Industry, Lawmaker Question TSA Surface Transportation Security Programs

By Matthew Harwood

Doug Morris, director of security operations for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told lawmakers that Congress should require that TSA fund the First Observer program, which trains professional drivers, like truckers, to watch out for and report suspicious activity. He said the program has been operating under a “no cost extension” since the new year.

“It is widely known that the lion’s share of funding within TSA is allocated towards the aviation sector and relatively little is dedicated to the surface transportation arena where the economic and other costs of a homeland security incident could far exceed those that this nation suffered on September 11, 2001,” Morris said.

William C. Blankenship, the chief operating officer of Greyhound Lines, also pointed out that motor carriers have also had TSA funding issues this year. Under the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program (IBSGB), motor carriers previously received on average $10 million a year to help secure their buses. In 2011, $5 million was appropriated for the program. This year no funding was available. In the past, Greyhound used IBSGP funds to install an on-board emergency communications system, upgrade facility security, and double the size of its passenger screening program.

Blankenship also closed on the disparity in aviation security speeding compared to buses. Noting that intercity buses carry 720 million people annually, “it is difficult to conclude that a federal security program that makes billions of dollars available for aviation security and nothing for intercity bus security is well balanced,” he said.

The lack of information-sharing between TSA and private security stakeholders was also a cause for concern, especially for the rail industry, which has established an industry-wide information sharing center and alert network.

“Information sharing is a two-way street, though, and unfortunately, CSX and the rail industry have found that information sharing by various government agencies with the rail industry is plagued by persistent difficulties in timeliness, practical security relevance, and means of dissemination,” according to CSX’s Elliott. “Railroads provide a plethora of security-related information every day to various government entities, but this reporting yields comparatively very little in analysis of security value for the industry.”

♦ Photo by vxla/Flickr


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