WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Florida state House and Senate leaders, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced a groundbreaking new partnership today to strengthen security at the State's seaports.
The partnership, formalized in a Memorandum of Agreement signed in mid-February, will define requirements for background checks and state-of-the-art identification credentials for truck drivers, dockworkers and others who require unescorted access to the secure areas of the seaports. TSA will provide the infrastructure of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), which offers a giant leap in transportation security by balancing the needs of commerce and individual privacy with those of security. The program provides a high-tech credential that verifies workers' identities and ties each worker to a background check to ensure that high-risk individuals are denied access to sensitive areas of the nation's transportation system.
"This partnership is an example of what can be accomplished when federal and state governments work together," stated Lolie Kull, TSA's Program Manager for TWIC. "By pooling our resources and expertise, Florida will be helping TSA take the next step in its effort to implement a national credentialing program for the transportation workforce."
The uniform credential will serve as an identity management tool to keep terrorists out of secure areas of the transportation system, including seaports and airports as well as such critical modes as rail, pipelines, trucking and mass transit. The TWIC will contain a biometric identifier, like a fingerprint, to positively authenticate the identity of the holder.
By having one universally recognized credential, workers will no longer have to carry numerous cards or go through redundant background investigations to enter secure areas at multiple facilities. Advanced technologies on the TWIC will also allow facilities to better manage access to various areas at a site.
The Florida partnership was made possible by legislation passed by the Florida Legislature in 2003. The bill was principally crafted by the Senate's Home Defense, Public Security and Ports Committee chaired by Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland. In the House of Representatives the bill advanced through the efforts of the House Policy Chair, Rep. Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples.
Officials of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have worked closely on the TWIC program with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and their counterparts at TSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The agencies also sought input from seaport and trucking industry officials.