About the need for increased rail security

Report of the hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, chaired by senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), to examine the security of our nation’s railroads and other surface transportation networks. In light of a bombing on a commuter train in Russia that left 40 dead last month, Lautenberg called the hearing to examine efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to secure the nation’s rail network.

Senator Lautenberg questioned Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman about the agency’s failure to deliver a comprehensive risk assessment and national security strategy for the rail sector. The DHS was required under the 9/11 Act to complete the assessment by 2008. Two years later, it has not been delivered to Congress.

The following is Senator Lautenberg’s prepared opening statement:

  • “Last month, during the morning rush hour, two huge explosions erupted in Moscow’s subway system—killing 40 commuters on platforms and on board trains. In recent years, we’ve seen similar bombing attacks in other train systems—including incidents in London, Madrid and Mumbai. Make no mistake: although these attacks occurred overseas—our rail systems here are terrorist targets.
  • “In February, an Al Qaeda operative pled guilty to planning a stunning terrorist attack in which bombs would be strapped to suicide bombers and detonated in New York City subway stations. Attorney General Eric Holder called this plot one of the most serious threats to the United States since September 11th.
  • “The evidence is clear: we must do everything possible to keep our nation’s transportation systems safe. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that we are meeting our obligations to keep our passenger rail systems, our freight networks and other surface transportation networks protected. And that is why we’re here today.
  • “For years, I have been sounding the alarm that our attention has been too one sided, that we can’t focus on aviation security alone, and that we need to also concentrate on safeguarding our surface transportation networks.
  • “The 9/11 commission echoed this concern when it characterized the federal emphasis on aviation security as, ‘fighting the last war,’ and noted that, ‘opportunities to do harm are as great or greater in maritime and surface transportation.’
  • “That is why we have worked diligently to provide the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA with what they need to secure our nation against attacks and fulfill their responsibilities under the 9/11 Commission Act.
  • “Still, DHS and the TSA have been far too slow to meet these responsibilities—especially when it comes to addressing rail security. In fact, the 9/11 Act required the TSA to complete by 2008 a comprehensive risk assessment and national security strategy for the rail sector. TSA has still not completed either of these.
  • “It is no wonder, then, that the White House released a report earlier this month in which the National Security Council called TSA to task for its failure to lead in protecting our surface transportation systems. Imagine what it would mean if a terrorist managed to carry out an attack on one of these systems.
  • “We have 140,000 miles of freight rail track ushering coal, chemicals and other goods. Liquid and natural gas that fuel our nation flow through more than one and a half million miles of pipeline. More than 70,000 riders board Amtrak every day. And 35 million Americans rely on public transportation daily.
  • “The bottom line is, we cannot afford to be anything less than vigilant—and that’s why we will keep working to do what it takes to make sure our families, the traveling public, and all Americans safe.”

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