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December 19, 2016 1:45 AM, EST
Use of TWIC for Proof of ID Appears Likely as Defense Policy Bill Passes Congress
U.S. Coast Guard

This story appears in the Dec. 19 & 26 print edition of Transport Topics.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress earlier this month contains a provision that will soon permit truck drivers to use their Transportation Worker Identification Credential as sole proof of identity when entering any of the nation’s 700 military installations.

The legislation, expected to be signed by President Obama, will mitigate the frequently cumbersome Department of Defense post-­9/11 security process. Each year, thousands of truckers have been left waiting at military installation gates for three or more hours as they undergo identity and security background checks — even drivers who possess TWICs, trucking executives said.

Bill Wanamaker, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Government Freight Conference, estimates that 2.1 million active TWIC holders seek entrance to military facilities 3 million times a year. The long wait times can result in reduced productivity and lost wages for motor carriers and drivers.

The 3,000-page defense bill will not qualify truck drivers to enter a military facility, but it will validate their identity, he said.

“This is a major step to compel the DOD to accept the TWIC for identity proofing,” Wanamaker said.

Officially, the DOD has a policy of accepting the TWIC for identity proofing. However, that policy also gives installation commanders the authority to set their own requirements for unescorted access, and some have not accepted the TWIC as a singular identification credential.

At press time, President Obama had not signed the bill.

Phone messages left with an official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Transportation Policy division and an official in the OSD intelligence division were not returned.

Despite earlier problems and delays in developing the TWIC, the credential is now a secure and tamper­-resistant “smart” card identification credential with features such as an integrated circuit chip, digital certificates and biometric identifiers, according to the Department of Homeland Security. It was mandated by Congress in 2002 and originally intended to enhance security at seaports.

The National Defense Authorization Act says the secretary of defense, while he is developing and fielding physical access standards, capabilities, processes and electronic access control systems, “shall, to the maximum extent practicable, ensure that the Transportation Worker Identification Credential be accepted as a valid credential for unescorted access to Department of Defense installations by transportation workers.”

The legislation also notes that TWIC- carrying workers who also have a current DOD secret level clearance “shall be considered exempt from further vetting when seeking unescorted access at DOD facilities.”

The bill does not say precisely how soon DOD should accept the TWIC.

The legislation does not change a requirement that military facilities also should perform a background check on truckers with TWICs.

However, Wanamaker said DOD has told ATA that by the end of December, it will have a sophisticated electronic system 70% in place to quickly vet truckers entering military gates against U.S. and INTERPOL criminal records, warrants and the national terrorist watch list. The system is expected to be complete in 2020, he said.