Government Careers

Road, Rail, and Port Security Jobs

By Eric Yoder
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, June 25, 2004; 3:35 PM

Aviation is not the only form of transportation that could be threatened by terrorists. The newly formed Transportation Security Administration has focused mostly on air travel, but it also is responsible for security of the nation's 361 seaports, 130,000 miles of railroads and countless miles of roads.

The potential threat to ports is a major concern, since many of them have chemical, petroleum and other complexes on site or nearby, which could have grave safety and environmental consequences from a terrorist attack.

The TSA's approach to its duties in rail, highway and public transit security will differ from the centralized federal government control over air travel security. Whereas private companies traditionally handled security at airports, there are governmental agencies in charge of security on the roads and rails and in the ports.

The Coast Guard, a Transportation Department agency, handles Port security. The Coast Guard is in line for a major budgetary boost in its port security budget, which will mean more job opportunities.

Numerous other federal agencies are involved in other port operations, such as inspecting incoming cargo. The Customs Service, which is part of the Treasury Department, is boosting its ranks of criminal investigators, intelligence research inspectors, customs inspectors, and canine enforcement.

Meanwhile, state and local law enforcement agencies and transit authorities have day-to-day control over road and rail travel. They've already stepped up security efforts by increasing the number of their personnel in stations and on transit vehicles, purchasing new equipment and removing potential hiding places for explosives. The federal government will not directly take over those duties, but will play a more consultative role.

The Federal Transit Administration, which is also under the Transportation Department, has various transit security programs in place, is expanding the security and emergency response components of the training and workshops it provides to local transit employees. It also offers regional security workshops for transit managers, firefighters, police officers and municipal emergency operations management personnel.

Another priority is to assess the potential threats. The TSA is awarding some $93 million in grants to determine where the weaknesses are in port security and begin corrections of them. Also, separate legislation is pending in Congress to require every port to establish a security plan. That, too, could translate into more jobs.

Movement could come faster in some places than in others. Some states, for example, already have done risk assessments of their ports.

Similarly, in the transit arena, the Transportation Department has been sending evaluation teams out to large metropolitan transit agencies to help them identify security vulnerabilities and map out processes for improving them.

"We're doing work with haulers of hazardous material by truck in the same sort of mode, going out, using our inspectors to work with them, trucking firm by trucking firm to find vulnerabilities, to understand the problems and to work through those," says Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson of the Transportation Department.

In some cases, security employees of other Transportation Department agencies, such as the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Highway Administration, may be transferred to the TSA. This in turn will present more career opportunities in those agencies.

Editor's note: This article by Eric Yoder, was aquired by washingtonpost.com on February 20, 2003.

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