Wednesday, December 20, 2017

HR 4474 Introduced – Surface Transportation Security

Last month Rep. Watson-Coleman (D,NJ) introduced HR 4474, the Surface Transportation and Public Area Security Act of 2017. While the main focus of the bill is on public transportation security issues, it would have some impact on chemical transportation security issues.

Sections of the bill that may be of specific interest to readers of this blog include:

§106. Frontline employee security training.
§202. Risk scenarios.
§203. Assessments and security plans.
§301. Threat information sharing.
§302. Integrated and unified operations centers.
§304. Security technologies tied to foreign threat countries.

Security Training

Section 106 attempts to address the failure of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement surface transportation employee security training requirements established by Congress in 2007 (6 USC 1137, 1167, and 1184). TSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking in December 2016. The Fall 2017 Unified Agenda indicates that the Trump Administration currently intends to publish a final rule in September of next year, though that date slips each time the Unified Agenda is updated.

This section would require a report to Congress by the TSA on the status of the rulemaking and a subsequent review of that report by the DHS Inspector General.

Risk Scenarios

Section 202 would require TSA to annually use terrorist attack scenarios in establishing risk-based priorities supporting the modal transportation security plans currently required by 49 USC 114(s)(1)(B). Those scenarios are specifically required to include “cyber attack scenarios” {§202(b)}. A report to Congress is required on the priorities established, but details on the scenarios used is not required to be part of that report.

Security Plans

Similar to §106, §203 would require a report to Congress (with a subsequent review by the DHS IG) of the status of the rulemaking supporting the congressionally mandated (6 USC 1134, 1162, and 1181) development of security assessments and security plans by various surface transportation organizations. TSA published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on these requirements in December 2016 and the Trump Administration re-opened the comment period in March of this year. The current Unified Agenda lists this rulemaking under the ‘Long-Term Actions’ section with a ‘to be determined’ date for the issuance of an NPRM.

Information Sharing

Section 301 would specifically require TSA to provide personnel to support fusion centers “in jurisdictions with a high-risk surface transportation asset” {§302(a)} to improve the “timely sharing of classified information regarding terrorist and other threats”. It would also require DHS to provide assistance in obtaining security clearances for “appropriate owners and operators of surface transportation assets, and any other person that the Secretary determines appropriate to foster greater sharing of classified information relating to terrorist and other threats to surface transportation assets” {§302(c)}.

Security Technologies

Section 304 would require DHS to provide a report to Congress on the threats posed to surface transportation assets “posed by the use of security technologies, including soft4
ware and networked technologies, developed or manufactured by firms that are owned or closely linked to the governments of countries that are known to pose a cyber or homeland security threat”.

Moving Forward

Watson-Coleman is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee (as are a number of her co-sponsors), one of the two committees to which this bill was assigned for consideration. Other co-sponsors {including Rep. Lipinski, (D,IL)} are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the other committee to which the bill was assigned. This means that it is possible that this bill could be considered in either or both committees. There are no Republican co-sponsors, however, which would suggest that there is insufficient bipartisan support to move the bill forward in Committee.

The security training and security plan provisions of this bill are sure to draw objections from owners of the potentially affected transportation companies and their lobbying organizations. This makes it unlikely that the bill would be supported by a sufficient number of Republicans to move the bill forward in the House.

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