Lawmakers push TSA to strengthen Amtrak passenger security

A pair of House lawmakers is backing a bill that would prod the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) into implementing all the requirements of a decade-old law aimed at addressing terror threats on Amtrak.

{mosads}The legislation was crafted in response to a recent watchdog report that found the TSA has “limited regulatory oversight processes” to strengthen passenger security at Amtrak, because the agency has not complied with all of the recommendations mandated by Congress following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Right now, three key 9/11 Act passenger rail requirements still remain incomplete,” Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said in a statement. “With ever-growing security concerns across the nation, our bill directs the TSA to develop a process to follow through on these important security provisions.”

After 9/11, Congress mandated that the TSA, under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), create a regulatory framework for addressing potential terrorism and security threats facing passenger rail systems.

The TSA has implemented some components, such as awarding security improvement grants to Amtrak; creating a program for conducting rail security exercises; establishing a task force to assess the risk of a terrorist attack; and issuing a regulation prohibiting rail carriers from making false statements to employees while undergoing TSA security background checks. 

But the DHS Office of Inspector General found that the agency has still not issued regulations to assign rail carriers to high-risk tiers, establish a rail security training program or create a program to conduct security background checks of frontline rail employees. 

Under the measure from Lipinski and Comstock, the TSA would have to develop a process for completing the remaining requirements.

The bill also reauthorizes a program that deploys Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams to high-risk transportation hubs in order to increase the presence of law enforcement, and reauthorizes DHS research programming that focuses on filling security gaps through 2020.

A transit security-specific training program also would be established under the legislation.

“The American Public Transportation Association welcomes expanded support from the Department of Homeland Security to help secure our nation’s public transportation systems,” said Richard White, acting president and chief executive officer. “The SAFER TRANSIT Act would provide additional resources to train law enforcement personnel to patrol and respond to security emergencies in and around public transit facilities, and needed funding for security related research and development.”


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