The proposal, six years in the making, is in line for clearance at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Once it is cleared by OMB and published, probably in January, the Coast Guard will take comments and draft the final rule, a process that likely will take most of 2013.
The readers are the second phase of a port security program ordered by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The first phase in 2007 created the TWIC and required some 750,000 maritime workers and 110,000 truck drivers to clear a background check and obtain a card that includes a biometric identifier.
Without the readers, the TWIC is little more than a flash pass, said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, at a hearing on the issue earlier this year.
The reader system has been difficult to design and implement. A pilot project by the Transportation Security Administration found a number of challenges, such as: training personnel to use a variety of reader types; variations in reader performance; malfunctions due to the quality of the credential itself; installing and integrating the systems; and variations in costs due to differing information technology systems.
The Coast Guard will not provide a one-size-fits-all reader template as there are too many variations among the facilities and operations that use the TWIC system.
In a related development, the Defense Department has said it will no longer accept the TWIC for access to its computer systems.
In the notice, DOD said the TWIC does not meet its security standards and it will stop accepting it for Electronic Transportation Acquisition on Jan. 29, 2013.
TWIC holders who wish to access ETA will need to buy an External Certificate Authority, DOD said.
Meanwhile, the initial generation of five-year TWIC cards is reaching its expiration date. TSA is offering the option of paying $60 to get a three-year Extended Expiration Date card, rather than applying for the standard five-year TWIC.
For more information, go to TSA's TWIC website.