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The Courier-Journal July 8, 2005

Rogers says agency slow to act on protections

By James R. Carroll

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky says the United States isn't providing the security necessary to guard against the kind of attack that hit London's subway and bus system.

"We're really lax," Rogers, R-5th District, said in a telephone interview yesterday from Dublin, Ireland, where he's attending a conference on aviation security.

Rogers blamed the federal Transportation Security Administration for not coming up with plans to better protect the nation's buses, trains and subways.

"We can't get TSA to do anything but aviation security," said Rogers, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's homeland security subcommittee that has responsibility for writing spending bills on anti-terror programs.

Asked to respond, Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Valerie Smith said the department, which oversees the transportation agency, is "committed to working with Congress to enhance security for the American people."

Rogers said Congess has asked the transportation agency to identify what can be done to make mass ground transit safer "and we'll find the money to do it with. (But) we can't get a (budget) request."

The agency was supposed to report to Congress in February on how mass transit systems could be better protected against terrorism. The agency missed the deadline and has asked for an extension, Rogers said.

The House has agreed to give the agency until January.

"In the interim, we've got nothing," Rogers said. His panel is likely to hold hearings soon on the terrorist threat to the nation's public transportation.

The Bush administration has requested $600 million in fiscal 2006 -- a 50 percent increase -- to provide protection to public transportation, ports and highways.

Homeland security agencies also are providing anti-terrorism technical advice and training to dozens of transit agencies, according to the department.

But the effort and money spent on transit security is dwarfed by the billions that have gone to aviation security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va.-based group that studies terrorism and homeland security issues.

He agreed with Rogers that security on rail and bus systems is lax.

"I think you can just walk right in," Pike said.

The American Public Transportation Association, which represents the nation's transit systems and state transportation agencies, estimates $6 billion is needed to strengthen security for systems that collectively serve 32 million riders daily.

Since the 2001 attacks, the federal government has spent $250 million on transit security, said the Washington-based group. By contrast, $18 billion has been spent on aviation security.

In fiscal 2005, Congress appropriated $150 million for transportation security, including $108 million for rail systems and $22 million for buses.

 


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