On Tuesday the White House issued an executive order (EO) entitled “Strengthening Surface Transportation Security.” The order mandates that DHS will put forward a sector-specific plan for surface transportation security under the auspices of the NIPP, and utilize that effort to identify gaps, determine funding priorities, issue new security requirements, and improve information-sharing capabilities in the sector.
This executive order comes only weeks before the start of the 110th Congress, during which the new Democratic leadership plans to prioritize rail and transit security legislation. This executive order seems like an attempt to pre-empt these efforts, and incoming House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson described this executive order in a press release as a “smokescreen.”
I have a similar reaction reading the executive order, which essentially admits that this issue has been ignored over the past five years. Why didn’t DHS develop a strategic plan for rail, transit, and trucking security two, or three, or four years ago? Why does it take this political sea-change to serve as a forcing action? While there are certainly limits to what can be done effectively to secure these modes of transport, there is definitely more that needs to be done, and hopefully we’ll see progress in these modes in the coming year.
You can read all of my posts on ground transport security issues over the past year in this topic thread.