“As a result, most partners and stakeholders said they value the program as a force multiplier and an extension of their security assets, and describe the teams as professional, willing to work and take advice, flexible, and responsive to partner and stakeholder needs,” the OIG noted.
Another issue addressed by the OIG is FAMs’ legal authority, especially in the mass transit environment. For instance, some FAMs are unsure whether they have the authority to detain and question a person in the mass transit environment like they do in the aviation environment, where they are the lead law enforcement agency, especially when they’re acting as a force multiplier for local or state law enforcement.
This kind of uncertainty, according to the report, has led some field offices to field VIPR teams less aggressively. FAMs on VIPR teams have also told OIG investigators that they do not feel as comfortable in mass transit areas as they do in the aviation domain. To rectify this, OIG recommended that TSA draw up guidance for VIPR teams when encountering suspicious or criminal activity inside the mass transit environment. TSA concurred with the recommendation, although Pistole clarified in his letter that FAMs have the same authority to enforce federal law in the mass transit environment as they do in their special aircraft jurisdiction. Nevertheless, when confronted with criminal activity not within federal jurisdiction, VIPR members should allow their state and local partners to deal with the situation, unless someone is in imminent danger.
"The primary objective of TSA's VIPR Program is to detect, deter, disrupt, and defeat acts of terrorism in all modes of transportation and over all transportation entities," noted Pistole.
♦ Photo from DHS OIG Report: Efficiency and Effectiveness of TSA's Visible Intermodel Prevention and Response Program Within Rail and Mass Transit Systems