Pace, productivity, commitment-and a state of constant vigilance
Hessman, James D
Editor in Chief James D. Hessman interviewed Adm. James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.)-former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and now administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-for this issue of Sea Power.
Sea Power: Admiral, what were your feelings on being asked to take over the Transportation Security Administration, and what are your feelings now?
LOY: When I retired from the Coast Guard, I expected to spend some time fishing with my grandson. But when Secretary Mineta [Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta] called and asked me to assume the leadership of TSA, I felt not only deeply honored but also excited. To assume the leadership of a new agency at this critical point in our nation’s history was a challenge I just couldn’t decline. Leading TSA has been one of the most rewarding tasks any person could have asked for. I take particular satisfaction from looking back over the past year and, without losing sight of the big tasks ahead, seeing how much we already have accomplished.
What do you consider the most important of those accomplishments?
LOY: I think we had two major accomplishments in our first year of service. The first was completely standing up a new federal agency from scratch. It started on the day TSA opened its doors-or, more accurately, “set up its card table for business”-and we are now a fully operating agency with more than 64,000 federal employees and will soon move into our own building.
But the most important accomplishment, undoubtedly, was completely revising the nation’s aviation security system. We brought aboard more than 56,000 handpicked federal screeners who are screening all of the passengers and all of the baggage at the nation’s 429 commercial airports.
In addition, several thousand federal air marshals are in the air every day. This is several times as many as we have had at any time previously. The air marshals program, which started more than 40 years ago, provides in-the-air security at 30,000 feet and 500 knots. We also have 158 extremely capable federal security directors overseeing security at the nation’s airports.
Many doubters said we would fail. But we met all of the 36 deadlines established by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act [ATSA] passed by Congress in response to the 911 attacks and signed into law by President Bush on November 11, 2001. That success involved many people working the mid-watch. Even today, you just cannot believe the pace and the productivity and the commitment of our people. For me, their accomplishments are awesome.
What are your highest priorities for the coming year, particularly in the maritime arena?
LOY: One critical priority is broadening TSA’s focus to cover other modes of transportation, which we have to do to truly serve as the national transportation systems security manager. Because of the congressional mandates specified in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, we concentrated our first-year efforts on the aviation industry. But we have to treat all modes of transportation with equal seriousness. So, even while we continue working to improve aviation safety, we are focusing more intently this year on the vulnerabilities of our nation’s 95,000 miles of open coastline and the 361 ports throughout the United States. We also are looking at ways to provide greater security for the nation’s railway network, intercity bus networks, urban mass transit systems, and oil and gas pipelines.
As your readers are very aware, the economic strength of the United States depends heavily on its import and export trade, and more than 90 percent of our overseas international trade tonnage, as well as a significant portion of our domestic trade tonnage, is carried by water. With so many U.S. industries depending on the ontime delivery of parts and supplies, it is critical that we keep our ports open.
The events of September 11, 2001, bear out the importance of our seaports. Following the horrifying events at the World Trade Center, the port community of New York banded together and conducted the largest maritime evacuation in history.
The largest ever? I had heard that before. Do you have the exact numbers? And what was the second largest?
LOY: More than 500,000 people were evacuated from Manhattan by boat as firefighters, police officers, Coast Guardsmen and women, Navy men and women, and the general public worked together to rescue their stranded neighbors. Before September 11, the largest maritime rescue operation in history was carried out during the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk [France] when 300,000 British and French soldiers, who were still under attack by German troops, were evacuated safely to England. In the hours following the 9/11 attacks, when the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan were closed down, it was that same maritime community that brought in the heavy equipment needed to begin the salvage efforts at Ground Zero.
We have already made available nearly $200 million in Port Security Grants to the nation’s critical seaports. These funds will provide for assessments of current security needs that will help the nation’s ports and terminals identify the strategies they need to shore their defenses against any vulnerabilities found. The funds also will allow for “proof of concept” projects that will explore the use of new technologies-electronic seals, for example, improved vessel-tracking systems, and the electronic notification of vessel arrivals-that can provide even better security in the future.
These funds are being used for a wide variety of purposes. Some ports are using the funds to buy additional police harborpatrol boats. Other ports are installing or enhancing video surveillance systems to monitor port activity.
Another important mission we have is improving the security of the nation’s commerce. In this area, Operation Safe Commerce [OSC] is an innovative public-private partnership dedicated to enhancing security throughout foreign as well as domestic supply chains. Through OSC, federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies work together with the private sector to develop systems that will help secure the entire supply chain, from factory to market.
We are also using this program to identify shortcomings in the supply chain, identify and test solutions, and develop best practices. Ultimately, the results of these efforts could become the basis for developing standards for more secure containers and, consequently, more secure supply chains.
Isn’t it a lot more difficult when more than one mode of transportation is involved?
LOY: That’s another problem area-ensuring the continuity of security when passengers are traveling across several modes, such as from airlines to cruise ships or vice versa. The challenge here is how to take individual security programs and meld them into a unified system. Consider this: During the peak cruise season, over 15,000 passengers can disembark from several different cruise ships, within a two-hour time frame, in our nation’s larger cruise liner ports, such as Miami or New York City.
We have on the table several proposed pilot programs to screen cruise-ship passenger baggage at off-site locations before the baggage is cleared to be sent on to an international airport. The Ports of Miami and Vancouver both have stepped forward to volunteer for the pilots, which we hope to see implemented in the near future.
The off-site screening program will help alleviate the congestion caused by the very large influx of thousands of passengers disembarking from cruise ships all at the same time. Our goal here is to create a seamless process for moving passengers and checked baggage between the cruise ship terminal and the airport both quickly and securely.
The Office of the Secretary of Transportation, TSA, and the other modes within the Department of Transportation, together with our fellow federal agencies, have been working on two important initiatives in the critical area of maritime security. First, a multi-agency Container Working Group [CWG] is addressing key components of the process through which a container/truck is packed, secured, loaded, and transported to the United States. The goal is to ensure the integrity of the shipment at all points in the international transportation chain.
The CWG also is looking at such related issues as cargo information, physical security and container tracking, and business practices to improve security, and is working with international organizations to enhance container security. The Group expects to establish security standards for high-risk containers/trucks, to implement a prescreening process to target containers/– trucks before they are shipped to the United States, to develop the technology needed to prescreen containers/trucks that have been identified as “high risk,” and to determine the best ways to secure containers/trucks as they are transported to the United States.
A related program, the Container Security Initiative, is under way to increase the volume of useful data that agencies such as the Customs Service have available to them to review in order to accomplish a more thorough analysis of threats posed by containers shipped in commerce.
What are some of your principal non-maritime priorities?
LOY: Another key focus area for TSA is interurban transit. We have just released funds for Intercity Bus Security Grants to enhance the security of intercity bus operations. These grants will focus on protecting drivers, monitoring and communicating with over-the-road buses, implementing and operating passenger and baggage screening programs, assessing critical security needs and vulnerabilities, and training transportation personnel to recognize and respond to criminal attacks and terrorist threats, and in evacuation procedures. It is just as important that people feel safe when they are traveling on our nation’s rails, roads, or waterways as when they are flying in our nation’s skies.
We are working on a number of initiatives in the rail-cargo security area that involve such important matters as the security standards for intermodal shipping containers, hazardous materials, and food and feed stocks. One initiative is focused on the shipment of hazardous materials using a system security perspective. This approach would integrate mechanisms that identify cargo and people involved in the transport of these products, pinpoint the origins and destinations of such cargo, and provide risk and vulnerability assessments.
Another key effort is developing a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC. Existing physical-access security systems for transportation personnel are inadequate and present a significant risk to the country. This applies to everyone-from pilots and mechanics to airline catering and custodial workers, to truck drivers and warehouse workers loading pallets and trailers, to dock workers and ship crews. The TWIC program combines personal information and biometrics to positively identify transportation employees having access to secure areas.
How does TWIC differ from current ID systems?
LOY: With TWIC, these employees will undergo only one standard criminal background investigation. The TWIC will link them to a central database that would be accessible nationwide, and it could serve as an international standard. I have heard that there are some truck drivers who carry 20 or more ID cards around their necks. I wouldn’t want to pay that person’s chiropractor bill. Under the TWIC program, drivers and other transportation workers will have only one card to deal with, and it would be acceptable across the United States.
It is important to note that these efforts are not being carried out in a vacuum. As I mentioned earlier, we are working very closely with stakeholders, including shipping lines, port associations, and other maritime industries-the same way we have been working closely with airports, airlines, and aviation industries during the past year. We rely very strongly on the input and suggestions provided by those stakeholders.
In addition, many of the efforts I mentioned are being carried out in conjunction with other U.S. government agencies. Operation Safe Commerce, for example, is a joint effort between TSA and the U.S. Customs Service. And the Port Security Grants were and are being made in conjunction with the Maritime Administration and the Coast Guard.
We also are involved in an interagency program focused on how to deal with the damage that could be caused by a radiological dispersal device, or so-called “dirty bomb.” In this effort we are working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Energy.
TSA hopes to inaugurate a national program designed to gauge the intermodal emergency-response preparedness of our nation’s critical transportation infrastructure to a transportation security incident. Coordination of these readiness exercises must build on-not duplicate-existing exercise requirements. We are already conducting readiness exercises in cooperation with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]. We plan to schedule similar exercises with other modal administrations in the near future.
That’s a lot of programs to start, and to monitor, all at the same time. Does TSA have the financial resources needed to do so many things at once-and does the U.S. transportation industry?
LOY: The costs to the transportation industry have to be measured, of course, against the relative gain in security preparedness. It is our goal to have each transportation mode participate in the program on a prescribed basis. The lessons learned from the response exercises would be available to security professionals on a national basis as they reexamine their specific security protocols.
Following up on the readiness response program is the need to develop and implement the standards and response planning requirements needed to ensure a secure transportation infrastructure. TSA has assumed a leadership role in the Homeland Security initiative to develop layered radiological detection, evaluation, and response systems on a regional basis.
We are bringing numerous transportation agencies and projects together under one umbrella and encouraging standardization in response protocols. These plans and standards must be consistent across all modes of transportation and not adversely affect any one mode over another. The standards developed also must be as flexible as possible to allow innovative approaches to security.
What do you see as your major problems at TSA?
LOY: The one overriding difficulty we face, and will continue to face, was best summed up by former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who put it this way: “While we are sleeping, two-thirds of the world is plotting to do us in.” We have to constantly remain vigilant and avoid relaxing our efforts. The day we do might be our foe’s lucky day. In any organization, one has to fight the “complacency gene”-the tendency to relax one’s efforts when one has seen a string of successes, as TSA has. We also have to avoid having any one mode of transportation become the forgotten stepchild that the terrorists see as their chance to wreak havoc on our nation.
It is vital that we ensure and enhance security across the full modality spectrum.
Do you see a lack of resources as being a problem?
LOY: In the best of all possible worlds, one would always have unlimited resources for the task at hand. That being said, I want to emphasize that President Bush, Secretary Mineta, and Secretary Ridge are all well aware of our needs and are providing us with the support we require to meet our tasks. And we are working closely with the appropriate congressional committees to ensure that our requirements are met.
As your readers are aware, I came to TSA following 38 years of service with the Coast Guard. Accomplishing its missions with the resources at hand has been the Coast Guard’s hallmark for 200 years. I intend to inculcate that tradition in the TSA. A lack of resources should never be the sole reason for failure to perform one’s mission.
At this time, how can the aviation, maritime, and other transportation industries best help the TSA?
LOY: We want the transportation industries and our TSA employees to feel they are all part of the same team-which they are. The transportation modes can help us the most by fostering a safe environment for the traveling public, from curb to cockpit, cruise ship, or bus seat. At TSA we have many stakeholders, including the carriers and the many associations that represent the employees who are involved in the transportation industry. We are continually talking to our stakeholders in the Congress as well-those members directly involved in cargo shipments, whether by air, rail, or water, and with all other industries affected by the need for increased security in transportation.
We are always looking for suggestions from our stakeholders for ways in which we can improve transportation security. I like to point out that, following suggestions from our stakeholders in the aviation industry, we have already abolished such aggravating “stupid rules” as asking the airline passengers whether they had packed their own bags or prohibiting them from carrying liquid beverages through the passenger checkpoints. We look forward to continuing these strong ties with our stakeholders across all modes of transportation.
What is your personal operating philosophy in carrying out the mandate you have been given to make the TSA into a viable, productive, cost– effective agency of government?
LOY: It is critical in looking at the TSA to put the agency’s role into a broader perspective. The transportation sector alone accounts for 11 percent of our nation’s economy and one out of every eight jobs in America. When one factors in the critical role played by imports and exports in all sectors of the U.S. economy, one can see the enormity of the tasks the TSA faces.
As I mentioned, I came to TSA from the Coast Guard, an organization focused on building public-private partnerships. I believe these partnerships can be effective in building consensus between the regulated and the regulator. My goal is to foster a more cooperative atmosphere between TSA, the transportation modes, and the traveling public as we work together to build an appropriate balance between security and customer service. TSA itself is emphasizing the importance of providing safe, courteous, and efficient service to the traveling public. We are responsible for all modes of transportation security and will maintain this focus.
In the Coast Guard it was vital to have an ongoing relationship with many of our private stakeholders, including the boating public, commercial shipping organizations, port authorities, and the maritime industries-many of whom are among your own readers. We did not always have all the answers, and for that reason we were continually soliciting input from our stakeholders. That is one of several factors that made the Coast Guard the highly effective organization that it is. …
Your tour as Coast Guard Commandant was good preparation for this job …
LOY: I have sought to duplicate this policy at the TSA. Many of our programs in the maritime and land arena will draw closely on suggestions we receive from stakeholders in the maritime and land industries.
In this area, I believe that some of the lessons we learned in the Coast Guard with the Deepwater program [a major 10-year initiative to modernize and recapitalize the USCG’s ship and aircraft inventory] when I was Commandant will pay off enormously at TSA. These lessons include bringing industry into the picture early on, to take advantage of the synergies of the private sector. In Deepwater we looked to private industry for suggestions as to how they might solve certain problems. That has been-and will continue to be-a key aspect of our efforts at TSA to improve transportation security. Another lesson we learned from Deepwater was the importance of letting all members of a team know the priorities and deadlines and the importance of adhering to them.
Our mission is to protect the nation’s transportation systems, all of them, to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. We have the added challenge of ensuring transportation security in a shaky economic environment. The concerns of business and industry in moving their products and goods around the country reach our ears as often as those of the airline industry in moving passengers.
I believe in operating in a common-sense and risk-driven mode. We look at the logic in our approach to security, and we weigh the benefits against the risks. We also are continually assessing the threats through our intelligence gathering, to consider how best to prepare and respond to those threats. Putting information pieces together not only helps determine what security steps we should take, but also what steps would serve little purpose for the amount of effort and resources expended.
I believe in measuring performance. All TSA employees are personally accountable not only for their actions but also for their inactions-what they have not done that they probably should have done. Doing the right thing every time is critical when your enemy has to get it right only once.
I also believe in measuring results against expectations. Did we get what we wanted from the program, the process, or the participation? For example, we have been gathering baseline data where there are no federal security screeners yet so we can compare that data against the airport security environment after federalization.
What are your personal feelings as TSA transitions into the Department of Homeland Security?
LOY: I’m very excited about the transition. As the largest single entity in the new Department, TSA is working hard in leading the charge to improve our homeland’s transportation security systems. We have transition groups operating in a number of areas, including intelligence and information sharing, on emergency response, and the protection of critical infrastructures.
One of the principal benefits of moving into the Department of Homeland Security is that we will be able to draw on the strengths of other agencies to fulfill our mission. One critical improvement should be the ability to gain added intelligence analysis and evaluation. Our migration into DHS will support and significantly enhance our own intelligence capabilities. What we know and how we use that knowledge will be the best defense for dismantling terrorist plots before they mature.
Another benefit should be in technology. We have to use the best technological solutions to outsmart the enemy. If we don’t continue our research-and-development programs and keep up with state-of-the-art technological advances our enemies can and will be able to use technology against us. Technology can enhance security, reduce long-term costs, minimize the “hassle factor,” and, most importantly, deter the enemy.
We will continue to maintain close ties with the Department of Transportation. Secretary Mineta was personally engaged in creating the TSA and making sure it was capable of meeting its congressional mandates. We are nearing completion of a series of Memoranda of Agreement [MOAs] between TSA and the Department of Transportation [DOT] that will ensure our long-term cooperation. Among the DOT organizations we are and will be working with are the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Railroad Administration.
What is the purpose of the MOAs?
LOY: We intend, through the MOAs, to see that future vulnerability assessments are based on consistent standards and are conducted across all transportation modes to ensure that consistent and effective measures of mitigation are implemented. Inconsistent security measures would only drive terrorists from one mode of transportation to another with lesser security.
Safety and security are two sides of the same coin. As TSA moves into the Department of Homeland Security, that coin will, in essence, be sliced longitudinally-with the security side going over to the new Department while the safety side remains with the Department of Transportation. The MOAs are the umbilical cord, so to speak, connecting safety and security, as and where appropriate, across the two Departments.
This interconnectivity is, of course, what the Department of Homeland Security is all about. There’s an Ethiopian proverb that says, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” The web of partnerships among the airport, railway, and port authorities, commercial enterprises, and all of the other players in the movement of people and goods is just as critical as the web of partnerships among federal agencies.
On the federal side, transition groups have been working hard on, among many other things, a number of fundamental and important ways to improve our homeland security programs. As the largest single entity in the new department, TSA is working hard in leading the charge to improve our homeland’s transportation security systems.
I look forward to continue leading this agency and ensuring the freedom to transport people and commerce both safely and securely.
Copyright Navy League of the United States Mar 2003
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