U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation, joined Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in reintroducing S. 763, the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act. The legislation, which is substantially similar to the bill introduced late last Congress, would address deficiencies in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to protect rail, transit, highway, and maritime passenger and freight transportation.
“To keep Americans safe, Congress must continually focus attention on areas of neglect and potential weakness to keep them from becoming targets for terrorism,” said Thune. “The Commerce Committee will soon vote on these important reforms for the TSA.”
The legislation would address concerns, raised by independent government watchdog agencies, that TSA is not adequately positioned to identify security risks across different modes of transportation or effectively support federal, state, local and private providers of transportation security. TSA has previously said in testimony to Congress that it uses only three percent of its budget on surface transportation security.
Highlights of the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act:
Enhances Risk-Based Security Planning
- Requires the TSA administrator to conduct a risk analysis and implement a risk-based security model for surface transportation facilities.
- Mandates risk-based budgeting for surface transportation security focusing resources on current threats with annual reviews of program effectiveness.
Canine Explosive Detection Teams for Surface Transportation
- Authorizes as many as 70 additional canine teams to work in surface transportation security as soon as possible.
- Requires a review of the number, location, and utilization of canine teams in surface transportation security to ensure effective use.
- Following this review and the implementation of recommendations, TSA may then raise the total number of canine teams to 200 or higher as identified in TSA’s risk-based analysis.
- Mirroring the advisory committee for aviation established by the Aviation Security Stakeholder Participation Act of 2014, establishes a Surface Transportation Advisory Committee to provide stakeholders and the public with the opportunity to coordinate with the agency and comment on policy and pending regulations.
- Requires that TSA budget submissions clearly indicate which resources will be used for surface transportation security and which will be dedicated to aviation.
- Directs TSA to regularly update Congress on the status of long overdue surface transportation rulemakings.
Enhances Passenger Rail Security
- Authorizes the use of computerized vetting systems for passenger rail at the request of Amtrak police and the Amtrak Board of Directors.
- Allows grant funding to be used to enhance passenger manifest data so that rail passengers can be identified in case of emergency.
Click here for the full text of S. 763, the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act.