Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Vice Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, announced the Surface Transportation and Public Area Security Act of 2017.
If enacted, the legislation would restore, revamp, and resource important programs aimed at securing critical soft targets, such as railroads, buses and the public areas of airports. The bill would also enhance federal partnership with state and local stakeholders to protect vital transit systems and the people who use them. Watson Coleman announced plans to introduce the legislation at a field hearing in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District held by the Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security of the Committee on Homeland Security.
“It has become increasingly clear that the Federal Government has fallen behind in ensuring that our mass transit systems are secure and safe. Knowing that, I am appalled by the Trump Administration's proposal to cut the few existing transit security programs,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “The Surface Transportation and Public Area Security Act of 2017 will finally give transit agencies the resources and tools they need to enhance security and commuters nationwide the assurances of safety they deserve. It is imperative that, as federal legislators, we learn from the deadly attacks we’ve seen worldwide and take all the necessary steps to prevent such tragedy on American soil.”
In August, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) dedicated an edition of its online-only English-language propaganda magazine to teaching followers how to derail trains in Europe and the U.S.
In September, the Republican-controlled House Rules Committee rejected an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill that would have restored $43 million in funding for TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams - one of the few federal programs that supports rail security. These teams are deployed to provide security at various transportation facilities, including rail and bus stations. The Trump Administration has also proposed cutting the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), which transit agencies rely on to fund key security measures, from $88 million to only $48 million.
Watson Coleman’s legislation would authorize $400 million for the TSGP, direct TSA to maintain 60 VIPR teams, and restore funding for the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement Program. The bill would make law enforcement reimbursement available for surface transportation; increase the deployment of explosive detection canines to surface transportation; require a review of whether it is appropriate for people to be able to carry guns into public transportation areas; and direct the dissemination of best practices for securing against vehicle-based attacks, such as the recent attack in New York.