The comprehensive legislation reasserts the importance of transportation security to the nation’s physical and economic health and makes significant advances in port, rail, aviation, and motor carrier security, as well as the security of shipping hazardous materials. The bill combines many proposals previously approved by both the Commerce Committee and the full Senate, including the Rail Security Act of 2004, and incorporates new concepts as well.
The legislation would authorize a total of $18.375 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the next three years in the areas of aviation, surface transportation and intelligence, and would authorize $671 million to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for its relevant areas of responsibility. It would require DHS to set-aside funding specifically for the development of transportation security technology.
The bill also would instruct the DHS to notify Congress before any future reorganization.
During consideration of the bill, the Committee accepted a Manager’s Amendment that incorporated amendments by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) and made minor technical changes to the bill. In addition, the Committee adopted a substitute to the bill by unanimous consent.
Included below are descriptions of the major sections of the legislation as reflected by the substitute:
The legislation would enhance cargo security by improving the examination of shipments before they reach U.S. shores. The bill would call upon the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to develop standards for the evaluation, screening and inspection of cargo destined for the U.S. prior to loading in a foreign port. High-risk cargo also would receive greater targeting and scrutiny under the legislation by requiring importers to file entry data 24-hours prior to loading at a foreign port.
The bill’s co-sponsors pay particular attention to the resumption of commerce in the event of a seaport attack. The bill would clarify the requirements for expedited clearance of cargo through the Secure Systems of Transportation Program, and it would direct DHS to give vessels with U.S. Coast Guard-certified security plans preference for port access following an incident.
The success of Joint Operations Command Centers (JOCC) at the ports of Charleston, South Carolina, and San Diego, California, prompted the bill’s sponsors to expand their use at all high priority strategic ports. Having proven to enhance interagency cooperation and coordination, the JOCCs are prototypical of the unified response that will be required in the event of a seaport attack. Additionally, the bill would direct DHS to make port security grants more risk-based, and would allow for the multi-year funding of projects.
Following the attacks on the passenger trains in Madrid and the subways in London, rail security vulnerabilities receive particular attention under the legislation. The bill would require TSA to conduct a railroad sector threat assessment and submit prioritized recommendations for improving rail security, and would call for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and DOT to clarify their respective roles for rail security.
Consistent with the Rail Security Act passed in 108th Congress, the legislation approved today would provide grants through TSA to Amtrak, freight railroads and others to upgrade security across the entire railroad system. It would provide funding through DOT to make needed security and safety enhancements to Amtrak railroad tunnels in New York, Washington and Baltimore.
The legislation also would create a rail security research and development program through DHS and would encourage the deployment of rail car tracking equipment for hazardous material rail shipments. Additionally, the bill would require railroads shipping high-hazard materials to create threat mitigation plans to protect high-consequence targets when specific threat information exists.
The bill would authorize studies to improve passenger rail screening and immigration processing along the U.S. northern border, would create a security training program for railroad workers, and would provide whistleblower protections for workers who report security concerns.
The bill would require Congressional review of any DHS-proposed rule changes that would increase air carrier security fees and would call for DHS to study the feasibility of alternative methods to collect passenger security fees. It would require security audits of foreign repair stations, and would establish a pilot internship program for pre-employment training of local area students.
BUS, MOTOR CARRIER, HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, AND PIPELINE SECURITY
The bill would make several improvements to bus and motor carrier, hazardous materials transportation, and pipeline security. For trucks carrying certain hazardous materials, the bill would expand requirements for written plans for highway routing and requires DHS, through TSA, to develop a program that encourages the use of communications and tracking technology on such trucks. The bill also would require DHS and TSA to develop security-training guidelines for short-term truck leasing operations and would establish a program for reviewing hazardous materials security plans. The legislation would provide grants through TSA to improve intercity bus and bus terminal security.
To address pipeline security risks, the bill would require DHS and TSA to design a pipeline security and incident recovery plan, and would create a program for pipeline security inspections and enforcement. It also would instruct DHS and DOT to clarify their roles and responsibilities for pipeline security operations.
The bill now proceeds to the full Senate for its consideration.