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What's Hot? — Transportation Security
One of the hottest contemporary topics is transportation security.
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) says, "In light of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, enhancing the security of our transportation system is expected to be one of the highest priorities of transportation agencies." And to underscore that prediction, more than 30 sessions and workshops were held as part of TRB's "Spotlight on Security and Recovery" at the TRB Annual Meeting in January 2002. TRB has devoted a Web site to transportation system security (www4.trb.org/trb/homepage.nsf/ web/security).
The TRB Strategic Plan, released in January 2002, states, "Transportation is a target because it concentrates people in aircraft and terminals and on vehicles that travel through tunnels and over bridges. Strengthening transportation security will require concerted application of new technologies, operations, and deterrence strategies."
And in Critical Issues in Transportation, the TRB Executive Committee adds, "Security must become a central goal of transportation. Achieving that goal will be difficult and costly, but necessary."
There have been changes at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) also. On Nov. 19, 2001, President Bush signed legislation creating the new Transportation Security Administration within DOT, and John W. Magaw has been appointed as DOT's undersecretary for transportation security and as the chief of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
In his address at the TRB Chairman's Luncheon, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta discussed a number of actions that DOT has already taken, and he stressed the collaborative nature of this work. Among these actions was the formation of "Go-Teams" to work intensively on specific tasks, present decision options, and then disband. Initially, eight Go-Teams were created. "Some of these have successfully completed their tasks and moved on," said Mineta.
"At present, we have some 36 Go-Teams launched and operating. They cover a thousand details small and large — from what uniforms the TSA security force will wear to the procurement, installation, and maintenance of explosive detection equipment for 429 airports," he added.
DOT Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson in a panel discussion at the TRB Annual Meeting mentioned that every aspect of transportation is under intense security scrutiny and that the effort is multimodal and includes the public and private sectors. He said, DOT "is strongly encouraging innovative thought" from all sectors on how technology can assist in this process. The private sector, he noted, "has not been shy" about sharing their ideas and promoting their products.
The Federal Highway Administration has also named a new program manager for transportation security. David A. Price, a career FHWA employee, has been assigned to this position and is responsible for providing program and technical advice on sensitive matters involving the protection of infrastructure and the maintenance of transportation services during and after national and/ or regional emergencies.
A lot of attention is now being placed on transportation security, but it would not be correct to think that nothing has been done in this area in the past. As Deputy Secretary Jackson pointed out at the TRB Annual Meeting, "It is obvious that the events of 9/11 have changed the transportation world, but transportation security and safety have always been a part of DOT's mission and focus."
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