Passenger Rail Security: Enhanced Federal Leadership Needed to Prioritize and Guide Security Efforts Page: 2 of 100
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Highlights of GAO-05-851, a report to
Why GAO Did This Study
The U.S. passenger rail system is a
vital component of the nation's
carrying more than 11 million
passengers each weekday. The
Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) and the Department of
Transportation (DOT) share
responsibility for ensuring the
safety and security of rail systems.
In this report, GAO addressed
(1) DHS actions to assess the risks
to the U.S. passenger rail system in
the context of prevailing risk
management principles, (2) federal
actions taken to enhance the
security of the U.S. passenger rail
system, and (3) security practices
that domestic and selected foreign
passenger rail operators have
GAO is recommending, among
other things, that the Secretary of
DHS direct the Assistant Secretary
of the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) to develop a
plan with timelines for completing
its methodology for conducting risk
assessments and develop rail
security standards that can be
measured and enforced. The
Secretary also should consider the
feasibility of implementing certain
security practices used by foreign
operators. DHS, DOT, and Amtrak
reviewed a draft of this report and
generally agreed with the report's
recommendations. DHS's detailed
comments and GAO's response are
contained in the report.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Cathleen
Berrick at (202) 512-8777 or JayEtta Hecker
at (202) 512-2834
PASSENGER RAIL SECURITY
Enhanced Federal Leadership Needed to
Prioritize and Guide Security Efforts
What GAO Found
Within DHS, the Office for Domestic Preparedness has completed 7 risk
assessments of passenger rail systems around the country, with 12 more
under way. TSA has begun to conduct risk assessments and to establish a
methodology for determining how to analyze and characterize risks that
have been identified but has not yet completed either effort or set timelines
for doing so. TSA will not be able to prioritize passenger rail assets and help
guide security investment decisions until these efforts are completed. At the
department level, DHS has begun developing, but has not yet completed, a
framework to help agencies and the private sector develop a consistent
approach for analyzing and comparing risks to transportation and other
sectors. Until this framework is finalized and shared with stakeholders, it
may not be possible to compare risks across different sectors, prioritize
them, and allocate resources accordingly.
The Federal Transit Administration and Federal Railroad Administration
within DOT have ongoing initiatives to enhance passenger rail security. In
addition, in 2004, TSA issued emergency security directives to domestic rail
operators after terrorist attacks on the rail system in Madrid, Spain, and
piloted a test of explosive detection technology for use in passenger rail
systems. However, federal and rail industry officials raised questions about
the feasibility of implementing and complying with the directives, citing
limited opportunities to collaborate with TSA to ensure that industry best
practices were incorporated. In September 2004, DHS and DOT signed a
memorandum of understanding to improve coordination between the two
agencies, and they are developing agreements to address specific rail
Domestic and foreign passenger rail operators we contacted have taken a
range of actions to help secure their systems. We also observed security
practices among certain foreign passenger rail systems or their governments
that are not currently used by the domestic rail operators we contacted, or
by the U.S. government, and which could be considered for use in the United
States. For example, some foreign rail operators randomly screen
passengers, and some foreign governments maintain centralized
clearinghouses on rail security technologies and best practices.
Example of high
visibility canine sweep
at mass transit station
Source: Developed by GAO with photo provided by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Passenger Rail Security: Enhanced Federal Leadership Needed to Prioritize and Guide Security Efforts, report, September 9, 2005; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc298582/m1/2/: accessed January 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.