NEWS

TSA Needs to Conduct Risk Assessments for Transportation Systems, GAO Says

By Matthew Harwood

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has received another congressional tongue lashing after a new report detailed its continued inability to conduct comprehensive risk assessments across the transportation sectors it's responsible for securing.

“This is another example of our critical security agency, TSA, being lost and rudderless,” Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in response to the report he requested from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The  28-page report (.pdf) stresses that terrorist attacks against mass transit and commuter rail systems in Madrid, London, Mumbai, and, most recently, Moscow highlight the threat posed to the transportation sector.

(For more congressional criticism of TSA's transportation security measures, see "TSA Not Doing Enough to Protect Railways from Terrorism, Says Sen. Lautenberg.")

According to the GAO, DHS still does not use a comprehensive risk management framework to secure intermodal facilities across aviation and surface transportation sectors. Intermodal facilities, according to the report, are terminals where different transportation modes deliver passengers or cargo. A quintessential example is New York's City Penn Station, which receives 500,000 travelers daily from the subway system, Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island Railroad.

According to the GAO, comprehensive risk assessments help allocate scarce security resources across a vast transportation sector made up of aviation, mass transit, highway, freight rail, and pipelines that crisscross the United States. Without accounting for the three components of risk—threat, vulnerability, and consequence—the GAO says TSA cannot determine where to invest taxpayer money most efficiently now or in the future.

“Assessing the security risks of our various modes of transportation is essential to determining how best to deploy our limited resources,” Mica said. “TSA’s failure to complete these critical risk assessments further demonstrates this bloated bureaucracy’s inability to respond effectively to the nation’s transportation security demands."

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