TSA lays out new security framework for 'soft targets'

TSA lays out new security framework for 'soft targets'
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) laid out a new national framework on Monday designed to improve security around public spaces, particularly in the areas located outside of security screening.

The recommendations for local governments and transportation systems come in direct response to growing concern over so-called soft targets in the wake of deadly airport attacks in Brussels and Istanbul last year.

Those incidents “highlight the evolving tactics and techniques that adversaries use to attack civilian targets in public areas,” the TSA said.

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Representatives from the industry, government and academic institutions worked over the last six months to evaluate security measure gaps in the current system and come up with ideas to help improve security.

“The group … worked together to devise a framework that deters terrorist attacks and creates a system that quickly and effectively responds to attacks in the public area to minimize loss of life and disruption of transportation,” the TSA said in a press release.

The framework is divided into three sections: information sharing, attack prevention and public protection.

The working group emphasized that “time is precious” when it comes to mass casualty incidents, with officials only having about 10 minutes to effectively communicate information and formulate a strategy.

The document recommends that transportation system owners proactively cultivate relationships with local and federal law enforcement, develop a communications strategy to enhance the flow of information and expand threat awareness education like the “See Something Say Something” campaign and the “This is My Airport” training program.

When it comes to attack prevention, the framework points out that terrorists have explicitly called for attacks on civilian targets. The incidents in Brussels and Istanbul further highlight the vulnerability of locations outside the secure areas of airports.

The guidance suggests establishing full-time Airport Operations Centers that can coordinate responses to emergency situations, conduct background checks and thoroughly vet public areas workers, and conduct practice exercises and emergency response drills.

“Exercise and response drills provide law enforcement and other first responders the opportunity to identify obstacles to incident response,” the framework says. “This practice should expand to include all community members — every individual or organization that would respond to an actual threat.”

Finally, the guidance urges transportation owners to keep law enforcement visible and invest in “innovative” construction designs that build in security measures.