Tuesday, March 6, 2018

HR 5089 Introduced – Local Transportation Security

Last month Rep. Barragan introduced HR 5089, the Strengthening Local Transportation Security Capabilities Act of 2018. The bill would increase DHS support to fusion centers supporting high-risk sur1face transportation assets.


Section 2 of the bill provides a number of definitions of terms that are used in the bill. Two of the key terms are:

Surface transportation asset {§2(2)} - includes facilities, equipment, or systems used to provide transportation services by:

• Public transportation agency;
• Railroad carrier;
• Over-the-road bus company; or
Bus terminal.

Transportation facility {§2(3)} - a bus terminal, intercity or commuter passenger rail station, airport, or multi-modal transportation center.

Fusion Center Support

Section 3 of the bill addresses assistance that DHS would be required to provide to fusion centers. First, DHS would be required to assign ‘officers and intelligence analysts’ from TSA and Office of Intelligence and Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security to locations with participating State, local, and regional fusion centers. Those personnel would be expected to develop “transportation security intelligence products, with an emphasis on terrorist and other threats to surface transportation assets” {§3(b)(1)}.

DHS would also be required to process security clearance requests by “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” {§3(c)}.

Other Surface Transportation Security Support

Section 4 would require TSA to develop a framework for the establishment of integrated and unified operations center for transportation facilities. Those operations centers would be responsible for overseeing daily operations with an emphasis on providing coordination for responses to terrorism, and other serious incidents.

Section 5 of the bill would allow DHS to establish at Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers a training program that would “enhance the protection, preparedness, and response capabilities of law enforcement agencies with respect to terrorism and other serious incidents at a surface transportation asset” {§5(a)}.

Moving Forward

Barragan is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. Both of her cosponsors are also influential Democrats on that Committee. The bill is scheduled to be considered in Committee on Wednesday.

I see nothing in the bill that would draw significant opposition; either in Committee or on the floor of the House. I suspect that it would receive substantial bipartisan support in both venues.


Generally, this is a motherhood and apple pie bill that makes it look like DHS and Congress are doing something to address surface transportation security. There are two main problems with this bill; the reliance on classified intelligence reports and the failure to include truck freight operations in surface transportation.

While it is certainly a good idea for fusion centers to share classified intelligence products with the potentially affected sector, the reality is that most transportation service providers referenced in this bill will not be able to afford the establishment and maintenance of secure transmission and storage facilities to receive and use those classified intelligence products. The largest entities (Class I railroads and the top two over-the-road bus companies for example) may be able to afford these facilities, but most organizations cannot either justify or afford the expenditure of funds necessary.

The bill should have required DHS to establish a formal, expedited process to extract actionable information from these classified reports that can be shared with organizations as Sensitive Security Information (SSI) rather than as classified information. The regulatory requirements for the receiving and storage of SSI information are still expensive, but are significantly more affordable than the requirements for classified information.

The second issue (failure to include truck freight operations) is more understandable. For the most part these freight operations are considered to be at substantially lower threat of terrorist attack. There are, however, one subset of the truck industry that should be considered as being at significant threat of terrorist attack, those trucking companies that handle hazardous materials. I would have added the following to the definition of ‘surface transportation asset’ as a covered provider of transportation services:

“(D) Freight truck operations that handle placarded (as defined in 49 CFR 172.500) loads of hazardous materials; and”

I understand that the trucking industry has been vociferous in their opposition to further security regulations affecting their operations. This bill, however, has no regulatory impact, so there should be little or no opposition to the inclusion of truck freight operations in the requirements outlined for DHS in the bill.

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