Results of the January 2012 NMSAC Meeting – Part III

Finally, here’s the post covering the third session of the January 2012 meeting of the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC). Three topics–Underwater Terrorism Preparedness, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Program, and the Global Supply Chain Security Initiative–were covered at this session, on the morning of January 19th.

In two previous posts, I covered the Meeting’s first and second sessions, which had briefings and discussions on requirements for vessel guards while in port, Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA)/Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Harmonization, Maritime Domain Awareness and Information Sharing, the long-awaited “MTSA II Regulations,” harmonization of US and Canadian maritime transportation security regimes, the Certain Dangerous Cargo Security Initiative, and possible use of Port Security Grant Program funds to help defray security upgrades for US vessels operating in high risk waters.

Before turning to the substantive issues, the Committee took up some administrative matters.  The Chair announced that the next meeting, tentatively scheduled for April 18-19, would be held at DHS Headquarters and would feature the Committee’s long-awaited meeting with the Secretary (her schedule permitting) and an intelligence briefing.  Other topics would include a presentation by Transport Canada on the Canadian perspective on maritime transportation security and discussions of detention on board, TWIC readers, and Port Security Grants. There would be three intersessional teleconferences, one each on information sharing, detention on board, and TWIC.  The Chair noted that some Committee taskings would be coming due in early November, including NMSAC recommendations regarding improving information sharing between the Coast Guard and the maritime industry.

Underwater Terrorism Preparedness

Lieutenant Casares, of the Office Counterterrorism & Defense Operations (CG-532) at Coast Guard Headquarters, opened his presentation with a review of past public education efforts to improve port security against underwater terrorism by encouraging ground level communications along the lines of “if you see something, say something.”  Outreach had been conducted through workshops (no longer offered due to budget constraints).  Additionally, every Coast Guard Sector now has an Underwater Terrorism Prevention Plan as an annex to its Area Maritime Security Plan that addresses mines, IEDs, and obstacles, among other things.  The Coast Guard has procured five deployable sets of the Integrated Anti-Swimmer System (IAS) that can detect swimmers and distinguish them from marine mammals, fish, etc.  The system includes underwater communications to tell divers to surface and has the means to compel this, including grappling hooks.  (The Coast Guard is working with the Naval Sea Systems Command to develop hand-grenade-sized depth charges with variable depth settings.)  The system fits in a small CONEX box and would be deployed for specific events or based on threat intelligence.  Asked if there was any Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technology, LT Casares replied that what was available was not compatible with IAS.  Deployed with two operators, the system requires a local dive team to emplace the sonar units and can be up and running in four to eight hours.  The five sets are deployed on an as needed basis.  If a port wants to have an ongoing anti-swimmer program, it would have to organize it on its own.

The TWIC Program

At the NMSAC meeting, the presentations by the USCG and TSA representatives were separated by the briefing on the Global Supply Chain Security Initiative for the convenience of the briefers.  Here, for the convenience of the blogger and reader, the TWIC presentations will be merged, along with the answers to TWIC-related questions during the public comment period at the end of the meeting (there were no non-TWIC questions).  Lieutenant Commander Loan O’Brien, of the Office of the Office of Port & Facility Activities (CG-544), spoke for the Coast Guard.   The Service considers that the TWIC Program provides important security benefits even without TWIC readers being in place.  The requirement for workers to get a TWIC ensures a fully vetted work force.  The Coast Guard is working on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the TWIC reader regulation, studying the results of the TWIC Reader Pilot Program carefully.  The NPRM is expected to be issued in 2012 as a draft rule.  Allowing for time for the public to comment on the proposal and for the USCG to take those comments into account, the Final Rule is expected to be issued in 2014.  Then, there will be time allowed for the industry to come into compliance.  A NMSAC member commented that various organizations that were sitting on grant money they had obtained for TWIC readers and infrastructure needed some guidance.  Captain Kiefer, NMSAC’s Executive Director, responded that TWIC/MTSA Policy Advisory Council (PAC) Decision 01-11, “Voluntary Use of TWIC Readers,” had originally been designed to provide such guidance, but had been watered down considerably during the approval process.  The NMSAC member said that something should go out with at least the current timeline; it could have “all the caveats you want.”

Another NMSAC member asked if NMSAC would have a role in developing the NPRM.  CAPT Kiefer said that the strictures of the Administrative Procedures Act would limit that severely, but that NMSAC’s recommendations could be sought once the NPRM had been made public.  He went on to say that high-risk vessels and facilities will need readers; those at medium risk may require them, while low risk entities might not need them.  Section 809 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (CGAA 2010) (which lifted TWIC requirements for mariners serving on vessels not required to have Vessel Security Plans) demonstrated a pull back on TWIC requirements for lower risk situations.  He reiterated the Coast Guard’s position that the TWIC Card itself provides security value in the form of a vetted work force.  A NMSAC member commented that for this to be true careful checks of TWIC cards was necessary.  CAPT Kiefer agreed, citing the example of ID checks at airports with TSA agents using special flashlights.  The NMSAC member replied that that level of thoroughness would not be possible at locations with substantial numbers of employees.  Another NMSAC member raised the issue of 26,000 defective TWIC cards that cannot be read by machines.  CAPT Kiefer indicated that USCG inspectors checking TWICs with portable readers are aware of the problem and these cards are not invalid.  A NMSAC member commented that it was not true that the defective cards were being replaced at no cost to the holder, inasmuch as it takes two trips to an enrollment center to get a replacement TWIC.  In response to a question as to whether it was still planned to apply the Transportation Worker Identification Credential across all transportation modes as had originally intended, CAPT Kiefer replied that truckers were using TWICs to get into ports.  As far as broader application of TWICs was concerned, another NMSAC member pointed out that the only thing blocking facilities subject to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) from using TWICs to prove that their employees had been properly vetted was the requirement that the applicant certify that a TWIC was necessary in order to work at a MTSA-regulated facility.  The member advocated changing the TWIC application form so that CFATS workers could apply for TWICs, as the background checks were the same.


The TSA representative, John Schwartz, started his presentation with a general overview of various TWIC Program issues.  The Pilot Study on TWIC readers in the maritime environment had completed its data collection phase on May 31, 2011.  Legislation required a report on the Pilot Study be delivered to Congress by September 28th.  Although TSA had completed the report within that timeframe, the report was still being reviewed by higher authorities.  In response to section 808 of CGAA 2010 (requires a pilot program of at least 20 locations under DHS agencies’ control where maritime workers could be fingerprinted), TSA had established TWIC enrollment centers at 20 USCG Regional Examination Centers.  It had explored other DHS agencies, but there were too many security issues.  With regard to enrollment generally, the universal enrollment contract will be awarded soon.  This would start with TWIC issuances and add Hazardous Materials Endorsements (HMEs) when that contract ends in a year, as would other programs when ready.  (The existing contract with Lockheed Martin is being replaced by separate contracts for enrollment and systems operation. There will a hand off period of a minimum of six months, during which any new contractor would shadow Lockheed Martin.  The two contracts will be run by separate program managers.)  Enrollment centers will expand from the current 137 to 200.  The oldest TWICs are beginning to expire.  TSA anticipates that the demand for renewals will be spread out and the demand curve will be manageable.  With regard to proposals to extend the expiration dates on TWICs until readers are in place, the chips on TWICs expire when the card’s expiration date is reached.  They will no longer work with a TWIC reader and the biometric data can no longer be accessed.  They might or might not work with the access control systems at some ports, which only read some of the data on the TWIC.  (These readers don’t do what a TWIC reader does.)  But TSA Administrator Pistole testified in November that he would take a serious look at the issue.  A recent GAO report on TSA’s internal controls recommended that TWIC expiration dates for non-citizens be aligned with their visa expirations.  TSA is looking at this.  With regard to the 26,000 defective TWIC cards, the defect resulted from a production error by Lockheed Martin.  Lockheed Martin will eat the cost of replacement cards.  But so far only about 900 have been issued, as most workers don’t need to use TWIC readers.


Mr. Schwartz replied in the negative to a NMSAC member’s question whether it was possible to modify the expiration date on the chip at an enrollment center.  The expiration dates for replacements for the defective cards would be the same as those on the defective cards, as they are based on the dates of the original threat assessments.  Another NMSAC member asked if there was any movement toward accepting US Government Secret clearances as a basis for issuing TWICs.  Mr. Schwartz replied that this would be logical, but that there hadn’t been much discussion about this at DHS.  “We have the system we have.”  The TWIC Program probably wouldn’t take that initiative.   A better way to do it might be a proposed regulation to harmonize all TSA and DHS background checks; that would be a good time to include other US Government clearances.  Asked why having a TWIC doesn’t qualify the holder as a Trusted Traveler, Mr. Schwartz replied that the Trusted Traveler Program is based on extensive flying history.  He reported that he would soon be speaking to a group of access control people from the Department of Defense (DoD) about what a TWIC is and isn’t.  Truckers want DoD to honor their TWICs instead of subjecting them to repeated base-level background checks.  The NMSAC Chair noted that the original legislation had called for one security card for all transportation modes and asked why airport pass offices couldn’t be used as TWIC enrollment centers, since they all have collection and transmission capabilities.  Mr. Schwartz answered that their systems weren’t set up the same way.  The airports bounce information off of TSA, but they make their own access/pass issuance determinations.  Further, MTSA required the TWIC for maritime workers, while the Aviation Security Act suggested, but did not require, a background check and biometric credential for all transportation workers.  With regard to delivering TWICs to workers’ residences, it would be possible to deliver by mail, but the system was set up to be more secure.  The analogy of mailing passports is not a good one.  The immigration official checking your passport when you enter the US has a lot of information from a variety of sources; none of this information is available to a gate guard checking a TWIC.

Global Supply Chain Security Initiative

Mr. Sean Moon, from the DHS, Office of Policy, described the Global Supply Chain Initiative as one that had been identified by the DHS Secretary as a key theme. It has two components: International outreach for international standards and a US National Strategy.  The latter was in the final clearance process.  Despite several earlier predictions of imminent release that hadn’t been borne out, he was sure that the US National Strategy would be cleared in time for release and distribution next week, with the DHS Secretary rolling it out at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  [Author’s Note: This came to pass.  A DHS press release report that the Secretary unveiled the Strategy at Davos on January 25th and the National Strategy itself is available on the White House website.]  It outlines objectives, including risk management, and details a small number of specific actions for federal agencies, including seeking legislative changes.

Asked if the Strategy dealt only with the interactions between countries or extended into the US as well, Mr. Moon indicated the Strategy encompasses the supply chain end to end—the US would work internationally and multilaterally (such as on risk management standards with the WCO–World Customs Organization), but would also work with the private sector, “where most of the action is.”  The release of the Strategy will kick off six months of outreach on how to implement the goals, working through sector coordinating councils in the US, while US embassies request input from foreign governments.  Then all the input and other activities (such as risk analyses) will be examined to define specific agency actions.  There will be a call to repeal the legislative requirement for 100% scanning of containers bound for the US.

Asked if there would be any financial support for execution of the Strategy, Mr. Moon predicted that new requirements would not be levied, although some changes were likely.  If the analysis of the input gathered during the six month outreach period suggested that new regulations were necessary, the appropriate procedures would be followed.  Mr. Moon noted that this was to be a collaborative process, not driven by the US.  Some aspects included:

  1. The ability to respond to changing/evolving threats (e.g., printer cartridge bomb plot)
  2. Obtaining advance information from all modes (e.g., what information is available from courier services and when is it available)
  3. Developing a universal definition of trusted trader
  4. Stemming the flow of dangerous illicit materials, with an emphasis on IED precursor materials (by further globalizing I.C.E.’s Global Shield through the WCO)
  5. Facilitating the flow of air cargo and mail (e.g., working with the International Postal Union on risk assessments of postal mail, as a result of the printer cartridge bomb plot)
  6. Building resilient systems, such as the WCO Trade Recovery Standards, and working toward mechanisms for information exchange on and discussion of developing issues
  7. Exploring and deploying new technologies, such as those for detecting radiological and nuclear materials, and identifying the gaps to inform research and development efforts

Mr. Moon concluded by stressing again the collaborative nature of the effort and noting the twin goals of not impeding the free flow of legitimate commerce and creating resilient systems.

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