Modernize security checks that are vital to our supply chain

Background checks serve a noble purpose. They ensure that bad actors cannot access secure facilities, sensitive information or high-risk materials. But what security value is gained by requiring individuals to undergo the same background check multiple times?

Truck drivers who pass the background check to operate at ports and maritime facilities must undergo the same background check again to be eligible to haul hazardous materials. Similarly, warehouse workers who pass the background check to access storage facilities are required to undergo the same background check again to be eligible to handle dangerous goods like compressed gases or biomedical equipment.

This redundancy does not enhance our national security. In fact, it does the opposite. The siloed system for issuing these credentials is expensive and inefficient. Adding insult to the injury to our national security, the employees who are required to hold these credentials are forced to foot the bill.

The men and women in the trucking industry and other essential members of our supply chain deserve a federal credentialing process that respects their time and money. That’s why I am calling on Congress to pass the Transportation Security Screening Modernization Act, a bill introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.

This bipartisan legislation would harmonize our transportation security programs, bringing long-overdue reforms to a system that was created with the best of intentions shortly following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Upon the advice of the 9/11 Commission, the U.S. government established the Transportation Worker Identification Credential for supply chain workers accessing ports, the Hazardous Materials Endorsement for drivers hauling hazardous materials like fuel and fertilizer, and the Free and Secure Trade card to expedite border crossings.

Under the present system, these credentials must be applied for separately, even though the background checks, supporting documents, and biometric information provided by applicants largely overlap.  The Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection administer key supply chain security programs, and each has its own personnel, enrollment facilities, enrollment processes, and IT systems.  The hefty fees applicants are charged to enroll in each program can quickly add up.

The Transportation Security Screening Modernization Act would codify recommendations repeatedly made by government audits to reduce redundancy, costs, and hassle for credentialed populations. As far back as 2007, just a few years after the implementation of these programs, the Government Accountability Office advised TSA and CBP to increase coordination. The failure to implement these reasonable changes and harmonize programs that require the same background check has compounded supply chain bottlenecks and increased national security vulnerabilities.

If the agencies will not act, then Congress must.

The act would not only reduce the financial and bureaucratic burdens placed on transportation workers fulfilling their core job responsibilities, but it would also inject some much-needed common sense into government procedures. A more unified system would enable Department of Homeland Security personnel to focus on their primary responsibility of safeguarding the country and thwarting terror attacks, and it would eliminate pointless fragmentation that could allow a threat to slip through the cracks.

Importantly, this bipartisan bill does not make any modifications that would water down existing background checks. Applicants would undergo the same rigorous review that they do under the current law. The legislation would simply allow transportation workers to apply for multiple credentials simultaneously, saving them significant time and money while also reducing the number of confusing regulatory hurdles they need to clear to do their jobs.

I thank Rep. Smith for spearheading this initiative in the House, and I call on Sen. Maria Cantwell to champion the Senate companion legislation in the upper chamber.

Given our long border with Canada and the bustling Port of Seattle, Washington has a lot to gain from this legislation.  It would also benefit hundreds of thousands of truck drivers, pipeline operators, long-shore workers, warehouse managers, and other essential workers nationwide.

The people who keep our economy moving should not be burdened by unnecessary bureaucratic redundancy. Congress should take this opportunity to implement a streamlined system that supports America’s workers and the resilience of our supply chain.


Sheri Call | 253.569.8310 or