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Government Accountability Office: Federal agencies need to better manage transit-rail security


Federal agencies need to prioritize and guide passenger-rail security efforts, according to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

GAO analyzed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) actions to develop risk management principles and improve passenger-rail security, as well as security enhancements implemented by several domestic and foreign passenger-rail operators.

The office determined DHS has begun developing a framework to help public transit agencies and the private sector develop a consistent method to analyze and compare risks, but has not finalized anything. Until the framework is complete, the department can’t allocate security resources accordingly between public agencies and private businesses, according to GAO.

The office noted that the Office for Domestic Preparedness has completed seven risk assessments of passenger-rail systems and have 12 more under way. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also has begun to conduct risk assessments and establish guidelines for analyzing and characterizing risks, but has not completed the tasks or set timelines to do so. TSA can’t prioritize passenger-rail assets and help guide security investment decisions until risk assessments and guidelines are complete, GAO said.

The office recommends that the DHS direct TSA to develop a plan and timelines to complete procedures for conducting risk assessments, and develop rail security standards that can be measured and enforced. DHS also should consider the feasibility of implementing security practices used by foreign transit operators, such as conducting covert testing and random passenger and baggage screenings, and establishing a federal clearinghouse for security technology and best practices.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/12/2005