WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., in a continuing effort to oversee the progress of the Department of Homeland Security, warned that the Administration is doing too little to protect the nation’s transportation networks – including mass transit, rails, ports, containers, and air and freight cargo. In a letter to Secretary Tom Ridge, dated July 9, 2003, Lieberman cited multiple independent reports documenting serious vulnerabilities in all areas of transportation security.
“While the Transportation Security Administration has made progress in and devoted resources to improving air passenger and baggage screening, this same level of commitment has not been evident in other modes of transportation such as rail, public transit, air cargo or maritime,” Lieberman wrote. “Despite substantial documentation of the security deficiencies in these other areas, and widespread acknowledgment that security must be enhanced, little has been done by the Administration to remedy these vulnerabilities.” Lieberman noted the lack of an overall transportation security strategic plan seven months after the TSA became part of the Department of Homeland Security and more than a year after its creation. And even in the area of passenger aviation, security gaps persist. Lieberman pointed out, for example, that as of May 31, half of TSA’s approximately 53,000 airport screeners still had incomplete background checks. Lieberman also sought to pin down details about TSA’s $900 million shortfall for Fiscal Year 2003 and reconcile it with the Administration’s proposed $500 million decrease in TSA funding for Fiscal Year 2004. “The Administration’s apparent lack of commitment to taking concrete steps toward improved transportation security outside of passenger aviation is illustrated by its funding requests for TSA,” Lieberman wrote. His questions to Secretary Ridge include: