Protecting Mass Transit

Another tough day for Londoners.Here in DC, Metro is stepping up security, while New York is conducting random bag checks on the subway.42 percent of terrorist attacks targeted rail or buses, according to the Brookings Institution, which looked at worldwide terrorist attacks from 1991 to 2001.What can we do to make our trains and buses safer?Protecting Americas Roads and Transit Against Terrorism, published by the Brookings Institution, calls for a number of measures to protect mass transit systems. (Sewell Chan at the New York Times summarizes the report.)One recommendation is for the federal government to do a better job of helping states and localities use integrate new technologies to protect our trains and buses:

D. Federal Assistance for Technology AssessmentThe feasibility and effectiveness of improvements in physical infrastructure are being debated. New technologies are being developed, tested, and refined, 44 and advances advances are frequently difficult for short-staffed state and local transportation agencies to monitor and review. It would be wasteful, moreover, for each state to perform this function on its own. Thus, a strong federal role in identifying and testing innovative technology and providing technical assistance to states and localities is highly desirable. The federal government can also play a key role in setting standards for technology and security practices, ensuring that investments are not delayed by state and local uncertainty about what will be required in the future.
That's not happening. On July 21, the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science, and Technology of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities of the Committee on Armed Services held a joint hearing on "Technology Transfer: Leveraging Military Technology to Enhance Homeland Security."Defense News (subscription only) covered the hearing, noting that the Defense Department has "developed an array of technology that could help civilian authorities respond to attacks from biological weapon detectors to drugs that boost human immune systems, miniature aerial surveillance vehicles to hand-held language translators."Despite the impressive progress, Representative Martin Meehan (D-MA) told Defense News DOD is still struggling to move the technology "from military labs into the hands of local law enforcement and emergency response personnel."Get on it, boys.-- posted by Jeffrey Lewis
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