WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following full committee hearing on Securing the Nation's Rail and Other Surface Transportation Networks.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Every day the people of West Virginia and our entire nation rely on America’s critical infrastructure, transportation systems, and complex communications networks. And every day our enemies actively try to break through the layers of security we’ve built to protect those systems. These enemies are focused and determined. And sometimes, they succeed, threatening our safety and our way of life.
This year, the Commerce Committee has already looked at what the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration are doing to protect our aviation and communications networks. But recent events have made it abundantly clear that terrorists are targeting our surface transportation systems as well.
Last month’s terrorist attack on Moscow’s subway system left 40 people dead and many more injured, highlighting the inherent vulnerability of our rail systems. While you may not hear as much about them, between 1997 and 2008, there were 510 terrorist-related commercial truck and bus bombing attacks worldwide, killing over 6,000 people. It is important to recognize that these attacks are not limited to foreign countries. Najibullah Zazi, who recently plead guilty to conspiring to detonate bombs on New York City’s subway system, is a prime example: terrorists are ready to bring these types of tactics to the United States.
Our surface transportation system is part of our everyday lives in big cities and small towns, connecting states like West Virginia to the wider world and building powerful new opportunities. But its vast and open nature makes it that much harder to secure, including:
- More than 140,000 miles of railroad track, over which 30 million carloads of freight, including coal and chemicals are hauled;
- Approximately 1.5 million miles of pipelines that carry much of the liquid and natural gas that our nation consumes; and
- Millions of miles of road and highways, over which U.S. trucking companies hauled 11 billion tons of freight in 2008.
Despite an increased focus on surface transportation security, I still believe TSA and every level of government, along with the private sector, must redouble their efforts. President Obama agrees. The White House’s recent report highlighted the work TSA still has to do to harden our defenses. DHS and TSA must quickly develop a plan to address this report.
This committee is gearing up to reauthorize TSA to make sure the agency is focused in its current efforts to mitigate risks, and working aggressively to complete the 9/11 Act requirements it has not yet finished. Late last year, a terrorist armed with explosives was able to slip through our defenses and board an airplane bound for the U.S. It is clear we must stop enemies like these before they are in a position to do harm. Instead of waiting to respond, we must focus our efforts and resources on making sure another attack is never successful.
I want to thank Senator Lautenberg for his leadership on these issues and for chairing today’s hearing.
Senator Kay Bailey HutchinsonU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
STATEMENT OF SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
HEARING ON SECURING THE NATION’S RAIL AND OTHER SURFACE TRANSPORTATION NETWORKS
APRIL 21, 2010
Thank you for chairing today’s hearing, Senator Lautenberg, and thank you to all of the witnesses for being here today. I think this hearing is so important. The security of the Nation’s surface transportation systems, although long overshadowed by aviation security, is one of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s central missions and must be one of this Committee’s highest priorities.
It has been eight and one-half years since the terrorist attacks of September 11thand, during that time, there have been over 700 attacks on rail and bus systems around the world, killing more than 2,500 and injuring 10,000. Fortunately, there has not been a successful attack in the United States. But the recent “Zazi” plot to detonate explosives on the New York City subway system demonstrates the seriousness of the threats to our surface transportation systems.
I have long expressed concern that enough effort and resources are not being committed to secure our transit, passenger and freight rail, highway, motorcoach, and pipeline networks. Currently, the budget for surface transportation security is just $110 million, a little over 2% of TSA’s total budget, a level of funding far from commensurate with the level of risk. And while another $360 million has been appropriated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for security grants, we clearly are not doing enough in this area. I hope today we can have a frank discussion about what has, and has not, been accomplished since 9-11, and how this Committee, together with the Administration, can take action to close gaps in addressing and funding surface transportation security.
I do believe our transit, rail, and pipeline systems are safer today due to the actions of TSA, DOT’s modal agencies, Amtrak, the commuter authorities, and private sector rail, truck, bus, and pipeline companies. But despite the fact that the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which created TSA, states unequivocally that TSA “shall be responsible for security in all modes of transportation,” all indications are that TSA sees itself as only having a supporting role with respect to transit and passenger rail security. TSA also seems reluctant, except at the specific direction of Congress, to do more than simply encourage security improvements by the freight rail, motor and bus carrier, and pipeline sectors, since they are owned and operated by the private sector.
Recent reports by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the DHS Inspector General are cause for concern. GAO has concluded that TSA has still not completed an overall risk assessment of mass transit, the passenger rail system, or the commercial vehicle sector. Its preliminary conclusions in an ongoing assessment of pipeline security suggest that TSA is not following up with pipeline operators to make sure they are making the security improvements included in their security plans.
I am especially troubled that TSA has so strongly resisted the recommendation of the DHS IG to have TSA inspectors focused on surface transportation security report to an official with surface responsibilities, rather than to supervisors in the aviation arena. And I am concerned that over two-thirds of the recently hired surface transportation inspectors had no surface transportation experience.
The White House apparently is not satisfied with TSA’s performance either, since it conducted its own independent assessment of surface transportation security. That assessment was conducted by reaching out to government and private sector stakeholders, and it found that there is significant overlap in federal programs and agencies. Clearly, there is a strong need for more coordination between government agencies and with the private sector.
It is critical that TSA, as the expert agency on all security matters, step up to the plate and exercise more leadership, while continuing to operate in a collaborative way with surface transportation interests. The first step, as we all realize, is the appointment of a TSA Administrator, a position that has been vacant for more than a year. I think I speak for the entire Committee when I say that I hope the Administration will be sending up a new nominee—and one who we can confirm-- as soon as possible.
The Committee intends to mark up legislation to reauthorize TSA later this year, and we need TSA to come forward with its recommendations. We want to make informed decisions about surface transportation security, with input from all of the stakeholders, and a good understanding of the resources needed to address the risks terrorism poses to our surface transportation network.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses, and discussing these important issues with them.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable David HeymanAssistant Secretary for PolicyU.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mr. Stephen M. LordDirector of Homeland Security and Justice IssuesU.S. Government Accountability Office
Mr. Carlton MannAssistant Inspector General for InspectionsU.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General
Mr. John J. O'ConnorVice President and Chief of PoliceAmtrak Police Department
Mr. Joseph KellyActing Chief of PoliceNew Jersey Transit
Mr. Skip ElliottVice President - Public Safety & EnvironmentCSX Transportation