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GAO to probe U.S. rail security

(United Press International circulated the following article on August 28.)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Government Accountability Office will investigate the Transportation Security Administration's rail security efforts.

The move comes at the request of Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, GovExec.com reported last week.

In an Aug. 20 letter to Comptroller General David Walker, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., asked the GAO to look into how TSA is coordinating with the passenger rail industry, and a range of other issues.

"I continue to be concerned about TSA's progress in assessing compliance with rail security directives, federal progress in pursuing needed research and development technologies for passenger rail security, federal efforts to ensure passenger rail employees receive needed security training, and the distribution of funding to rail operators," Thompson wrote.

The letter also calls for an investigation of whether TSA has succeeded in meeting previous GAO recommendations, GovExec.com said.

Thompson and other Democrats on the House Homeland Security panel in July pushed legislation that would channel more resources toward rail security. They proposed spending $3 billion to improve rail and transit system security during the next six years, stating that for every $9 spent per air traveler, just a penny was spent per train passenger, GovExec.com said.

In a report preceding the legislative pitch, House Democrats argued that federal, state and local roles in securing modes of transportation like buses and trains are poorly defined. The report noted that only 100 federal rail inspectors are employed to monitor tens of thousands of miles of track in the United States.

House Homeland Security Committee sources told GovExec.com that federal funding and resources continue to be diverted away from rail passengers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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