While technology advances have helped improve national security in many different ways, Homeland Security Department officials are still concerned about the slow progress of securing mass transit. Technology experts have yet to develop secure mass transit systems and without funding help from transit operators, Homeland Security leaders believe that the Science and Technology Directorate may have difficulty justifying the long-term allocation of resources.
Report released details funding troubles
A report released by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Inspector General details that following the attacks on 9/11, the department concentrated its research and development on airline passenger screening technology. Fierce Homeland Security reported that this was a reactionary measure that was a direct result of what happened on that day. Yet, mass transit remains a vulnerable target for terrorist attacks. All of the focus on air transportation has distracted officials and diverted resources away from developing better security measures and technologies for our rail and subway systems. The successful attacks in Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, Mumbai in 2006 and Moscow in 2010 are stark reminders of the continued vulnerability of our mass transit systems.
Mass transit systems highlighted as attractive targets
The Office of Inspector General has identified that mass transit systems represent attractive targets for terrorists because of inherent vulnerabilities, which include open space architecture, access restrictions, lack of universal security screening and multiple stops and interchanges. Because R&D technology and process advancements are largely spotty and rarely directed to rail, subway or non-air traffic related travel, terrorists have greater opportunities available to them to cause chaos.
R&D gaps occur due to funding troubles
Overall research and development efforts within the DHS Science and Technology Directorate were reduced by 28 percent during the 2012 fiscal year. Auditors who wrote the report claim that future cuts may soon occur despite a renewed focus on improving rail and subway security. According to the news source, the S&T led a cross component effort that began in 2006 to make mass transit counter terrorism efforts technology and research a greater priority. The group, which became known as the Capstone Integrated Product Teams, was dissolved in 2010 with no viable alternative.
Funding challenges require increased focus
Security experts agree that the threat landscape shifts as individual targets are hardened against attack. Our air transportation security has been significantly strengthened over the last decade.
"It is inevitable," said Ari Vidali, Envisage CEO "that we will see a shift towards softer targets as terrorists adapt. We saw this recently with the Boston bombing. Terrorists are going to target relatively unsecure places where large groups of people gather. Mass transit is a perfect target. We saw it in Madrid in 2004, in London in 2005 and then again Moscow in 2010."
Because no government can secure all of a nation's infrastructure all of the time, focus must be placed on evaluating security investments based on realistic risk assessments, and constantly shifting security priorities. This requires new approaches to measuring risk and evaluating readiness. According to a chapter on Pervasive Readiness in the McGraw Hill Homeland Security Handbook 2012, governments should be assessing individual risks in the context of their current readiness posture. Funding allocation decisions should be based on a view that goes beyond the traditional concept of risk equaling threat, vulnerability and consequence. For as the article points out, "efforts to address every [security] shortfall that has been identified in advance will either create unsustainable demands for increased expenditures, or focus limited resources on shortfalls that may not in fact be the most vital readiness issues that we need to solve."
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