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Friday, May 24, 2024

GAO: Enhancing Surface Transportation Security

In the evolving landscape of transportation security, the U.S. surface transportation system has emerged as a prime target for cyber threats and other potential risks. To safeguard this critical infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays a pivotal role by disseminating information about potential threats to entities responsible for the operation and ownership of different parts of the surface transportation system, including public transportation, railroads, and pipelines. However, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sheds light on significant challenges and misunderstandings in the security clearance process and information sharing.

One of the primary concerns highlighted by GAO relates to the allocation of field-based intelligence staff by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A). While both entities allocated intelligence staff to locations with higher-risk surface transportation assets in fiscal year 2023, GAO uncovered differences in their approaches. TSA and DHS I&A considered surface transportation security risks differently, resulting in varying allocations. GAO emphasizes the need for a more unified approach to ensure consistent coverage and prioritization of high-risk areas.

A critical aspect of securing the surface transportation system involves providing security clearances to entities responsible for its operation. GAO identified challenges in the security clearance application process, particularly in the realm of coordination and clarity. DHS, along with its entities—TSA, DHS I&A, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)—has policies and guidance in place. However, misunderstandings persist among agency officials, field-based intelligence staff, and surface transportation stakeholders regarding key aspects of the process. These include confusion about which DHS entity is responsible for initiating applications, potential sponsorship limits, and the eligibility criteria for employees. GAO recommends the implementation of a coordinated communications approach to address these misunderstandings and ensure accurate information dissemination.

Given TSA’s role as the lead agency for sharing transportation security-related information, GAO suggests that it is best positioned to coordinate the communications approach. A unified and transparent communication strategy is deemed essential to provide consistent and accurate information to relevant agency staff and surface transportation stakeholders. Such an approach would not only enhance understanding but also facilitate effective information sharing when the need arises.

As the surface transportation system continues to face evolving security challenges, the GAO report serves as a clarion call for improved coordination, transparency, and clarity in DHS initiatives. Strengthening the security clearance process and ensuring a cohesive approach to intelligence staff allocations are crucial steps in fortifying the resilience of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.

Read the full GAO report here.

author avatar
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.

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