Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta
National Transportation Security Summit
Washington, D.C.
October 30, 2001
12:30 P.M. EST

Thank you, Rod, for that kind introduction. And thank you everyone for that warm welcome. I am pleased and honored to be your keynote speaker this afternoon, and I appreciate you allowing me to be a last minute add-on to your schedule.

I want to commend your organizations for having the foresight to schedule an event on the terrorism threat and transportation. Who would have thought that when you scheduled this event we would have been confronted with the challenges before us?

America is a fundamentally different place from the one that awoke on September 11th. We have entered into a new era in transportation, an era in which one of our most cherished freedoms, the freedom of mobility, has been threatened.

Overcoming that threat will require all of us to take a fresh and honest look at the business we are in. And I will tell you now, this is not business as usual.

We must re-think the basic approach with which we provide for the safety and security of everyone traveling on America’s transportation systems.

President Bush has said, we are in a war. Vice President Cheney has said that this may be the first war in our nation’s history where the number of casualties on the home front will exceed those on the battlefront.

That makes our communities the frontline of this war, and that means the transportation systems you represent here today are at risk.

These systems are at risk of being targets of terrorists. They are also at risk of being used as weapons against Americans -- weapon delivery systems used to damage or destroy our communities.

Therefore it requires us who are in charge of managing these systems to work around the clock to protect them from these attacks.

I want to talk to you today about one system that must show improvement right away. Aviation is not on your agenda today, but I know many of you are involved in your communities’ airports and are keenly interested in the security of our aviation system. I want to outline some of the steps that I am taking to make those improvements.

Today, America has an airline industry-based security system. Unfortunately, it is a system where deficiencies exist. Someone may undergo strict screening in Kansas City, while someone else can slip a pistol by screeners in New Orleans. This is intolerable.

We have required air carriers and airports to implement new security measures after September 11th, and to correct any failures in the application of those measures. Nevertheless, an unacceptable number of deficiencies continue to occur. The result is a growing lack of confidence and increasing criticism of the actions taken by the FAA.

I want to reverse that trend. We must make sure the implementation of current security measures is done in an effective and consistent manner. When we find ineffective or inadequate implementation of security measures, we must crack down on those failures.

This morning I met with special agents of the FAA from around the country. I told them I want them to crack down on security screening failures occurring around the country. I want them to take decisive action in making sure that the security measures we announced September 11th are implemented regardless of who is in charge of managing the system.

Let me be specific: If secure areas in airports have been compromised, we will take corrective actions to recheck passengers -- including re-screening passengers.

If a secure area is breached, FAA agents will empty the concourse, re-screen passengers, and if necessary, hold flights.

If improper screening of carry-on luggage is occurring we will hold flights and re-screen passengers or luggage.

And if we see untrained screeners, FAA agents will stop the operation and bring passengers back for re-screening when proper procedures are put into effect.

I want consistent accountability. I want confidence restored in the screening system, and the way to accomplish that goal under the current system is to know that when people fail to meet the current requirements, it is going to sting.

Every time the system is not followed it breaks down the confidence of the traveling public -- and it reduces the confidence they have in the Federal Government.

I have also asked the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General to provide special agents from his agency to supplement the over 500 agents from the FAA to inspect the various airports around the country.

And, I have asked FAA Administrator Jane Garvey to investigate hiring additional agents and reassigning agents from other departments to assist in this effort.

In addition, Congress now has an opportunity to empower the Federal Government to take command of our aviation system’s security system, and they can do that this week by passing legislation, H.R. 3150, to provide direct government control of security screening at the nation’s airports, and maximize the safety and security of American aviation.

While aviation is critical, it is not the only key transportation asset of the U.S. Your conference is focusing on surface transportation, and I want to discuss how we must work to also protect the critical infrastructure elements of our railways, roads, transit systems, pipelines, and waterways.

Last month, I created the National Infrastructure Security Committee (NISC) at DOT to focus on intermodal transportation security issues in the "new" threat environment. It has established various Direct Action Groups, or DAGs, that bring in key industry reps, labor leaders, and other stakeholders to provide input to DOT on maritime, pipeline and hazardous materials issues.

Together, we have identified high-value, high-consequence transportation assets and current protection strategies. We are developing a set of national standards that address a prudent level of protection for our most critical transportation assets. And we are addressing strategic gaps between the current and desired level of protection for the most critical of these assets.

This is an unprecedented effort on the part of DOT, industry, and labor, and others to work together to identify best practices across all modes that should be incorporated into contingency response plans similar to what we see in the aviation community via the Aviation Security (AVSEC) Contingency Plan.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks, we have found ourselves revisiting very important issues that certainly had our attention prior to that date, but to which we are now a captive audience.

These include the need for improved information sharing and dissemination of threat information between government and industry.

They include the need for protections and incentives that encourage private sector entities to voluntarily work with government, and to cooperate among themselves knowing their proprietary information is protected.

And they include the obvious need for security-related legislative changes.

The Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council will coordinate federal, state and local efforts to strengthen protections against terrorist attacks here in the United States and DOT has a very important role to play in all efforts at increasing homeland security.

To that end, legislation has been introduced as the Secure Transportation for America Act by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Subcommittee on Aviation, which would establish a new Transportation Security Administration within DOT.

This entity would be responsible for security for all modes of transportation. We are awaiting to see how this will play out and are working on all the issues involved with the potential for a new DOT operating administration.

There is other pending legislation on the Hill of which DOT may play a central security role.

The Rail Security Act of 2001, introduced in the Senate two weeks ago by Senators McCain and Hollings, provides for improvement of rail safety and security, to include expanding railroad police authority to any rail carrier, and for assessing security risks associated with rail transportation.

It also provides for a review of existing DOT rail regulations for the purpose of identifying areas in which those regulations need to be revised to improve rail safety and security.

The legislation raises a heightened awareness for the need for collective action and facilitates the development of coordinated interagency and public-private approaches to port security.

It provides for vulnerability assessments for the 50 most strategically and economically important U.S. ports that also happen to be where 90 percent of the cargo is shipped.

The legislation provides additional authority to prescribe regulations to protect the public from crime and terrorism; provides an accreditation of foreign seaports; provides loan guarantees for port security infrastructure improvements; and provides port related crime data collection and improved Customs reporting procedures.

Of course, DOT is working with the Congress to ensure this legislation captures what is needed to ensure the United States can guard itself against terrorism in the maritime arena.

We also need to make sure that security for other transportation modes matches up with port security -- it would make no sense to impose a security system for ports if other modes represented a security gap.

Other transportation security measures include improving transit security, passenger rail security as well as that of our ports and other maritime facilities.

For example, in the hazmat area, on October 12, I sent legislation to Congress calling for tough actions to address the serious problem of undeclared or hidden shipments of hazardous materials. The safety and security challenge is huge, but know that we are up to the challenge and we will meet it.

We are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all our nation’s transportation systems to protect the outstanding working men and women who operate and service them, and the passengers who rely on them.

As we move forward from September 11th, we must increase our vigilance, and we must take new steps to move people and goods safely and efficiently, recognizing that the nature of the threats has changed.

Travelers will see increased security measures at our airports, train stations, and other key sites. There will be higher levels of surveillance and more stringent searches.

The traveling public may experience some inconveniences, but we must do what is prudent in order to protect our citizens and transport workers – with safety and security as our highest priorities.

The public, however, must also understand the need for patience, and that patience is the new form of patriotism.

The organizations you represent are the engines that drive this economy, and we must ensure that our transportation systems will never again be used as engines of destruction. And I am confident that we will bounce back from the September 11th attacks.

We are in this for the long haul and we are in it together. I know that is your goal, and the Department of Transportation and this Administration share that goal. Working together – I know we will prevail.

In closing, let me say that the efforts of each and every one of you will be critical in the days ahead as we work to restore full faith and confidence in our transportation system.

And let not our enemies doubt our resolve.

Forty years ago, President Kennedy said that America will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

A few weeks ago, President George Bush drew a line in the sand. You are – he said – either with us, or you are against us. He said – we will not waver or tire or falter or fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.

With your dedication, commitment, and professionalism, we have the skills and the vision that America needs to restore confidence in our nation’s transportation system.

We will not falter. We will not fail.

Thank you again for your time and your attention. It has been a pleasure for me to join you here today

Thank you very much.