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Security for Intermodal Cargo Facilities and Operations | Commentary

Soon after the 113th Congress convenes next week, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act FY2015 (S2534) is expected to be raised in the Senate for debate and vote. This important piece of legislation addresses funding programs to sustain our nation’s critical national transportation infrastructure’s facilities and operations. In particular, this legislation authorizes $100 million for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), and an additional $10 billion for multimodal freight grant programs for rail, highway and port projects needed to ensure the efficient movement of goods across the country. Some of these funds are to be allocated via the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grants program.

However, the one piece of critical connective tissue that is not mentioned in this legislation is security. Security is a foundational element of safe, secure and effective intermodal cargo operations. Unfortunately, there has been no harmonization of security standards and practices for the facilities and operations of the individual modalities that, when linked together, form our intermodal cargo transportation system. Currently, oversight and enforcement of existing transportation modality-specific security requirements are split between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation.

In practice the lack of harmonization between security standards and practices between the rail lines operating trains of cargo or volatile materials into Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA)-regulated port facilities. The lack of harmonized security training, drills & exercises for intermodal facilities and their integrated port operations represents a serious deficiency, that is likely to degrade the system’s ability to respond to transportation security incidents that involve both the rail and port links of the intermodal cargo supply chain.

This deficiency may be corrected by integrating the following language in the mark-up of the FY 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, directing the following to ensure compliance with existing security standards and practices for the nation’s intermodal cargo facilities and operations:

1.As a matter of national policy, security is a critical component of an efficient and effective national trade and transportation system, and that security standards and practices will be implemented in accordance with appropriate presidential directives and federal statutes;

2.Sector-specific regulatory-required security standards and practices will be “harmonization” and integrated into a comprehensive program for application across the full spectrum of intermodal facilities and operations; and,

3.Funding for intermodal security programs may be drawn from Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grants, as well as the funds allocated for Port Security Program Grants.

Inclusion of this language in S2534 will greatly enhance the security and efficiency of our critical national intermodal trade and transportation system.

Ronald Thomason is a Senior Advisor for Security Dynamics LLC, which is internationally recognized as a leading security, risk mitigation, and counterterrorism consultancy. He also serves as the Vice President of Strategic Programs for the Maritime Security Council.

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