Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to expand the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to cover all modes of transportation, not just air travel.
Senator John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) are the sponsors of the bill (S. 3379). They are introducing it following recent news of a pipe bomb explosion at a rail station in New Jersey.
“As we’ve seen recently, train and subway stations aren’t immune to terrorist attacks,” said Nelson. “Despite this fact, the majority of TSA activities focus on security at airports. This bill says that TSA should take into account all forms of transportation when it comes to security and provides the agency with some tools needed to get it done.”
According to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, the agency only spends 3% of its annual budget protecting trains, subways, buses and ports.
The bill would require the TSA to immediately increase the number of K-9 teams patrolling train stations and ports. It authorizes up to 70 additional K-9 teams to work in surface transportation security as soon as possible, and up to 200 total could be added by TSA upon review of their effectiveness.
It would also require the TSA to enhance its screening of rail passengers and maritime workers, and it requires the TSA administrator to conduct a risk analysis and implement a risk-based security model for surface transportation facilities. The legislation would authorize the use of computerized vetting systems for passenger rail at the request of Amtrak police and the Amtrak Board of Directors.