HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Senator Richard Blumenthal called for increased investment and action in rail security on Friday afternoon. It comes after the discovery of five pipe bombs near a New Jersey train station last weekend.
A Department of Homeland Security investigation released two weeks ago found that the Transportation Security Administration lacked any coherent intelligence-driven strategy to rail safety. TSA spends only three percent of its budget securing trains, subways, buses and ports-a glaring deficiency that leaves millions of passengers at increased risk. Congress mandated action by TSA to enhance surface transportation safety in 2007, yet over eight years after the August 2008 deadline for these measures, TSA is nowhere near completion of the necessary actions.
Blumenthal is helping to lead a Senate bill that would require the Transportation Security Administration to address security deficiencies across all modes of transportation, including rail, transit, highway and maritime. The bill would authorize as many as 70 additional canine teams immediately, and up to 200 more depending on need, for surface transportation security nationwide, among other measures. Blumenthal also successfully secured additional funding through the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill passed in July to enhance security at train stations and “soft targets.”
“Five unexploded pipe bombs found near a New Jersey train station last weekend were a reminder to all of the need to remain vigilant against violence across all modes of transportation-not just air. Our passenger rail systems carry five times as many passengers as airlines, yet receive less than three percent of TSA resources-a glaring deficiency leaving millions at increased risk. TSA must act now on critical, long overdue, congressionally-mandated actions to strengthen and protect our nation’s surface transportation,” Blumenthal said.
In a statement, the Federal Railroad Administration says;
Over the last year, top officials at the Federal Railroad Administration have met and worked with other agencies responsible for the nation’s rail security. That includes more frequent meetings with TSA and having TSA attend FRA’s meeting of regional administrators. Those meetings have provided TSA with new direct lines into FRA’s headquarters staff and eight regional offices. The National Joint Terrorist Task Force also meets with FRA at least monthly now too.
With a seat on Amtrak’s board, FRA has met several times with the railroad this year and prodded it to think through and prioritize investment in certain security priorities.”
The Implementing Recommendations Act, part of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, required TSA to take three important actions: (1) ensure all high-risk target railroads have strong, sufficient security plans; (2) ensure public transportation agencies, railroads and bus providers have training standards on security threats and conditions for frontline employees; and (3) ensure public transportation agencies and railroads conduct rigorous, name-based security background checks and immigration status checks on all frontline employees.