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USDOT relying on legislation, industry cooperation to improve U.S. transportation security, Mineta says


U.S. Department of Transportation is developing a set of national standards that address a prudent level of protection, and addressing strategic gaps between current and desired protection levels for the nation's critical transportation assets.

In an Oct. 30 keynote address at National Transportation Security Summit in Washington, D.C., Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta relayed those priorities as part of DOT's security strategy. DOT, transportation, labor and other industry groups are working together to identify best practices across all modes to incorporate into and form an aviation industry-like contingency response plan — something Mineta termed an unprecedented effort.

DOT in late September created National Infrastructure Security Committee to focus on intermodal transportation security issues. The committee formed Direct Action Groups, whose charge is to conduct meetings with key industry representatives and labor leaders to provide DOT input on maritime, pipeline and hazardous materials issues.

"In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, we've found ourselves revisiting very important issues that certainly had our attention prior to that date, but to which we're now a captive audience," said Mineta, according to a prepared statement. "These include the need for improved information sharing and dissemination of threat information between government and industry … and protections and incentives that encourage private sector entities to voluntarily work with government, and cooperate among themselves knowing their proprietary information is protected."

To narrow — and improve — DOT's security focus, Mineta plans to form a transportation security administration within DOT, and is banking on legislation to help make it happen.

Aviation security bill Secure Transportation for America Act of 2001 (H.R. 3150) — which would provide direct governmental control of security screening at U.S. airports — also would enable DOT to establish the administration that would govern security for all transportation modes. The bill is under House consideration.

And Rail Security Act of 2001 (S. 1550) — now in the Senate — would enable DOT to expand railroad police authority to any rail carrier, better assess security risks associated with railroads, and review and revise rail regulations to improve security.

"As we move forward from Sept. 11, we must increase our vigilance, and we must take new steps to move people and goods safely and efficiently, recognizing that the nature of threats have changed," said Mineta.