The Subcommittee on Transportation Security of the House Homeland Security Committee has published the witness list for their hearing tomorrow on the effectiveness of the TSA Surface Inspection Program. I was wrong yesterday in suggesting that there would be someone from TSA testifying; all of the announced witnesses are from the private sector. The witnesses represent the railroads (freight and passenger), trucking, and bus travel.
The hearing web-site describes the purpose this way:
“Given the reality that terrorists see surface transportation as a very attractive target, we owe it to taxpayers to take a close look at TSA's inspectors program and determine whether this is a good use of limited resources, or if this funding would be better spent on other surface initiatives designed to prevent an attack.”
The currently scheduled witnesses are:
• Mr. John O’Connor, Chief of Police, Amtrak;
• Mr. Skip Elliott, Vice President of Public Safety and Environment, CSX, Testifying on behalf of the Association of American Railroads;
• Mr. Philip L. Byrd Sr., President, Bulldog Hiway Express, Testifying on behalf of the American Trucking Associations;
• Mr. William C. Blankenship,Chief Operating Officer, Greyhound Lines, Inc.; and
• Mr. Doug Morris, Director, Safety and Security Operations, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
While the TSA provides counter-terrorism support to the passenger railroad industry in the form of VIPER teams, the only real surface transportation program that the TSA currently has in place that calls for inspectors is the transportation of hazardous chemicals by rail. The only other ‘inspection’ activity is the Corporate Security Reviews conducted on a voluntary basis. Of course, even if there were the congressionally mandated security programs in place it is almost certain that the small size of the surface transportation inspection force would not be able to ‘inspect’ even a statistically significant sample of the covered organizations.
It will be interesting to see what alternatives might be available to protect the vast surface transportation network in this country that so many people rely upon every day.