I was saddened by the security incident at the Norfolk Naval Base in March that resulted in the fatal shooting of a sailor aboard the destroyer Mahan. I was shocked to learn that the alleged shooter entered the naval base using a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). 

According to officials, the alleged shooter did not have business on the base but used his TWIC card to gain access. This underscores the overall ineffectiveness of the TWIC program from a security standpoint. According to media reports, the alleged shooter also had a criminal past that involved selling illegal drugs and a manslaughter conviction. This raises the question: How did someone with such a criminal history successfully obtain a TWIC card? Did the criminal convictions occur after he received his TWIC or before?

While these questions remain unanswered for now, the entire sad episode supports the argument that many of us in the maritime industry have made over and over again. TWIC should not be used for access control. But that is what many in government and industry believe TWIC cards should be used for. 

The Passenger Vessel Association has gone on record in public hearings and through public comment opposing the use of a TWIC for access control. The federal government’s proposal that certain passenger vessel operators use TWIC readers and that the readers be placed at entrances to secure areas is confirmation of this philosophy. Unfortunately the use of a TWIC card does not guarantee that it will keep the bad guys out. 

I am told that officials at the Norfolk Naval Base have instituted new security measures to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. Apparently, individuals that present a TWIC card when entering the base will now have their information entered into the National Crime Information Center database to check for criminal histories and outstanding warrants, which would be grounds for denial of entry. But isn’t TWIC supposed to root out those with criminal histories?

All of this adds further credence to the argument that the TWIC program is unnecessary, not to mention costly. It also further underscores my belief that we can protect ourselves through effective vessel and security programs. Isn’t this what we’ve been doing successfully since 9/11 anyway?