Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher spearheads efforts to base funding on risk
U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (Walnut Creek-D) and a bi-partisan group of powerful congressional committee members are so determined to better protect BART riders and the passengers of the nation's other mass transit systems from a terrorist attack that they unanimously took two big, bold steps today.
First they circumvented the traditional process of funding transit security through the Department of Homeland Security and voted to create a separate and dramatically larger pot of money for transit security grants under a different agency - the Department of Transportation. The pot of money would authorize nearly $3.4 billion for transit security grants over three years Â– that's eight times the amount the federal government spends annually now. Secondly, thanks in large part to Representative Tauscher, the committee made sure that if Congress appropriates the money, the DOT will allocate it based on risk, consequences, vulnerability and threat.
"The California Department of Homeland Security lists BART as one of the state's top ten terrorism targets," said Lynette Sweet, BART Board Vice President and chair of the BART Board Security Ad Hoc Committee. "For years BART has been pushing hard to get administrators in Washington to allocate transit security funds based on risk and threat, not politics. We at BART owe a great deal of thanks to Congresswoman Tauscher for amending the bill so that high-risk transit systems like BART will get they need from these new transit security dollars."
BILL DRAMATICALLY INCREASES TRANSIT SECURITY FUNDING
Since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the federal government spent only $150 million per year on all of the nation's nearly 6,000 transit providers for counterterrorism efforts. To put this into context, BART's counterterrorism needs alone are in excess of $250 million.
Today the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, made up of both Democrats and Republicans, unanimously passed H.R. 5808, the "Public Transportation Security Assistance Act of 2006." The legislation addresses the deficiencies in the funding of transit security over the past five years, and is a major step in providing a significant investment for increased security on the nation's most vulnerable transit systems. The legislation will move on to the full House, where if passed it would create a grant program within the Department of Transportation to provide grants for the capital and operational needs of our nation's transit systems.
Rep. Tauscher, along with her colleagues on the Committee Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and Sue Kelly (R-NY), authored language that was included in the manager's amendment directing the Secretary of Transportation to award security grants in a way that prioritizes risk, consequences, vulnerability and threat. This language echoes the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission's recommendation that homeland security funding not be based on pork barrel spending, but instead go toward the nation's largest and most vulnerable targets.
"We must ensure that we are spending our resources in a strategic and risk-based manner rather than in a shot-gun approach that dilutes our ability to protect the lives of Americans who use transit systems every day. It is not enough to simply spend funds; we must distribute them logically so that large transit systems such as BART in my district, and others in major metropolitan areas can offer security to the millions of riders that depend on them daily," said Rep. Tauscher.