Thursday, September 15, 2011

Subcommittee Adopts Amended TSA Authorization Bill

Yesterday the Transportation Security Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee approved an amended version of a draft TSA authorization bill on a party-line 6 to 3 vote. Twenty amendments were considered by the Subcommittee; nine were adopted, one was withdrawn and ten were rejected.

As with most TSA related legislation, the bulk of the proposed bill adopted by the Subcommittee deals with air transportation security issues. There are, however, a number of important surface transportation issues addressed in the bill. They include:

• A review of security credentialing programs;

• Adding hazmat truck drivers to TWIC program;

• Establishing a railroad IED detection program;

• A review of the pipeline security MOU with DOT;

• Establishing a Surface Transportation Advisory Committee; and

• A review of intelligence information sharing.

Security Credential Review

Section 302 would require the DHS Secretary to establish a TWIC review task force that includes representatives of Federal agencies, industry and labor. The task force would review the current list of disqualifying crimes and the potential harmonization of Federal security credentialing requirements.

Hazmat Driver’s TWIC

Section 304 of the bill would amend the Homeland Security Act to require the development of a definition of ‘security-sensitive materials’ (SSM) for motor transportation. It would then require that drivers transporting such materials possess a TWIC and require shippers of SSM to verify the possession of a TWIC before allowing a driver to accept an SSM load. This section would also grandfather current HMEs until they expire. Section 306 would then eliminate the issuance of future HMEs.

Railroad IED Detection

Section 323 would establish a demonstration program to look at possible technologies that would address the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against railroads. First it would look at detecting IEDs “on bridges and in tunnels through the use of foreign object detection programs” {§323(b)(1)}. Next the program would address how to “defeat improvised explosive devices left on rail tracks” {§323(b)(2)}. No mention is made about building on IED detection and response technologies developed by the military.

Pipeline Security MOU

Section 325 would require the Comptroller General to review the current pipeline security annex to the DOT-DHS memorandum of understanding (MOU) dealing with the delineation of transportation security responsibilities. The study would look at the clarity of the delineation of responsibilities for protecting against, responding to, and recovering from intentional pipeline breaches. It would also look at how the government would determine if a pipeline breach was intentional or accidental.

Surface Transportation Advisory Committee

Section 341 would require the establishment of a Surface Transportation Advisory Committee “to assist the Assistant Secretary with issues pertaining to surface transportation security” {§1311(a)(1)}. Membership would come from up to 27 public and private organizations (including labor unions) representing surface transportation security stakeholders. One of the priority issues to be addressed by STAC would be the submission to the Assistant Secretary of “recommendations on improving homeland security information sharing between components of the Department of Homeland Security and surface transportation security stakeholders” {§341(a)(2)(B)}.

Intelligence Information Sharing

Section 342 would require the Assistant Secretary to develop a intelligence information sharing plan that would improve information sharing “with State and local transportation entities that includes best practices to ensure that the information shared is actionable, useful, and not redundant” {§342(a)}. It does not provide for sharing of information with shippers and transporters which would be a prerequisite for adequate security planning.

Moving Forward

The next step for this bill will be a hearing before the full Committee. Typically we would expect to see that scheduled in the next week or two.

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