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Hearing of the Railroads Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Railroad Security

Location: Washington, DC












REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and the ranking member. Mr. Chairman, I know you've been a great advocate for rail in this country for a long, long time, and I appreciate all the work that you do. I actually am not a member of this committee, but I do serve on the Subcommittee on National Security and Emerging Threats. And what I think we have here is an emerging threat in our rail system.

I represent most of the city of Boston and towns south of there, and I am part-our city is part of the Northeast rail corridor, which handles quite a volume of the passenger rail traffic in the country. And it is part of that Northeast corridor that also includes the city of New York and also the city of Washington DC, for that matter. According to the Mineta Transportation Institute recently, we heard that we'd had about 200 attacks on transit systems over the past few years by terrorist organizations. And it goes back to the Tokyo situation where they had terrorists using chemical agents on the subway there, the Chechen rebels attacking the Moscow subways for the past 10 years, the situation with the Algerian terrorists in Paris, on their subway, in 1995, and as well the transit systems in Israel that are attacked on a monthly basis, if not weekly basis. And also, the most recent dramatic example of the Madrid train bombings.

We need to realize that just as prior to September 11th, Europe had a different approach and a different experience with terrorism in the aviation sector, that we have a similar parallel here in the United States with respect to rail security. If you visited any of the major airports in Europe prior to 9/11, whether it was Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome or in Paris, or Heathrow in London, they had the security. They had passenger screening before September 11th. They had heavily armed guards in those airports prior to September 11th. We did not. We were under the assumption that we were not vulnerable, that we were invincible, if you will.

Well, if you look at the Europe situation and the rail traffic and the experience that they've had with terrorist attacks on their rail system, and you look at what they're doing and what we're doing, we're falling into the same trap, quite frankly. And I don't know if people think that-and with all do respect, I appreciate FRA coming, Mr. Rutter, and Mr. Lunner from TSA. I just don't want people to expect that we're going to use the same response to September 11th in this case with rail security. After September 11th, we, rightly or wrongly, were able to say, we never saw it coming.

In this situation, we've seen it. We've seen what's coming. And we can either choose to respond to it and develop a safe system of passenger rail and cargo rail in this country, or we can ignore it and suffer the consequences. But certainly we have seen it coming.

I actually had a summit on rail security up in Boston last week, and I invited all of my rail people. And I was disappointed that, unlike the aviation side, which we've spent $11 billion on, $11 billion on aviation security, we've actually allocated about $115 million on rail security, and we've only used a small portion of that, about $35 million. And we can talk about that some more if you release some more money. But also, we have to realize that we carry five times as many rail passengers as we do airline passengers. And so I think the balancing of resources is-does not reflect the realities that we face in this country.

We've got a situation in Boston where we have the Democratic National Committee coming in-the Convention. And the Democratic Convention has been established as a high-risk, a high-threat event by DHS, the Department of Homeland Security. So we've got an opportunity to look at that situation and say, where do we see the risks? And it creates an urgency because it's a 10-day period in July.

And so we have all of our people there, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and we look at that event. And we're looking at rail. And at that summit last week, I asked Transportation Security if they could send their Northeast rail corridor security director to our hearing.

Now, we have a federal director of security in every single airport in this country, and yet I could not get someone from TSA who had been assigned for rail security in the Northeast corridor. And they told me that no one had been assigned in that area or in any other region in the United States, where we have the FRA, we have eight regions, and we've got a director in that context. But we don't have a security director for rail security in the regions in this country. And it's showing a gap here that we're completely overlooking. And so I don't know if we need legislation to accomplish that result, to have somebody who's full-time job-and, you know, Mr. Lunner, I'm going to ask you during your testimony, how many people do we actually have assigned to working on rail security, their exclusive responsibility in this country in the eight regions that are covered by FRA.

So, again, we won't have the luxury of saying we didn't see this coming. I'm not intending to scare anybody. All I know is there are reasonable steps, and you've suggested some, that we can take to make rail traffic safer in this country. And it's going to take a lot of work, and it's going to take some money, unfortunately, and that's the plain reality of it.

But the time for action is now. And I want to thank the chairman and the ranking member for their courtesy for me today. This is a real concern in the country right now, and we need to hurry up. We need to hurry up.

I appreciate the demonstration project, the pilot program at New Carrollton station that was established recently for screening. But that's three years after the fact, and it's a pilot program. The terrorists are on a much faster timeline than we are, quite frankly, and we need to, you know-we need to go about this business with all deliberate speed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. QUINN: Thank you, Mr. Lynch. We appreciate your input here today and we'll rely on your advice and comments in the future, as we continue with this debate. I might also point out that there's also a convention going on in New York City shortly after the one in Boston.

REP. LYNCH: Is there?


REP. LYNCH: I wasn't aware of that.


REP. QUINN: We'll get you some credentials if you're interested up there. Tell us what you learn about Boston and we'll bring you up there.

REP. LYNCH: All right. Thank you.

REP. LYNCH: Sure. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I know that during my absence Mr. Lunner explained that he had 24 employees working under him. I just wanted to ask, Mr. Lunner, again could you tell me how many of those 24 employees are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.?

MR. LUNNER: The TSA Maritime and Land does not have regional offices. The department, as you may already know, is in discussions about the regionalization of DHS assets and that conversation has not come to fruition yet so we don't have regional offices.

REP. LYNCH: Okay. Well, even if you don't have any regional offices, how many are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.?

MR. LUNNER: In my division? None, sir.

REP. LYNCH: None? Okay. Don't you think it would be helpful, though, to have-if you're providing rail security for the entire country, wouldn't it help to have some people-and a lot of this stuff has to be coordinated with the local authorities, with local agencies, local police and fire, you know, local rail unions. Wouldn't it be helpful to have those people out of Washington and out there where the work needs to be done?

MR. LUNNER: It's very useful, of course, to have conversations with people who are on the ground in the regions or the localities. The way that we currently accomplish that is through our partnerships with people like Mr. Rutter's agency that do have regional representatives. Or in the case, for example, of our port security committees, asking the FSDs to participate and represent us. Until the regionalization discussion is formalized, that's how our operating procedure will be.

REP. LYNCH: Well, we need to change that in my opinion. We need to get people out to different regions. I just want to say that when I want to know what's happening with rail security in my district or in my-along the northeast corridor, I go to South Station, which is a major hub, or I go to the Amtrak facility in South Boston and I talk to my machinists, I talk to my members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, I talk to my signalmen and my track workers and porters and conductors. And the word I get from them is that nothing, nothing measurable, has been done to address the concerns of terrorism on the rails.

As a matter of fact, talking to some of my people down in New York City, Amtrak people, they have not even been instructed on evacuating passengers from the New York tunnels, from the tunnels in New York, which is troubling. I just-you know, you're presenting an impression that we're on the right track, we're moving along and this is going to be okay. It's been a while. It's been a while. And stuff is not happening and I'm pretty concerned about this at this point, and I just think we need to step it up.

And I know you're part of the administration and I know you're, you know, between a rock and a hard place. But, look, the people who travel by rail in this country are relying on you. And the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And if there's a problem in this country on rail security, you need to start squeaking.

We need your help. I know you're loyal to the president and to the administration, but there's a responsibility here as well. And I just-you know, when I hear what they're saying on the ground, whether it's at Union Station here in Washington or in New York, Penn Station, or in South Station in Boston, the people that are required to carry out those emergency measures tell me they don't have a plan.

And I think the first role-and it needs to be a federal role and a federal plan. You can't have this patchwork of plans, which is developing in the absence of any leadership from Washington. We can't have that. We need to have a coordinated plan, an effective and efficient plan, one that is known by the rail employees who are going to implement it. So it really requires your participation and your leadership, and I just hope that we can help you.

And, Mr. Rutter, I know that you support changes in our rail legislation and we need to look at everything again, and I appreciate that. I just hope that rail security with respect to terrorism is going to be a major piece of that initiative and the input of your agency on that legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. LYNCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If I might, I'd just like to start with Mr. Hamberger and you've done some wonderful work on this and I appreciate it. I just wanted to ask, in my own attempt to be helpful, I've been asking some of my rail employees about what's happening on the ground. As I had mentioned earlier, I talked to my brotherhood of locomotive engineers and all of my rail employees, Amtrak.

I have a commuter rail system and my MBTA, Mass. Bay Transit Authority people and they have spoken with me, somewhat reluctantly I think, because of their fear for being disciplined at work or having some negative consequences to offering their own perspective about the rail security system in the Northeast. And I was wondering if you would support greater protections for whistleblowers who are rail employees to freely speak of the inadequacies that they see in the public interest.

MR. HAMBERGER: As you know, Mr. Lynch, there is already whistleblower protection in the FRA regulations and I think that provides the protection that is necessary. Should that not be adequate-I don't know why it wouldn't be. It's there for safety and people have the-employees have the authority and the right to-and are protected by that regulation as best as I understand it. And so any additional whistle blowing protection, I know the Senate has a provision in the bill that the committee reported out. I would just hope that it has enough of an evidentiary level that it doesn't turn into a spurious kind of reporting. That's all.

REP. LYNCH: Right. I understand that concern. But this would be just to-because we have a sort of a patchwork of federal employees and private employees and state employees that-and there has been, as you mentioned, in that legislation some concerns raised by employee representatives, who have said they needed-because of some certain cases, needed some additional protections. But you've answered the question fairly.

The other question I had foremost on my mind-and it might be better for Mr. Duff to answer this-I'm not sure or for the panel, for that matter. In the ports security comparison-I represent the Port of Boston as well-in the ports security situation for containerized cargo, if you will, we have a 96-hour advance notice through the Coast Guard of cargo coming in. It tells us the origin, the nature of the contents, the principles involved and the source and the destination of the particular container.

I'm curious-now we can't do 96 hours and we can't do it at the detail that they do it because of the volume of cargo that's moving by rail. But is there some way that we can map out a similar situation? And I know that Minot, North Dakota situation was mentioned earlier in the hearing by Mr. Lunner, I believe. That was a situation where Minot was the destination and the conduit was fairly closely monitored by the local authorities and by the railroad involved.

In my situation and many of us, both in New York and in Boston and other ports, we have rail cargo that is just passing through and it's passing through many densely populated communities. In our local, we had testimony last week from the sheriff of the Everett Police Department in Massachusetts who had some hazardous chemicals on a storage-in-transit facility and was there for about a week, had some individuals break into that facility. He didn't know the nature of the cargo, wasn't sure what precautions to take. Is there some type of regulation that we could adopt that would give some notice to our local law enforcement and fire service directors that would address this specific problem of cargo moving through their communities?

MR. DUFF: Maybe I should defer to Mr. Hamberger with regard to cargo moving through. With respect to public transportation, I can say that, when you look at 9/11, the events that happened there, the communication ability, the ability to have secure and redundant communication ability made a significant difference in terms of getting those transit vehicles out of the World Trade Center area, and perhaps folks on the next panel could talk more about that. That communication ability is significant. And I mentioned earlier the survey that we had conducted and in terms of ranking and priority needs, the need for communication equipment, redundant equipment, communication activities was probably the highest priority. So I can answer it that way.

REP. LYNCH: Actually, I might let Mr. Hamberger have a crack at that.

MR. HAMBERGER: Thank you, Mr. Lynch. You raised actually several good questions there I think that link together. One is the security at the border. With respect to freight rail coming into the United States from both Canada and Mexico, a little bit more advanced on the northern border. I believe it is in the 80 to 90 percent of all cars go through a machine called a VACUS machine. I'll get you what that acronym stands for. It is basically a beta ray machine that can show the inspector what is in the car and he or she then matches that with the electronic-what the consist is, what it denotes. If it says it's supposed to be computer parts and it is not computer parts, then they can stop the train, pull it off and visually inspect it.

So that-and the Customs has adopted a-I believe it's a four hour advance notification of the bill of lading has to be submitted to Customs at the border, and they are expanding the use of that coming up out of Mexico as well. I think they're not quite at the 80 to 90 percent but the goal is to have over 90 percent of all railcars inspected that way as they come across with our land trading partners north and south. With respect to the ports themselves, we again are part of the C-TPAT program where we're trying to-as I understand that program, Customs is trying to move the security check further up the supply chain. We do cooperate and adhere to all of the regulations that the Coast Guard has in place. I believe the Coast Guard port captain has regulations that will be going into effect July 1. I believe the plan had to be filed at the end of last year for any facility-rail facility, for example, or inter modal yard that is within the port confines has to meet certain requirements.

And then finally with advanced notification, which was the Minot situation, what generally occurs, as Mr. Rutter indicated, there is a general discussion between the railroad and the communities through which we operate that these are the kinds of hazardous materials that are coming through. There is not an immediate-you know, tomorrow at 10:00 there will be three carloads of this, and at 12:00 there'll be four carloads of that. It generally ends up being so much paperwork and people don't pay attention to it. And so there is training.

In fact, we have a subsidiary called the Transportation Technology Center and I believe-Mr. Chairman, are you going to be out there? I'd invite, again, anybody on this committee. It's a 56 square mile facility in Pueblo, Colorado, that we operate under contract with FRA and we do hazardous material training for local emergency response teams. In addition, of course, we do participate with Operation Respond and cooperate with the chemical industry through CHEMTREK, which is their 24 by seven emergency response operation. So there is advanced notification of a sort, but it is not, as I say, tied directly to what particular car is coming at what particular time.

REP. LYNCH: Okay. That's helpful. Thank you, Mr. Hamberger.

Do I have any more time?

REP. QUINN: (Off mike.)

REP. LYNCH: Yeah, okay. I just have a --

Chief Frazier, I just wanted to ask you specifically what type of training are we doing for Amtrak Police, specifically on the issue of terrorism and surveillance, prevention, reporting?

MR. FRAZIER: Congressman, the police officers themselves have taken part at the highest level in the agency in antiterrorism training put on by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. In New York, for example, that next antiterrorism course will be handled for lieutenants and sergeants, so we haven't gotten the FLETC training all the way down into the organization yet. As well, there is predictive profiling training that is taking place for police officers using the Israeli model as we attempt to figure out how to deal with issues inside our stations and observations and doing well at dealing with potential interdictions. That kind of training is taking place.

Emergency response training has been accomplished for our police personnel and also for our employees themselves. There is a security coordinator program that trains our employees in the divisions, basically in the transportation divisions, on specific things that have to happen at various countermeasures. So there are things happening with respect to training. Frankly, we don't have enough money to do it as quickly as we would like to. I think, you know, that's something that would be important and, in fact, in the plan that we have submitted there is a request for additional training dollars. So we need to do more, we need to do it faster. I continue to say that, I think that's very true. But we do have an understanding of where we need to get to.

REP. LYNCH: Okay, thank you. And what percent of your force there-which is pretty small considering the responsibility you have, what percent is trained so far?

MR. FRAZIER: In the matters I've talked about, probably about 15 percent. In things like respirator training for CBR response, 100 percent. And in legal bases-one thing that happens is normative training for police is always and constantly ongoing, and there is in- service training that takes place as well. So there have been things written. They're also trained in the procedures and the policies of the agency, but this isn't stuff that they go out, for example, to a particular course to attend. It's things that we do in the normal course of business. We've rewritten the Emergency Mobilization Guide. We have published procedures in general orders for them in terms of how to deal with suspicious packages, how to deal with white powder cases. I mean, all of these things have happened internally in the agency and that happens on a routine basis either through roll call training or through the publication of this information. So, really, when I'm referring to training that takes place, it's like in-service, in-class, those sorts of things. That's where we need to pick up speed.

REP. LYNCH: Okay. Thank you, Chief.

And lastly, Ed, I know that you've been closely working with some of the employee representatives, all of the unions involved.

What do you see as the major weakness in terms of our approach to rail security from an employee standpoint?

MR. WYTKIND: Well, what we've tried to do is not focus only on federal resources. We, as I said at the outset, endorse bringing resources to the table that are needed to deal with passenger and freight rail issues. We've tried to focus on practical issues that involve rail employee needs at the ground level. I'm getting the same reports that you are from the people you've spoken to in your community about the fact that they're not receiving the training that they badly need, about workers who are scared to death about their lack of preparedness.

And on the issue of whistleblower protections, the provisions that were referred to by Mr. Hamberger have been the law for a long time. There's a long, long history of intimidation and harassment in this industry, and this is something we come to the committee that doesn't cost federal taxpayer dollars. It simply just says if we as a government-if Congress in its own way and if employers who come up here and say that the workers are the eyes and ears, truly believe that workers need to be part of the solution, if they're going to help us avert terrorist attacks, then it seems rather logical to us that they should be afforded the strongest whistleblower protections possible.

We saw it in other pieces of legislation that this Congress on a bipartisan basis has approved in this Congress and in the previous Congress, and there really is no reason not to embrace such a proposal. We think those two issues, training the workers, making sure they truly get the training down at the workers' level-not at management only, at the workers' level, giving them whistleblower protections and making sure that we have responsible use of technology in this industry. I think the three combined would begin to produce real dividends in terms of dealing with security.

REP. LYNCH: That's great. Thank you, Ed.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Mr. Chairman.


REP. LYNCH: Sure. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've had an opportunity, I've lived in New York for a while and I know what you're dealing with at Penn Station, and also I worked as an ironworker in East Chicago and I know how important that system is to the people in that region. I appreciate your coming here and raising this as a priority and saying hey, we need some money.

I would ask, Mr. Tidwell, I notice that you put a lot of money and time resources into training, training your employees, and I just want to hear your thoughts on that as far as it being on the list of priorities on how to best protect our rail riding public.

MR. TIDWELL: Well, Metra's philosophy on training goes to all aspects of our operation, and it certainly no less in the area of security. The grant that we have received from DHS is going to be used to additional training of our employees, as I mentioned in my remarks. We did training on bomb recognition and reaction for our frontline employees, we are now going to train all our employees, because not only are the frontline employees obviously very important, but many of employees in our finance department, our grants department, wherever our customers of Metra, they ride our system or they ride the CTA or our paid suburban bus. And the train they get there they can use as a passenger, it doesn't have to be on a Metra train, it can be on a CTA subway. So we intend to train them all, we think that having those eyes and ears as I mentioned are critical for us to see things that don't look right, to report them to somebody and quickly respond to whatever is reported.

REP. LYNCH: That's great, thank you. I might say in closing that, Mr. Dermody, I think you have a wonderful representative here watching out for rail and your interests, so I would say you're in good hands, and I am very sad that he is leaving.

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