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TSA Testimony on Transit Grants Program

Speeches & Testimony


Oral Statement
Before the

March 12, 2009

  • Click here to read TSA's written testimony on The Transit Grants Program.

Thank you. Good morning Chairman Price, Ranking Member Rogers, distinguished members of the Subcommittee, and my colleagues from FEMA, New York, and Los Angeles. I am pleased to be here today to discuss progress by the Transportation Security Administration on the rail and mass transit security grant programs.

Transit Security Strategy

The transit grant program is an important part of TSA’s intel-driven, risk-based, counterterrorism transit security strategy.

TSA’s counterterrorism transit strategy is focused on making high-risk transit systems less attractive targets and more secure—less attractive through forward-leaning, visible deterrence such as VIPRs [Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams], canines, mobile screening, security surges, trained front-line employees, an aware public, and behavioral detection capabilities; more secure through intrusion detection, access control, and facility hardening.

TSA’s transit strategy begins with active security partner engagement – peer advisors, two-way communication, best practice and intelligence-sharing, followed by continuous improvement, and finally, risk-based allocation of grant funding.

Regional Focus

TSA’s grant strategy begins with a regional focus. We believe that effective transit security requires an overall regional level of security. Manhattan cannot be protected if potential terrorists have free access to transit system in New Jersey.

The grant process in the past had mostly to do with “dividing up the pie” and individual agencies selecting projects that they separately deemed appropriate. TSA has shaped the process to begin with intelligence insights; focus resources on high-risk agencies; give priority to low-cost, high-return security measures; and use regional transit security working groups to identify, discuss, and determine regional priorities.

Stakeholder Input

Security partner input has shaped this process in many important ways. Two weeks after I started my job at TSA in the summer of 2006, I went to New York to meet [Metropolitan Transit Authority] Chief Bill Morange and his staff to ask for his transit security insights. Bill stressed that training, drills, canine teams, and mobile bag screening were common practices on the MTA.

That same month, I traveled to Houston to ask [Police] Chief Tom Lambert how we might set up a transit advisory group for TSA composed of key transit law enforcement chiefs. He said, “Hire someone who has walked in our shoes to lead the transit effort.” And we did.

We hired Paul Lennon, Jack Eckles’ predecessor in Los Angeles, as the general manager of transit. Paul is [sitting] right over here in the corner. We also hired Sonya Proctor, former chief with Amtrak. We also hired Fred Goodine, vice president of safety and risk management from Washington Metro.

Subsequent conversations with Chief Lambert created a way to streamline training grants to encourage more transit agencies to release front-line employees for training classes. New Jersey Transit proved a champion in getting Behavioral Assessment Training on a DHS-approved list for transit officers. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department fostered a regional versus agency view of transit security priorities. Chief John O’Connor from Amtrak developed the operating agreement protocols to allow increased Federal and local VIPR coordination exercises.

Executive Director Bill Morange, Chief Jim Hall from New York, and Chief Dan Finkelstein of Los Angeles are among the fine group of law enforcement chiefs advising TSA on a regular basis.


In summary, TSA’s transit security strategy evolves through, and is better from, constant interaction with our security partners and advisers. It is designed to make terrorist attack planning more difficult and the targets less attractive. And it is designed to make the facilities and systems more secure.

Transit grants are an important part of that strategy. The grant process is an important security tool to support our transit security strategy, and all of us at DHS want it to be as successful as possible.

We look forward to working with our partners at FEMA to award the additional grant funds provided in the Recovery Act as expeditiously as possible, to put more Americans to work securing our transit systems, and to make this grant process as streamlined and effective for security as we can. Thank you, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.