Chairman Stevens Leads Effort to Move Port, Cargo, Rail, and Transit Security

May 11, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC –  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) were joined today by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), along with 37 co-sponsors, in introducing a bipartisan comprehensive bill that would make significant security improvements to the nation’s transportation systems.

Upon introduction of the bill, Chairman Stevens submitted the following statement for inclusion in the Congressional Record:

Mr. President, today I introduce a bi-partisan transportation security bill, which is a joint Commerce and Banking Committee bipartisan package co-sponsored by Senators Inouye, Shelby, Sarbanes, and 37 of our colleagues.  This bill would dramatically enhance our nation’s port, rail, and transit security systems.  The port and rail provisions of this package are identical to provisions of the transportation security bill, S. 1052, which was reported unanimously by the Commerce Committee last year.  The transit provisions of the package are identical to those reported unanimously by the Banking Committee. 

The events of 9/11 made clear that Congress needed to address the vulnerabilities within the Nation’s transportation systems and dramatically increase security measures to protect the essential interstate flow of commerce. 

Even before 9/11, the Commerce Committee led the Senate's effort to achieve the delicate balance between improved transportation security and the uninterrupted flow of commerce.  In the weeks and months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Commerce Committee developed the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), which was signed into law by the President in 2002.  The Committee later expanded MTSA by developing the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004. 

In MTSA, the Commerce Committee called on both public and private sector entities, including federal agencies, the port community, vessel owners, shippers, and carriers, to play a role in dramatically enhancing maritime security.  The International Maritime Organization followed suit with its own improvements, many of which were based on the foundation set forth in MTSA. 

The Commerce Committee spearheaded the establishment of a harmonized security credential for all transportation workers, authorizing the creation of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (2001), and twice more in the Maritime Transportation Security Acts of 2002 and 2004.  Additional statutory authority from the PATRIOT Act reinforced the importance of such a transportation credential.
TWIC is intended to improve identity management for all transportation workers, ensuring that only authorized personnel gain unescorted access to secure areas of the country’s transportation system.  TWIC is designed to mitigate the threat of terrorists exploiting certain physical and cyber security gaps in the transportation system.

The bill would require TSA to deliver a rulemaking on the implementation of the TWIC program.  It has been over three and one half years since Congress first required such a card, and this provision sets a mandatory deadline of January 1, 2007 for rollout.

The bill that we propose also would direct the Coast Guard to expand the deployment of Interagency Operations Centers to ports throughout the .  These centers, already operating in five cities, would bring together all port security and operations stakeholders into a single facility at major ports.  This approach has proven effective at maximizing communication among federal, state, and local entities charged with securing the ports.

In addition, the provision would require greater standards and requirements for cargo screening equipment, and call for additional data to be incorporated into the system used to target cargo and containers for searches.

While TWIC, Interagency Operation Centers , and equipment standards will help improve security on our shores, we must be cognizant of the fact that maritime security begins in foreign ports.  We must cast our security net as far back into the inbound international supply chain as possible.
Two programs that were authorized by the Commerce Committee in MTSA address the need to pre-screen cargo bound for the – the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).

CSI is a program in which inspectors are deployed to foreign nations to assist their foreign counterparts in the pre-screening of U.S.-bound cargo containers.  C-TPAT is a voluntary supply chain security program that allows companies to seek certification from the Federal Government that such companies have taken sufficient steps to ensure that their supply chains are secure in exchange for expedited cargo clearance benefits at U.S. ports. 
The bill that I introduce with my colleagues would require that basic program elements and standards be developed by DHS in order to provide CSI and C-TPAT participants a baseline understanding of the security standards expected of them.

Maritime security is not the only improvement that we must make – the unfortunate attacks on passenger trains in Madrid and the subways in London underscored weaknesses in rail transportation that our bill would seek to address.  To improve rail security, our bill would require TSA to conduct railroad threat assessments and to prioritize recommendations.  In addition, the legislation would create a rail security research and development program to encourage deployment of rail car tracking equipment for shipment of hazardous materials, and require threat mitigation plans when specific threat information exists.  The bill also would authorize further studies of necessary improvements to passenger rail screening, in an effort to increase security in this mode of public transportation.

Our mass transit systems have pressing security needs, upon which our colleagues on the Banking Committee are focused; as a result, transit security improvements are incorporated into our bi-partisan bill.  It is unfortunate that many transit agencies in the still lack sufficient resources to fulfill the post-9/11 recommendations of the Federal Transit Administration’s security assessment.  These needs are all the more pressing in light of recent DHS recommendations for mass transit systems to remain alert against the possibility of terrorist attacks.  In response to this situation, our bill would create a needs-based grant program to identify and address risks and vulnerabilities within transit systems across the country.  The bill would authorize $3.5 billion in funding over the next three years to transit agencies to invest in projects designed to resist and deter terrorist attacks, including:  surveillance technologies; tunnel protection; chemical, biological, radiological, and explosive detection systems; perimeter protection; and a variety of other security improvements.  The bill also would codify the role of an Information Sharing Analysis Center , which would provide security information to transit systems and ensure better communication among federal, state, local, and private sector entities.

Mr. President, to improve security, we must have clear objectives and methods to reach those goals.  With limited resources, it is important to pinpoint risks and vulnerabilities that exist within our transportation systems, and address them accordingly.  By combining provisions approved unanimously by the Commerce and Banking Committees, respectively, this bipartisan bill would make significant targeted improvements to the framework now in place to secure the nation’s port, rail, and transit environments.