SECURITY EXPERTS: MASS TRANSIT SECURITY LACKING
Conducting research and development (R&D) on technologies for detecting, preventing, and mitigating terrorist threats is vital to enhancing the security of the nation's transportation system. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress enacted legislation to strengthen homeland security, in part by enhancing R&D. The Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are the two federal agencies with primary responsibility for transportation security.
Officials at the General Accountability Office considered transportation security R&D to encompass the research, development, testing, and evaluation of technologies to protect the nation's transportation system from terrorist attacks or major crimes. The transportation system consists largely of infrastructure, such as airports, seaports, border crossings, rail stations, transit stations, highways, bridges, tunnels, and pipelines; and vehicles, such as aircraft, ships, ferry boats, trucks, buses, automobiles, and trains.
Several members of an expert panel on transportation security and technology that the US government convened believed the distribution of research and development projects by transportation mode was reasonable, while others believed that aviation has been overemphasized at the expense of maritime and land modes such as mass transit systems. Many security experts within the private sector believe research and development is necessary to maintain state-of-the-art security programs.
The Transportation Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have made some progress in managing their transportation security R&D programs according to applicable laws and R&D best practices, but neither agency has fully complied with the laws or implemented the best practices. For example, neither agency has prepared a strategic plan for R&D that contains measurable objectives. Although TSA has completed threat assessments for all modes of transportation, it has not completed vulnerability and criticality assessments in order to gauge the effectiveness of security measures.
The DHS also has not completed risk assessments of the infrastructure of transportation systems such as railways. Both TSA and DHS lack complete, consolidated data for managing their R&D projects. Finally, although TSA and DHS have made some efforts to coordinate R&D with other federal agencies, their outreach to consider the concerns of the transportation industry itself has been limited.
For fiscal years 2003 and 2004, TSA and DHS funded over 200 R&D projects designed to develop technologies for enhancing security in most modes of transportation. In fiscal year 2003, TSA spent 81 percent of its $21 million transportation security R&D budget for aviation projects, and DHS spent about half of its $26 million for projects related to more than one mode of transportation. In fiscal year 2004, TSA continued to budget most of its $159 million for aviation, and DHS also budgeted most of its $88 million for aviation. This left research projects for land mode transportation -- specifically railways and mass transit systems -- strapped for R&D funds.
According to the National Research Council, federal R&D programs should include some basic research, but TSA and DHS do not appear to be funding any basic research for transportation security. TSA and DHS have not estimated deployment dates for the vast majority of their R&D projects. Other federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, also funded some transportation security R&D projects.
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Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.
He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores.
According to the National Research Council, federal R&D programs should include some basic research, but TSA and DHS do not appear to be funding any basic research for transportation security.