Magazine article National Defense

GAO Slams Rail Security

Magazine article National Defense

GAO Slams Rail Security

Article excerpt

A Government Accountability Office report on U.S. rail security portrayed a passenger system seriously lagging behind its foreign counterparts when it comes to preparing for terrorist attacks.

As of July 2005, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration had not completed a risk assessment for the passenger rail sector. Security directives hastily issued in May 2004 after the March terrorist attacks on the Madrid rail system did not allow for public comment from stakeholders, resulting in confusion, and sometimes conflicts with safety measures. For example, a directive that rail engineers' compartments remain locked contradicted Federal Railroad Administration regulations requiring they remain open in case a quick escape is needed.

The report's authors, who traveled to 13 foreign rail systems to investigate their security measures, had several recommendations. Among the practices that could be transferred to federal authority were:

Covert testing to keep employees alert about their security responsibilities. This includes such tactics as placing suspicious items throughout the system to test reaction time. Some foreign operators carried out such drills on a daily basis.

Random screening of baggage. …

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