Senators want to ensure TSA protects trains, buses and ports

Senators want to ensure TSA protects trains, buses and ports
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The top lawmakers on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee want to ensure that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) adequately safeguards all modes of transportation – not just aviation.

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Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the panel, and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Fla.), the ranking member, are planning to drop legislation “soon” that would ensure that TSA resources allocated towards surface transportation security efforts match up with the relevant risks.

The lawmakers said they were concerned by comments from TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger earlier this year, when he testified that the agency only spends 3 percent of its annual budget protecting trains, subways, buses and ports.

Although aviation remains a top target for terrorism, the duo pointed out that terrorists have killed civilians at rail and transit stations in Europe. There has also been an increasing shift towards so-called “soft target” areas, especially as airport and airplane security has ramped up in recent years.

“While TSA’s role at airports is most visible, and remains critically important, the agency has a responsibility to stay ahead of threats and secure all U.S. transportation systems,” Thune said in a press release.

“To help ensure that complacency and a lack of analysis described by the inspector general does not create vulnerabilities for terrorists to exploit, the Commerce Committee will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to improve how TSA assesses and responds to security risks.”

The senators were encouraged to write the bill after a recent report from the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, which determined that TSA lacks an intelligence-driven, risk-based security strategy to help the agency make security and resource decisions across all transportation modes.

“TSA’s publicized ‘intelligence driven, risk-based approach’ was designed for the aviation mode and chiefly for air passenger screening,” the report says. “Though TSA has security programs for the surface modes, its agency-wide risk management organizations provide little oversight of these programs.”

The report also found that the TSA does not have a formal process to encompass security risks in its budget decisions, which “would help ensure all transportation modes consistently implement risk-based security and help decision makers align resources effectively.”

The inspector general is urging the TSA to create a risk-based security strategy that reflects all transportation modes and establish a budget planning process that uses risk to make resource decisions. 

“I find it troubling that 15 years has passed since the 9/11 attacks and TSA is still struggling to allocate resources to protect travelers, especially in our rail and transit systems,” said Nelson. “This report only underscores the need to shore up any security gaps before it’s too late.”

In a statement, the TSA said it agrees with the report's recommendations. 

“TSA’s enterprise risk management program is a benchmark recognized across federal agencies, based on a comprehensive and systematic approach to apply risk management across the enterprise," the statement read. "TSA agrees with the recommendations provided by the OIG and they will help further strengthen TSA’s overall risk management program.”