Critics say the TSA made almost no progress for four years after Congress approved the program in 2002, because the agency was focused on airport security. Unions resisted too, arguing the program unfairly targeted workers, said Jennifer Sargent of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Slow distribution of cards and low enrollment among workers have hampered the program, the DHS advisory committee report said. The TSA insists the program picked up speed this summer.
Still, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, decried a "leadership void" at the TSA. "It's not like we have asked them to do something extraordinary," he said.
Howard Klein, captain of a dive boat called the Eagle's Nest based in Point Lookout, said he believes the program targets the wrong people. "If you're going to have a terrorist act it's going to be from a passenger, not a worker," Klein said. "Look what happened on 9/11."
Plan in troubled waters
A group set up to advise the Department of Homeland Security on the new port security identification card, the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee, cited problems with the program in a June report obtained by Newsday. They include:
Numerous delays in the program, including delays in card production and delivery.
Poor outreach into maritime community, leading to low enrollment and confusion over which workers need the card.
Some applicants must make as many as six trips to an enrollment center before they get their new identification card.
Security officials, including those at airport checkpoints, do not universally recognize the identification card.
The card does not look like a legitimate government document, because it has no TSA or DHS logo.