Transportation Security Act in 2002.
The bottom line remains unchanged: no one in Congress is proposing the wholesale elimination of the TWIC.
Furthermore, no one contests the underlying security imperative of a nationwide credential.
We have invested too much to simply throw up our hands and walk away. We have to get it right.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, The TWIC card needs to be much more than just an expensive flash pass.
We need to set aside our differences and work with the administration to finally transform the TWIC program into the type of comprehensive security shield we have long sought.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. Thank you.