U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Government Website

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Safely connect using HTTPS

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Testimony
  4. Statement for the record of the TSA and FEMA for a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing titled “Securing Our Nation's Mass Transit Systems against a Terrorist Attack”

Statement of John S. Pistole, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, and Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency, before the the Committee on Homeland Security: "Securing Our Nation's Mass Transit Systems against a Terrorist Attack"

Release Date: May 3, 2011

Cannon Office Building
Washington, D.C.

Good Morning Chairman King, Ranking Member Thompson, and distinguished Members of the Committee. I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the efforts of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the mass transit and passenger rail sector.

The mission of TSA is to protect the Nation's transportation system to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. Mass transit systems and passenger railroads are critical parts of the system that TSA is charged with protecting. Together, these systems - which include subways, bus transit systems, ferries, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), and commuter railroads, among others - provide over 10 billion passenger trips per year.

In meeting this mission, TSA's goal is to maximize transportation security in response to the evolving terrorist threat, while protecting passengers' privacy and facilitating the flow of commerce.

The U.S. mass transit and passenger rail systems remain a target for terrorist groups and have been the subject of numerous plots in the United States, as well as attacks overseas. Serving large populations in major metropolitan areas, many have substantial underground infrastructure, bridges and transportation staging areas, or hubs, which can include other forms of transportation. The characteristics essential to the efficient movement of millions of people - i.e., an open architecture connecting large populations in major metropolitan areas through multimodal systems within multimodal infrastructures - create potential security vulnerabilities.

TSA's Mass Transit and Passenger Rail Programs

TSA utilizes a number of programs to secure and safeguard mass transit and passenger rail operations. In keeping with the themes that guided the March 2010 Surface Transportation Security Priority Assessment, many of these programs enhance security by addressing policy gaps and obstacles, enhancing coordination and unity of effort, and maximizing the use of partner strengths and capabilities. TSA supports Mission 1 - Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security - of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and are aligned with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) programmatic activities and organizational structure as found in the Bottom-Up Review Report of July 2010.

For example, DHS has a comprehensive Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) that provides awards to eligible transit agencies to support State and local governments in devising and implementing initiatives to improve security. TSA also deploys Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams in the mass transit and passenger rail domains with local law enforcement entities to augment the security protocols provided by the local systems. Determinations about where to locate resources are based on risk and various mass transit and passenger rail assessments. In all of our programs, we are committed to strengthening local and state efforts while working collaboratively with our private sector partners.

Collaboration between Federal, state, local and private entities is also demonstrated through the Public Transportation Security Annex to the DHS/Department of Transportation (DOT) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on security. The Annex identifies specific areas of coordination among the parties, including citizen awareness, training, exercises, risk assessments and information sharing. To implement the Annex, TSA - along with DOT's Federal Transit Administration and the FEMA's Grant Programs Directorate - has developed a framework that leverages each agency's resources and capabilities. This MOU also provides a framework for coordination on programs like safety and security roundtables, security standards, training, security data collection and analysis, and technical resource documents.

The Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP)

The TSGP helps create a sustainable, risk-based effort to protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism. Eligible agencies are determined by the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) urban areas list and the National Transit Database based on unlinked passenger trips. The TSGP is currently the primary vehicle providing funding assistance for security enhancements to eligible domestic mass transit and passenger rail agencies and employs risk-based prioritization for funding decisions.

TSA works with the FEMA Grant Programs Directorate to fund projects that most effectively mitigate risks at the highest-risk transit and passenger rail properties. In 2010, the TSGP provided $273.4 million to the transit and passenger rail industry and a total of $1.6 billion since 2006. Similar, but smaller grant programs, have supported over-the-road bus operations.

Operational Deterrence Activities

One very effective and cost-efficient anti-terrorism TSGP effort has been in the area of operational deterrence activities. These activities include public awareness campaigns, training, drills, and exercises. Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, the TSGP has awarded approximately $175 million for these activities. One of the most well-known campaigns is the "If You See Something, Say Something," campaign, which was originally implemented by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and is a simple and effective way to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats and emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.

Anti-Terrorism Transit and Passenger Rail Activities

Additional TSGP funding has supported non-federal law enforcement positions for anti-terrorism activities. Since FY 2006, DHS has awarded $29.7 million for 60 canine teams and $93.9 million for 304 officers to create 77 anti-terrorism teams. These officers enhance security, provide a visible deterrent and augment our nimble, risk-based approach to provide assistance where it can best be put to use. The TSGP also provides funds for transit, passenger rail and law enforcement agencies to hire non-Federal officers to serve as mobile explosives detection screeners. The officers for each of these teams are direct employees of the transit system/passenger rail/law enforcement agency, and they are deployed according to security needs within the local transit or passenger rail system.

Critical Infrastructure Protection Activities

Transit security grants have also been used for critical infrastructure protection activities. These activities include intrusion detection, physical hardening, and surveillance measures for underwater tunnels, bridges, and multi-user high-volume stations. Since FY 2006, the TSGP has funded $155.2 million for underwater tunnel hardening, $168.5 million for critical station physical security measures such as perimeter protection and closed circuit television (CCTV), and over $28 million for suspension bridge hardening.

In support of the TSGP, DHS has identified those assets it considers nationally critical to surface transportation. These assets were then analyzed based on threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences by both government and industry stakeholders to guide our risk-based assessment of high priority transit and passenger rail assets.

The budget bill passed by Congress last month for Fiscal Year 2011 provides $250 million in funding for public transportation security assistance and railroad security assistance. Included in this amount is a 5.8% (or $14.5 million) allowance for the FEMA Management and Administration (M&A), $20 million for Amtrak, and $5 million for Intercity Bus. TSA will dedicate $10 million for freight rail security, leaving $200.5 million for the TSGP.

Mass Transit and Passenger Rail Assessments

By performing baseline and collaborative risk assessments in the mass transit and passenger rail domains, TSA is able to engage state and local partners on how to reduce vulnerabilities, assess risk, and improve security efforts. These assessments are conducted with emphasis on the 100 largest mass transit and passenger rail systems in terms of passenger volume, which collectively account for over 80 percent of all users of public transportation.

Transportation Systems Sector Risk Assessment

Through the Transportation Systems Sector Risk Assessment, TSA evaluates threat, vulnerability and consequence in a wide range of terrorist attack scenarios for each mode of transportation. For mass transit and passenger rail, this assessment considered more than 200 scenarios, rating threat capabilities and likelihood of execution; vulnerabilities of rail and bus systems and infrastructure; and potential consequences in casualties, property damage, and impacts on the transportation network. The resulting risk ranking enables TSA to set informed mitigation priorities, both across the sector and by individual mode, for collaborative security strategies, program development, and resource allocations.

Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement

The Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) is a comprehensive security assessment program designed to evaluate 17 Security and Emergency Management Action Items that form the foundation of an effective security program. Through the BASE program, TSA reviews security-related proposals jointly developed by TSA, the Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and sector partners from mass transit and passenger rail systems. The security action items represent a comprehensive update of the Security Program Actions for Mass Transit Agencies that FTA developed following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The assessment results provide critical data about security priorities, the development of security enhancement programs, the allocation of resources (including security grants), and a compilation of the most effective security practices for mass transit and passenger rail agencies. Over 115 mass transit/passenger rail agencies have undertaken the BASE assessment.

BASE is intended to elevate the security posture and readiness throughout the mass transit and passenger rail mode by implementing and sustaining baseline security measures applicable to the operating environment and characteristics of mass transit and passenger rail systems. TSA implements this continuous improvement process through its Transportation Security Inspectors - Surface (TSI-S), who conduct the assessments in partnership with the mass transit and passenger rail agencies' security chiefs and directors. These evaluations have significantly contributed to an elevation in the mass transit security posture.

Collaborative Risk Assessment Initiatives

TSA is developing and fielding a risk assessment capability focused on individual mass transit and passenger rail agencies, their regional security partners, and connecting and adjoining transportation systems. This effort aims to produce several risk and vulnerability assessment tools integrated into a single platform to enable TSA and its component security partners in DHS to conduct joint assessments of mass transit and passenger rail agencies, employing resources more efficiently and improving the audit process.

Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Team

TSA currently has 25 Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) multi-modal teams in operation and the FY 2012 budget request includes funding for 12 additional VIPR teams. VIPR teams are comprised of personnel with expertise in inspection, behavior detection, security screening, and law enforcement for random, unpredictable deployments throughout the transportation sector to deter potential terrorist acts. TSA's VIPR teams work alongside local law enforcement agencies throughout the transportation domain, enhancing the agency's ability to leverage a variety of resources quickly to increase security in any mode of transportation anywhere in the country. VIPR teams also represent an ongoing effort to develop surge capacity to enhance security in public transportation systems. TSA conducted over 8,000 VIPR operations in the past 12 months, including over 3,700 operations in mass transit venues. VIPR operational plans are developed with a risk-based methodology, in conjunction with local transportation security stakeholders, and conducted jointly by TSA, local law enforcement, and transportation security resources.

To enhance coordination and deterrent effects of VIPR team operations, TSA and the representatives of the Transit Policing and Security Peer Advisory Group (PAG) work together to improve coordination, preparation, planning, execution, and after action review of VIPR deployments in mass transit and passenger rail systems. This cooperation has grown since the mutually agreed upon operating guidelines for "Effective Employment of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams in Mass Transit and Passenger Rail" were implemented in October 2007. The guidelines were distributed to Federal Security Directors (FSDs), lead regional Surface Inspectors, and Federal Air Marshal Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge (FAM SACs) around the country to improve the effectiveness of the VIPR program.

Collaboration and Communication with State, Local and Tribal Authorities and the Private Sector

TSA works with DOT's FTA and the Federal Railroad Administration, trade groups representing mass transit and passenger rail interests, and the transit and passenger rail agencies to improve security. Through the National Infrastructure Protection Plan partnership model, TSA chairs the Government Coordinating Council, and regularly consults with the Sector Coordinating Council. To a large degree, TSA's role is to empower our State and local partners through training and exercise programs like the Intermodal Security Training and Exercise Program (I-STEP) and grant programs like TSGP.

Proactive and continuous collaboration is crucial for the success of mass transit and passenger rail security operations. TSA collaborates with senior executives, law enforcement chiefs and security managers for mass transit and passenger rail agencies; State, local and tribal officials; emergency responders; and Federal partners to foster regional security coordination and to integrate the spectrum of available resources for enhanced deterrent and response capabilities. 

Meetings take place regularly with these key officials through such collaborative forums as the Mass Transit Sector Coordinating Council, the Transit Policing and Security Police Advisory Group, and the Regional Transit Security Working Groups in higher risk areas, and the annual Transit Safety and Security Roundtables that bring together the law enforcement chiefs, security directors and safety officers of the Nation's 60 largest mass transit and passenger rail agencies with their Federal security partners to discuss specific terrorism prevention and response challenges and collaborate in advancing effective solutions. These efforts aim to ensure coordinated development and implementation of effective security strategies nationally and to build collaborative regional networks that expand capabilities to prevent acts of terrorism, to increase resiliency and to respond to and recover from threats and security incidents.

Sharing Security Information

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice and Amtrak, TSA announced a significant step toward enhancing the security of the Nation's rail infrastructure with the implementation of a nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) capability throughout the entire Amtrak rail system in 2010. The SAR initiative is a partnership among Federal, state, and local law enforcement to establish a standard process for law enforcement to identify and report suspicious incidents or activity and share that information nationally so it can be analyzed to identify broader trends. Under this collaborative program, Amtrak officers are also utilizing an upgraded reporting system—made available by TSA—to refer suspicious activity reports to DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for analysis and follow-up.

TSA also provides timely, accurate intelligence and security information to mass transit and passenger rail agency officials through joint DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, TSA Office of Intelligence (TSA-OI), and FBI classified intelligence and analysis briefings. Briefings are provided to mass transit and passenger rail security directors and law enforcement chiefs in major metropolitan areas, as well as Amtrak, through the Joint Terrorism Task Force network's secure video teleconferencing system.

TSA Mass Transit Security Awareness Messages provide intelligence products to mass transit and passenger rail security and management officials and State and local partners. TSA is constantly working with our partners to enhance the scope, accuracy, timeliness, and efficiency of information sharing to develop a unified, comprehensive intelligence and security information sharing platform for the mode, with reports and other materials on security technologies as an essential component.

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Thompson, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and I look forward to answering your questions.

Last Updated: 03/08/2022
Was this page helpful?
This page was not helpful because the content