The U.S. transportation industry deserves to be commended for its efforts to combat terrorism, but this is no time to let down the guard. "I do need to tell you to keep it up," Admiral James Loy, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, told his audience at the National Industrial Transportation League's transportation policy forum held in Arlington, Va., in March. Speaking to an audience made up largely of industrial logistics professionals, Loy urged those involved in transportation to avoid complacency, a theme he returned to several times in his address. "We cannot allow our emotions to be dulled by the passage of time," he asserted. Loy, who characterized terrorists as "smart, thoughtful, capable" enemies, warned that their threat remains significant.
In his address, Loy called for the development of public-private partnerships to combat terrorist threats."Homeland security cannot be a winning strategy if it is a federal strategy," he said. "It has to be a national strategy."He cited as an example a "Highway Watch" program his agency is conducting with the American Trucking Associations that enlists drivers to look out for potential threats. "No one knows their turf like those [who] are out there day after day," he said.
But the DHS isn't just focusing on the trucking industry, he noted. In response to the March terrorist bombings at rail stations in Madrid, he said, the department has also developed several initiatives aimed at rail security—predominantly for mass transit and passenger rail systems. For some time, DHS policy has called for screening high-risk rail cargo crossing the nation's borders and has offered training to rail personnel at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Loy hopes to extend the same opportunity to transit officials.
Needle in a haystack
Loy, who retired as commandant of the Coast Guard in 2002, took up his current post with the Department of Homeland Security late last year. He was on command of the Coast Guard during the massive evacuation of Manhattan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. "That morning, we passed from where we were to a much more menacing kind of warfare," he told the NITL forum. The attacks on New York and Madrid demonstrate the potential vulnerability of the transportation system, he said. "It is enormously important to keep in mind what they had in common—transportation."
How can the government protect the nation's freight transportation system from these terrorist threats? By adopting the most effective screening policies possible, Loy said. It's not about finding the needle in a haystack, he said. It's about removing as much hay as possible in order to reveal the needle. In the case of freight transportation, removing the hay has largely been a matter of tightening up paperwork and reporting requirements for shippers and carriers. Combining the private-sector information they supply with government data has provided security analysts with a "richer broth" for seeking potential threats, Loy said.
Loy and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta headlined the parade of government officials, analysts and other experts who addressed the NITL forum. Speakers at that two-day forum, the first of what league officials hope to make an annual event, discussed a wide range of policy issues ranging from security to the health of the trucking industry.