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American Public Transportation Association

 Michael P. Melaniphy, President and CEO, APTA On Transit and Rail Security Grants, the FEMA State and Local Preparedness Grant Program, and TSA Surface Transportation Security, within the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations for the Dept. of Homeland Security

Testimony Of
Michael P. Melaniphy, President & CEO
American Public Transportation Association (APTA)
Before The
House Appropriations Subcmte On Homeland Security
On Transit and Rail Security Grants, the FEMA State and Local Preparedness Grant Program, and TSA Surface Transportation Security, w/in the FY2016 Appropriations for the Dept of Homeland Security

​​(Download Document in Adobe PDF format)​​​​​


Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to submit written testimony on the FY 2016 funding needs for public transportation security programs within the Department of Homeland Security. APTA and its industry partners have urged Congress to significantly increase appropriations for transp​ortation security programs within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the last several federal budget cycles. Past
appropriations have not come close to the le​vels authorized under the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-53). We also appeal to the Subcommittee to continue funding within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that has supported the development of transit security standards and national transportation security information sharing and analysis. These programs are critical to enhance public transportation industry security efforts; continued federal support is vital.


The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit, international association of nearly 1,500 public and private member organizations, including transit systems and commuter, intercity and high-speed rail operators; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient, and economical public transportation services and products. More than ninety percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems. In accordance with the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, APTA has been recognized by the Department of
Homeland Security as serving in the capacity of the Mass Transit Sector Coordinating Council (SCC).

Continued Risks to Our Nation’s Transit Systems

In the nearly 14 years since 9/11, several authoritative sources have continued to acknowledge that the risk to public transportation systems for a terrorist attack is real and has not diminished. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has testified and reported to Congress that public transportation systems remain vulnerable to terrorist attack. As a distinguished authority on transit research and policy, the federally-funded and chartered Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) released studies in March 2014 and March 2015 that report:

  • ​Between January 1970 and March 2014, there have been 3,754 worldwide attacks on surface transportation targets with 71% committed on public transportation targets – commuter and intercity trains; train stations; train tracks; subways; subway stations; buses; bus stations; bus stops; ferries; and ferry terminals and 29% committed on road infrastructure and freight trains and freight infrastructure;
  • ​Terrorists attacks on surface transportation targets are becoming more successful i.e. carried out with greater efficiency;
  • ​Buses, trains, and subways –unlike airliners– provide more access points for the public, are more difficult to secure and feature more prominently in attacks and plots;
  • The number of attacks on train and bus targets have increased and become more lethal;
  • ​Compared to the previous ten years, 2014 saw the highest number of fatalities from surface transportation terrorists attacks; and
  • The number of attacks with 25 or more fatalities occurred in 2014.
We have been very fortunate to date in not having a successful terrorist attack committed on a U.S. transit system. However, several attacks have been foiled and conspiring terrorists have been arrested who intended to attack some of our largest systems in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New Jersey. An emerging trend is the number of attacks planned by “lone wolves” or unaffiliated individuals that may by inspired by foreign or domestic terrorist groups. These individuals are often more entrenched and difficult to surveil. Also, note that highly trained, well-funded transit agency law enforcement units play a crucial role in protecting the regions they serve, as when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Police Department’s SWAT Unit, in coordination with other federal and local law enforcement bureaus, apprehended and arrested the Boston Marathon bombing terrorist suspects in 2013. 

Greater Investments in Transit Security are Required

In 2014 Americans took 10.8 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 58 years. As ridership continues to grow, public transportation security risk exposure and needs also increase, however, we have seen an overall trend of less federal investment in transit security over the past several years. In FY 2008 the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) made nearly $389 million dollars available for transit systems. Since then, TSGP funding has continued to decrease where in FY 2015, a mere $87 million was made available – a 78% decrease in funding from FY 2008 levels. With transit ridership and security risks growing, we remain concerned with this underinvestment in the security of our nation’s transit systems.

Pressures on our federal budget are severe with many important national funding priorities; however, the current level of federal transit security funding is woefully inadequate. The TSGP is the primary source of funding for security needs of public transportation agencies. APTA urges Congress to acknowledge the risk that our transit systems continue to face and restore appropriations for the Transit Security Grant Program in this and subsequent appropriation bills to levels closer to those authorized under the 9/11 Commission Act.

Opposition to the Proposed FY2016 National Preparedness Grant Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has again proposed the creation of the National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP) in its FY 2016 budget proposal. The program would consolidate several existing DHS grant programs, including the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), into the single NPGP. House and Senate appropriations and authorizing committees have rejected similar NPGP proposals in FY 2013, 2014, and 2015 and the transit industry again opposes the FY 2016 NPGP proposal as it calls for:

  • ​Elimination of the Transit Security Grant Program – The industry supports a sufficiently-funded, segregated and dedicated grant program for public transportation security as envisioned in the 9/11 Commission Act and
  • ​Prohibition of transit agencies to apply for DHS funding – Transit agencies have long been direct recipients of federal assistance and as such, the industry opposes any mandate(s) that prohibit transit agencies from directly applying to and directly receiving funding from DHS.
The grant performance period is not clearly stated in the FY 2016 NPGP proposal. The strengthening of critical transit infrastructure, including physical security enhancements, can often require years to properly plan, procure, and build. The public transportation industry recommends a TSGP grant performance period of 36-months from the date of award with the opportunity to petition DHS/FEMA for no more than two additional 1-year extensions.

Lastly, APTA concurs with the intent of the 9/11 Commission Act, calling for a transit security program that aims to primarily address capital needs, however, we recognize that operational needs should continue to be eligible for a limited portion of transit security funding.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Surface Transportation Security

APTA and the public transportation industry have developed a strong and beneficial working relationship with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in recent years, in particular, in the areas of security standards development and information and intelligence sharing and analysis. APTA strongly supports the Administration’s request for the TSA’s Surface Transportation Security program, including robust support for security standards development and Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs).

Transit Security Standards Development

Similar to other government, public, and corporate entities, public transportation agencies prioritize the safety and security of their patrons; vehicles and property; sensitive administrative data; planning documents and information; critical IT infrastructure; and operations systems against external threats. The Transit Security Standards Program allows for capturing lessons learned and industry best practices of transit systems that have implemented successful security strategies so that other systems have program standards and models to build upon or for replication. The standards program also allows DHS/TSA to vet security ideas with the industry rather than forcing untested mandates/regulations on transit agencies that might not be successful in an operating environment.

The program is developing a substantial workload of standards and recommend practices that are being reviewed by five security working groups:

  1. Fixed Infrastructure
  2. Security Risk Management
  3. Emergency Management
  4. Enterprise Cyber Security
  5. Control and Communications Cyber Security
Cyber security is an increasing global concern and a particular area of focus within the Standards Program. IT systems are central components in the operations and administration of small, medium, and large transit agencies. A cyber attack or IT system breach of a transit agency can pose increased levels of concern as cyber threats may not only compromise administrative/business systems (i.e. employee records, inventory data, etc.), but can lead to the malfunction of critical control, GPS, and communications systems in vehicles or track infrastructure.

The Transit Security Standards Development program paired with the contributions of the PTISAC, is an invaluable tool for the industry and greatly enhances the safety, security, and operational efficiency of public transportation systems across the country.

Public Transit & Over the Road Bus Information–Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISAC)

In 2002, the Secretary of Transportation designated APTA as the sector lead for creating and operating the Public Transportation–Information Sharing and Analysis Center (PT–ISAC); in turn, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funded the center’s start-up, then its operations for several years thereafter. In 2012, the center’s funding shifted from the FTA to the TSA. APTA, TSA, and the FTA have collaborated for years through the Mass Transit Sector Coordinating Council to streamline the information sharing environment within the public transit industry and eliminate redundancy.

The APTA/TSA/FTA partnership led to the formation of an industry/government “Security Information Sharing Working Group” that incorporated the Association of American Railroads (AAR) as a partner. The working group subsequently developed the Transit and Rail Intelligence Awareness Daily (TRIAD) report as a concise, daily security notification platform made available through the PT–ISAC and the freight–rail focused, Surface Transportation (ST)–ISAC. The TRIAD provides ISAC members with a quick, web–based, functional synopsis in three fundamental areas: suspicious activities, terrorism, and counterterrorism analysis. The ISACs also offer a Daily Open Source Cyber Report that serves as a reliable vehicle for TSA to distribute their critical industry updates. The APTA–TSA partnership was further strengthened in 2012 when TSA requested that APTA create the Highway ISAC (now called the Over the Road Bus–ISAC or OTRB–ISAC), and within the new ISAC implement an “incident call center”.

The PT–ISAC and now the OTRB–ISAC have proven to be essential resources within the public transit and motor–coach industries. The PT–ISAC is the single most important and effective national information and intelligence sharing resource that public transit systems can access to protect their agencies from physical and cyber–attacks. The PT–ISAC delivers comprehensive national intelligence information with additional analysis and recommendations from government intelligence reports. Protecting our nation’s surface transportation network protects more than transit, freight and motor coach passengers and vehicles, it protects the public; local, regional, and national commerce; and our natural and built environment. The efficiency, responsiveness, and critical commentary
provided through the PT, OTRB, and ST–ISACs are critical to national transportation security efforts.


Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I thank you for this opportunity to share our views on these critical homeland security issues. There is no greater priority for public transportation systems than the safety and security of our passengers and workers. We are grateful for the past support of this Subcommittee and its investments in public transportation security and urge you to prevent the dismantling of the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) by rejecting the NPGP proposal and continue support for the Transit Security Standards Development program and the Public Transportation (PT) and Over the Road Bus (OTRB)–ISACs.​
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