Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) concerning the progress of our security initiative and our collaborative efforts to keep America’s transit passengers safe and to protect the vital transportation assets of this Nation.
In my testimony today, I will address three specific topics that I understand are of particular interest to the Subcommittee: (1) FTA activities to improve the security of America’s transit systems; (2) FTA’s statutory authority with regard to transit security matters; and (3) the working relationship between FTA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Before I begin, I want to thank Secretary Mineta for his unfailing support and commitment to protecting Americans traveling on every form of transportation. While much attention has been given to the significant changes underway in the aviation industry, Secretary Mineta has lent his considerable influence and intellect to the vigorous pursuit of security improvements in surface transportation, as well.
In addition, we look forward to Congressional approval of the President’s proposed Department of Homeland Security. The creation of a single agency charged with preventing terrorist attacks in the United States, reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism, minimizing damage and expediting recovery from such attacks is critical. The Department of Homeland Security will be in a position to assess threats and vulnerabilities across industries and regions, and to undertake the comprehensive prioritization of needs and allocation of resources. We are fortunate at the Department of Transportation to have the Transportation Security Administration positioned to undertake such prioritization with regard to transportation security needs, and we look forward to working with the new Department of Homeland Security to ensure that transit security issues continue to receive due consideration and are addressed appropriately.
In the year since the tragic events of September 11 changed our understanding of the term “transit safety and security,” we have made it a priority of the Federal Transit Administration to do all that we can to help communities become better prepared to respond to emergency situations. Shortly after that horrifying day, FTA launched an ambitious five-part security initiative. We created the framework of that initiative based on a holistic, systems approach to improving security in any transit system: 1) evaluate the current situation through in-depth security assessments, 2) develop a plan to address deficiencies, 3) test the plan in realistic situations, 4) train employees to understand and implement the plan, and 5) undertake research to enhance our human capabilities. The appropriateness of these basic components – assessment, planning, testing, training, and research -- has been borne out by our security assessment results. I would note that this initiative focuses significant attention and resources on improving our human capability to respond to security threats and incidents. It acknowledges that technology can be helpful, but there is no technology that will secure the open environment of our Nation’s transit systems. FTA’s security initiative has been funded with $12.1 million of fiscal year 2002 money that has been refocused on security and by $18.7 million of emergency supplemental funds, providing a total of $30.8 million for this important effort.
I am pleased to report that, today America’s transit systems are safer, better prepared, and more security-conscious than ever.
Secretary Mineta recently noted that public transportation must play an important role in achieving the President’s three important goals of winning the war against terrorism, protecting our homeland, and getting the American economy moving again. As our security initiative recognized, more can be done and is being done to make public transportation as safe and secure as possible. At the same time, we must be careful to protect the freedom of movement that we all cherish and continue to promote the economic vitality of our communities and our Nation. Keeping this three-legged stool of security, economic vitality, and personal freedom in balance is a challenging responsibility, but one that we are pursuing with passion and conviction.
Over the past year, teams of experts in security, anti-terrorism, and transit have conducted security assessments of 36 public transportation systems using a proven threat and vulnerability assessment methodology. We focused first on the Nation’s high risk/high consequence transit assets. Generally, that meant transit systems with tunnels and stations where large numbers of people converge, and where an attack would cause the greatest disruption to transportation services. All of the transit agencies participated in the assessment program voluntarily. The assessments considered the entire transportation system and network in each area, not just the physical assets of one mode or site. Each assessment identified high risk and high consequence assets, evaluated security gaps, made recommendations to reduce security risks to acceptable levels, educated transit agencies on threat and vulnerability analysis, and reviewed agencies’ emergency response plans, particularly their degree of coordination with emergency responders throughout the region. Based on the findings of these assessments, FTA is deploying emergency response planning and technical assistance teams to 60 transit agencies to help them develop and update their security response plans, develop agency-specific protocols to respond to different Office of Homeland Security threat levels, conduct training needs assessments, and develop agency-specific security awareness materials for employees and customers. We have completed the pilot phase of this project with three transit agencies, and plan to send Technical Assistance Teams to at least 30 transit agencies by the end of fiscal year 2003. These agencies were identified in conjunction with the FBI, which has assisted us in prioritizing and targeting our resources based on intelligence information about threats and vulnerabilities.
The security assessments proved to be an effective tool for both the FTA and the participating transit agencies. We identified important concerns at even the most well prepared agencies, and have recommended solutions to manage these risks. At the same time, we are identifying best practices for training and response protocols, and are sharing these with the industry. The assessments were also critical in our efforts to develop appropriate system-wide programs to help the transit industry prevent and mitigate the potential effects of a terrorist attack.
I am certain that the Committee understands the need to avoid a public discussion of our specific findings about particular transit systems, but I would like to provide you with an overview of our key findings, as well as an indication of how FTA’s security initiative is helping to address these issues.
System design. First, new systems and those undergoing renovation or modernization should use design criteria that support security objectives. Important considerations include designing stations for easy detection, so people cannot leave objects hidden out of sight; separating public and private spaces in facilities, so that access to controls and equipment can be restricted; and designing facilities for easy decontamination and recovery operations. As a result of this finding, FTA is incorporating security design as a component of the New Starts development and evaluation process. Grant recipients in urbanized areas are already required, as a condition of their funding, to establish comprehensive safety and security programs and to demonstrate their technical capacity to carry out those programs.
Intelligence and Information Sharing. The second finding was that timely and specific sharing of threat information and intelligence is needed at both the national and local level. Often, the most pertinent information is available from other local officials – especially local police and other law enforcement agencies. To establish this information flow, FTA has worked with the FBI to create collaborative relationships between transit agencies and local FBI officials. Last June, I sent a letter to our largest transit agencies, encouraging them to participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in their community. The FBI sent similar letters to each Task Force, encouraging them to contact the transit agencies in their region to invite them to join. Most of the largest transit agencies have now established working relationships with the law enforcement and intelligence sharing groups, such as the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
While local intelligence information links are necessary, they are, clearly, not sufficient. One of the first actions that FTA undertook after 9/11 was to establish a communication link with the 100 largest transit agencies, whose passengers account for an estimated 90 percent of all transit riders in the Nation. We have developed written procedures to guide communication flow, ensuring not only that the information is accurate and official, but also that it gets to the people who need it in a timely manner. Using email, fax and phone, if necessary, we now have the capacity to communicate with transit agency officials around-the-clock. This system has already been used a number of times to communicate threat information, as well as specific advice about how to proactively respond. For example, when the Office of Homeland Security recently raised the threat warning level to “orange,” FTA sent out an advisory to transit agencies with a list of specific measures that they should consider in the context of their own system operations. In addition, the FTA Regional Offices have established liaisons to the largest transit agencies, creating a 24-hour person-to-person contact with these transit agency operations centers. In the event of a catastrophic transit incident, the Regional liaison will go to the affected operations center to act as an information link between the Department of Transportation and the transit agency.
FTA has also undertaken several steps to provide more and better intelligence information to transit agency officials. Transit agencies will soon receive letters inviting them to participate in the FBI’s Infraguard program, which will provide them with access to a secure website that contains security sensitive information, advisories, and best practice information developed by FTA. The FBI will manage and control access to the site, and will undertake the necessary clearance checks for participants. We have been assured that the FBI will handle these clearances expeditiously.
In addition, FTA is continuing to work with the transit industry and the intelligence community to establish a means for sharing threat and intelligence information concerning transit. Our goal is to create a communications network that not only disseminates alerts, but also collects information from transit agencies, provides a means to identify patterns and trends, and shares that analysis with the industry.
Transit Employee Security Training. The third important finding of our security assessments reinforced a lesson learned from our colleagues in New York and Washington: there is no substitute for security awareness and emergency preparedness training for transit employees. As FTA’s security assessments underscored, America’s transit environments are inherently open and accessible, with many high risk, high consequence assets. We cannot place a metal detector at every bus stop, or a fence and a checkpoint at every subway portal. Instead, we must rely on – and cultivate – human capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to security threats.
The 400,000-plus transit employees throughout America are the “eyes and ears” of our most important security system. Transit employees travel the same routes, maintain the same facilities, and see the same people every day as they go about their duties. They are in the best position to identify unusual packages, suspicious substances, and people who are acting suspiciously. But they need to acquire skills in what to look for and how to respond, skills that can be acquired through rigorous emergency planning, regular emergency testing and drills, and extensive training.
To ensure that such training is available, FTA has partnered with the Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) and the National Transit Institute (NTI) to expand course offerings on security to a broader audience. FTA, in conjunction with NTI, has also launched an aggressive nationwide schedule to deliver comprehensive security awareness courses targeted to front-line transit employees and supervisors, free of charge. Course offerings include security planning, weapons of mass destruction, bus and rail hijacking, and crime prevention through environment design. Over the past year, 134 transit employees were trained to deliver four security training courses to other transit employees at their own agencies. In addition, NTI delivered the course at 10 locations directly to 522 transit employees, generally at smaller transit agencies. This month NTI will also be distributing more than 3,000 compact discs containing a computerized version of the basic two-hour security awareness course for employees, tailored for bus, light rail, and heavy rail. Finally, eight updated Transit Safety Institute courses, including system security, emergency incident management, bus hijacking, and weapons of mass destruction) have been delivered to over 950 transit managers.
Over the next several months, FTA also plans to launch a new program, including training materials, posters, pocket cards, brochures and other materials, to teach and remind transit workers about what to look for, how to respond to a threat, and whom to notify. We will be working with industry stakeholders, including transit unions, to develop and deliver these materials.
Emergency Response Capability. Training is not limited, however, to classrooms. Those who will have to respond boldly and expeditiously should an attack occur need hands-on practice. Full-scale drills reinforce emergency response procedures and help communities work out specific details and back-up plans.
Which leads me to the fifth important finding of our security assessments: Emergency response must be transit’s primary anti-terrorism tool. The reality is that we will never be able to guarantee the complete safety and security of our transit passengers and employees. With 1,500 people per minute entering Penn Station in New York, for example, even random searches of every sixth or sixtieth person would unduly disrupt daily travel patterns. Being prepared to respond quickly and effectively to an event – minimizing loss of life and mitigating damage to property – is essential.
To be ready to respond, transit agencies need written emergency response plans that include a unified command structure, and they must conduct realistic drills that are specific to their own operations. To assist transit agencies in these efforts, FTA has awarded 83 grants to fund emergency response drills. One important condition of these grants is that the drills must include the participation of local and regional police, fire and emergency response agencies. There is no doubt that the safety and security of our communities is significantly enhanced when public transportation systems are linked to police, fire, medical and other emergency response agencies. Community-wide planning, emergency response drills, and unified emergency command centers make this critical link effective.
As you might imagine, these important links have not been established in every community. So, in addition to providing grants for emergency response drills that include these important community responders, FTA is taking the lead to bring these key players together at emergency response planning forums around the county. With the eager participation and support of elected officials and emergency response organizations, FTA is conducting 17 Emergency Preparedness and Security Forums around the country to promote regional collaboration and coordination among emergency service responders and transit agencies. In the eight two-day forums held to date, more than 1,200 transit leaders, law enforcement, fire, and medical emergency response personnel have begun or continued the important process of building relationships and collaborative plans for emergency response.
Technology Development and Deployment. Finally, the assessments confirmed that technology can play an important, but not an exclusive, role in transit security. There is no technological “quick fix” for security concerns, nor is there a technological proxy for an alert and well-prepared transit workforce. Furthermore, the assessments found that many transit systems can make better use of the security technology they already have. For example, all of the transit agencies that participated in the security assessment program had closed circuit television cameras to help deter and detect terrorist activity. It was not always used effectively, however.
Overall, FTA believes it can best assist transit agencies in the area of technology by continuing its programs to identify and adapt security technologies developed by other agencies and industries, such as the military, for the transit environment. FTA has been involved with security development and deployment for a number of years. Most notably, under our security initiative, FTA has accelerated the development of Project PROTECT, a chemical detection system for use in subways that was prototyped in the Washington, DC Metro system. Testing of Project PROTECT is currently being expanded to an older transit system in order to evaluate its usefulness in alternative environments. FTA has collaborated with many agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Transportation Research Institute, to identify promising technologies that may be applicable to transit systems, and we will continue to do so.
As you are aware, FTA is prohibited by law from regulating the day-to-day operations of a transit agency. Working within its statutory role, FTA is providing technical and financial assistance to transit agencies, which have enthusiastically participated in FTA’s security assessments and initiatives.
In addition, FTA utilizes its current statutory authority – the “power of the purse” – to ensure that certain safety and security requirements are met as a condition of grant receipt. For example, recipients of Section 5307 Urban Area formula funds must spend one percent of these funds on safety and security measures, unless they certify that such expenditures are unnecessary. FTA enforces this requirement through an annual certification process and triennial reviews.
FTA also has statutory authority to undertake a number of other safety and security activities, including:
The effectiveness of these statutory tools is evidenced by the enviable safety record of the transit industry. Indeed, with regard to fatalities, the National Safety Council reports that riding the bus is 47 times safer than traveling by car, and rail transit passengers are 23 times safer than automobile travelers. Without regulatory mandates, transit agencies, unions, and industry groups have demonstrated a remarkable level of cooperation and collaboration to ensure that public transportation is the safest mode of travel. They eagerly participate in FTA safety training programs, willingly assist in the development and distribution of best practices and other guidance, and enthusiastically seek and receive technical assistance to improve their safety practices. Over the past year, I have witnessed this same commitment with respect to security matters.
In sum, Mr. Chairman, at this time I do not believe that FTA requires additional regulatory authority. We have a variety of tools at our disposal to assist transit agencies, excellent oversight and enforcement mechanisms tied to our formula grant programs, and the enthusiastic participation of transit agencies in programs to enhance transit security. Furthermore, TSA has statutory authority to develop any necessary standards and regulations. I would note, however, as Admiral Loy has said on numerous occasions, success depends on the support and willful compliance of the industry; we will achieve better results without mandates and regulations.
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act recognized the importance of security for all modes of transportation and related infrastructure. The Act established the Transportation Security Administration, consolidating overall responsibility for transportation security in a single entity. Under the leadership of Secretary Mineta and Admiral Loy, TSA is taking a practical and appropriate approach to transportation security, working closely with all of the operating administrations to prioritize security needs and resources. Admiral Loy, for example, has shown a willingness to recognize that the strong relationships forged by FTA with transit stakeholders are an essential component of TSA’s success. We believe that these efforts will only be enhanced and strengthened by the creation of the President’s proposed Department of Homeland Security, which will have the necessary information and resources to prioritize the full range of our Nation’s security investments and activities.
FTA and TSA are working together to delineate carefully the roles and responsibilities of our agencies based on existing legal authorities and our respective core competencies. We are making very good progress. We plan to establish a strong, strategic relationship between FTA and TSA. Both agencies recognize that the Federal government cannot achieve the desired level of security if agencies act in isolation. A strong partnership between the agencies is required, and recognition that, like safety, security must be an integral part of Federal transit programs.
Last March, Secretary Mineta reminded us that, even as we improve the security of our Nation’s transportation systems, we must “renew our commitment to strengthen America’s freedom of movement, and enhance the capabilities of our transportation systems to effectively grow America’s economy.” Together, over the coming months, FTA and TSA will pursue the President’s Homeland Security Goals, focusing our efforts on: preventing terrorist attacks through improved intelligence and information sharing; reducing the vulnerability of transit systems to terrorist attacks; and minimizing potential damage and speeding recovery should an attack occur. I am confident that FTA’s partnership with TSA will not only enhance transit security, but also, as the Secretary called upon us to do, help protect our way of life.
As our experience on September 11 demonstrated, robust public transit systems are essential to our national security. Transit trains and buses were key to the swift evacuation of the affected areas; they were used to transport emergency workers and supplies to the rescue and recovery sites; and they served as emergency triage centers and temporary shelters. We cannot, in the name of security improvements, compromise the mobility of our Nation or the viability of our public transportation systems.
Mr. Chairman, the Nation’s transit operators are to be commended for their impressive gains in security. I am particularly pleased that these gains have been achieved through exceptional collaboration at all levels of government, and among a variety of stakeholders, including private industry, transit unions, elected officials, law enforcement agencies, and other emergency responders.
I also want to thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to provide this important update on transit security. I look forward to continuing to work with you to keep Americans safe and moving on public transportation.
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