Raising the bar on protecting surface transportation passengers

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
STSAC train pic

Protecting the nation’s surface transportation travelers is moving to the next level. TSA is partnering with transportation experts from across the country to strengthen surface transportation security.

“Surface transportation security is one of TSA’s missions,” said Administrator David Pekoske. “Surface transportation security is critically important to the economic vitality of the country, critically important to the safety and security of the millions and millions of people who use those systems every single day.”

As directed by the TSA Modernization Act of 2018, the Surface Transportation Security Advisory Committee (STSAC) was formed in early 2019. The STSAC advises, consults with and reports to TSA’s administrator on surface transportation security. They work together on developing, refining and implementing policies, programs, initiatives, rules and security directives.

STSAC logo

The STSAC is made up of 50 experts representing surface transportation modes ranging from passenger rail, freight rail, mass transit, highways, over-the-road buses, school buses, trucking, and pipelines, and includes federal government partners with regulatory authority or significant interest in surface transportation.

“The committee’s work is truly a collaborative team effort – a dynamic of many brilliant energies working together, moving forward together, and making a difference together,” said STSAC Designated Federal Official Judith Harroun-Lord.

Administrator’s Intent 2.0 recognizes the importance of surface transportation security through Strategic Goal 1.5 – Promote security partnerships across surface transportation systems.

“Consistent with our establishment of the STSAC, we wanted to put much more focus on our efforts to help coordinate and guide national surface transportation security operations,” Pekoske noted.

The committee is working collaboratively on the Administrator’s three initial focus areas of cybersecurity, insider threat, and security effectiveness.

“The surface transportation system is vast, and each mode has slightly different security risks and needs,” said TSA Surface Division Executive Director Scott Gorton. “The STSAC and its subcommittees serve as a platform to bring these diverse interests together to find mutually beneficial solutions.”

Aligning with the administrator’s priorities, the STSAC assembled four subcommittees – Cybersecurity Information Sharing, Insider Threat, Emergency Management and Resiliency, and Security Risk and Intelligence.

STSAC meeting

The STSAC recently held its fifth meeting, which was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite COVID-19, which created economic and operational challenges, the surface industry is forging ahead with necessary precautions, and the STSAC continues to effectively carry out its mission of advising TSA.

Trucks, freight trains, and pipelines are still operating, ensuring critical supplies are delivered. Subway and rail cars are disinfected nightly to ensure safe travel for critical frontline workers. To continue delivering energy safely and reliably, pipeline operators immediately implemented COVID-19 protocols to protect their employees from infection.

Whether protecting their workforce and passengers or managing their operations, surface operators addressed these significant challenges. At the same time, surface transportation industry partners and TSA continue to work together to address security challenges.