Senators call for rail security enhancements

The federal government must step up its efforts to increase rail security measures, railway representatives and government analysts said Tuesday.

At a Senate Commerce hearing to examine rail security in the wake of the train bombings in Spain earlier this month, public transportation representatives said President Bush's fiscal 2005 budget request is inadequate to address necessary improvements in rail security. American Public Transportation Association President William Millar said the nation's public transit systems need $6 billion to address critical security improvements such as better radio communications, on-board security cameras, restricted access to transit facilities, and more and better trained security personnel. Millar said the fiscal 2005 budget should be amended to include a line item increasing direct funding for transit security measures.

GAO physical infrastructure director Peter Guerrero identified funding for security enhancements as "the key challenge" facing local and national rail transit agencies. Guerrero also said the Homeland Security Department must clarify the roles of the Transportation Department and the Transportation Security Administration on rail security. Those agencies' roles "have yet to be clearly delineated, which creates the potential for duplicating or conflicting efforts," Guerrero said.

Administration officials testified that the federal government has made great strides in rail security and is continuing to make improvements. Homeland Security Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson said his agency is developing new security initiatives, such as a rapid deployment K-9 explosives detection program. Hutchinson also said his department will implement a pilot baggage screening program to assess the feasibility of a nationwide system. He said the Homeland Security Department is developing a national transportation security plan, which "hopefully will be completed by the end of the year."

But Commerce Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said that timetable was not adequate. "We need that plan as quickly as possible to determine appropriate funding levels to include in legislation," McCain said.

"Rail security efforts remain fragmented," said McCain, who added that "only modest resources have been dedicated to maritime and land security over the past two-and-a- half years compared to the investments made to secure the airways." McCain said he will work to draft and mark up a bipartisan rail security bill before the Senate's Easter recess.

At a separate hearing Tuesday, Senate Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Homeland Security Secretary Ridge's newly announced rail security plan fails to make passengers any safer.

"Secretary Ridge's statement yesterday that we will use existing resources to do more long-term research on technological solutions, share information and distribute information on best practices, just does not make the grade with me," Byrd told acting TSA Administrator David Stone and Coast Guard Commandant Thomas Collins at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. Stone replied that the government was "devoting significant attention and resources on rail security." It took the Madrid train bombing, Byrd said, "for the administration to wake up to this threat."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.