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Homeland Security

The Testimony of
The Honorable John McCain
Chairman, U.S. Senator (R-AZ)

As we approach the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, it is appropriate that we again focus our attention on transportation security. Since that fateful day, our nation has been fighting the war on terrorism. Whether it is our security abroad or at home, we cannot afford to lapse into complacency as we grow accustomed to the so-called new kind of normal. Much has been accomplished over the last two years, and I think many would agree that transportation security is at its highest level ever, particularly aviation security. However, we need to remain vigilant across all modes of transportation, for the threat to our country has not waned. If we are serious about countering terrorist threats - and we are - we need to have confidence in our security efforts across all modes of transportation, and that requires our continued attention to instituting or upgrading sound and reasoned security initiatives.

Today's hearing is intended to provide both a forum to review what has occurred over the last two years, and to determine what remains to be done to strengthen transportation security and how we can do it.

With respect to aviation security, we must ensure that the accomplishments of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are not lost. Over the last six months, the TSA has reduced its screener workforce by 6,000 due to budgetary and appropriations pressures. While there has been a lot of discussion in the press about the impact of these reductions on waiting times at checkpoints, the real question we need to know is "what is the impact on security?" A screener corps that is overworked and stretched too thin is simply not going to be able to carry out the job we are relying on them to do.

With respect to ground transportation, we need to make sure that independent actions initiated so far by TSA, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and industry are followed up with a systematic program of security enhancements based on each mode's particular needs. Clearly, there is need to enhance security on our highway and transit networks, yet both are intentionally open and easily accessible and therefore, more difficult to harden against terrorist acts. Railroads and pipelines, with their extensive unprotected rights-of-way, also present unique challenges. Further, we need to make sure that safety and security efforts at DOT and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are adequately coordinated, since safety and security so often overlap.

Maritime security, because of the immense volume of trade that must move through our nation's ports, remains a daunting task. While the Administration has taken action to implement the many important requirements of the Maritime Security Act of 2002, many in the maritime community still wonder who is in charge. They are confused by what in some cases appears to be competing requirements of the various agencies claiming responsibility for maritime security.

Such confusion, not unique to the maritime industry, is compounded by the lack of agreements between the various agencies and departments responsible for transportation security. Transportation security is far too important to be placed in limbo due to needless agency turf battles. I hope our witnesses today can finally clarify the roles and relationships of the agencies they represent.

Our country was the victim of a terrible crime. Its after-effects will continue to be felt. We must be diligent in protecting our country, but always be cognizant of the burdens we are placing on our citizens and industries.

I thank our witnesses for being here and welcome their insights into transportation security.

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