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(Washington,DC) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray used her position as Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to explore the safety and security of cargo transportation throughout the United States.

Senator Murray's opening remarks follow:

More than six months have passed since the tragic events of September 11th. Since then, we've been working to protect our country from future terrorist attacks. Just weeks after September 11th, Congress responded by appropriating billions of dollars to shore-up our aviation industry and to improve security across our aviation system.

We passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. But it's important to remember that the Act covered more than just aviation. It gave the new Transportation Security Administration responsibility for ensuring security in all modes of transportation.

Our security system is only as strong as its weakest link. As we work to make aviation more secure, I want to make sure we're not leaving other vulnerabilities open to those who would threaten us. So today, we're going to explore the state of security in the transportation of cargo - including hazardous materials.

It is estimated that roughly one-third of the terrorist attacks that occur around the world are targeted on some aspect of transportation. Every day, there are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous material within the United States, mostly over our railways and highways. Millions of dollars worth of goods enter our seaports each day from thousands of destinations and rapidly find their way onto those highways and railways. Much of that freight is identified only as "freight of all kinds." We know very little about the true identity of the shipper. We know even less about the true nature of the cargo. As I've looked at this, I've found major gaps in funding and regulations. We have a system that's designed to prevent accidents - but not designed to prevent deliberate attacks.

This morning's subcommittee hearing will focus on the vulnerabilities that surround the transportation of cargo, especially hazardous cargo, and what is and isn't being done to better ensure security across our entire transportation system.

As we look at this issue, I want to point out four challenges we'll need to consider: the economic importance of moving goods quickly, how our major cities and ports are closely connected, the role of hazardous materials, and the inconsistent regulations and funding across all modes of transportation.

First, our cargo transportation system was designed with speed in mind. Many American industries have become more efficient and productive than their foreign counterparts by exploiting the benefits of "just in time" delivery. This has been an economic success story that no one wants to undermine.

A second challenge is our transportation infrastructure itself. Historically, our largest cities have developed around our major rivers and rail systems. Our interstate highway systems were designed to connect those cities. As a result, hazardous cargo moves through one population center or another, every hour of every day. Similarly, most of our major ports are found at the waterside of our largest cities - be it in Seattle/Tacoma, Los Angeles/Long Beach, the Newark/New York area, or Houston. Across the nation, waterside shipping terminals sit next to residential communities and busy commercial districts. Keeping people and cargo separated is for the most part unattainable.

A third challenge concerns hazardous materials like chlorine, which is used to purify drinking water. Transporting chlorine poses a security challenge, but we must remember that the American public relies on these and other hazardous materials in our everyday lives. We need to make sure they can be transported safely.

A fourth challenge is the federal regulatory and enforcement regimes that currently govern the transportation of hazardous cargo. Our government policies and regulations have largely been designed to prevent an accidental release of hazardous materials. They have not been designed to protect against a deliberate release. Many of the agencies within the Department of Transportation that are now charged with launching new security regulations are already behind in publishing regulations to maintain transportation safety. We need to make sure they can meet the existing safety challenges and the new security challenges effectively.

Taken together, all of these challenges will require strong and informed leadership. Frankly, I'm concerned about the leadership we've seen so far. Many in the transportation industry have told me the efforts to date have been characterized by a lack of direction, a lack of urgency, and a general confusion over who is in charge.

Our new Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, John Magaw, is responsible for security in all modes of transportation safety. However, the extraordinary challenges presented by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act have required him to focus almost entirely on aviation.

As such, when it comes to trucking, railroads, pipelines and our ports, the new security requirements have been left largely to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Maritime Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Research and Special Programs Administration. Somewhere in the middle of all this, the Secretary's Office and the new Office of Homeland Security weigh in from time to time.

While I am not an advocate of "one size fits all" solutions to the security problem, it's hard not to notice some of the glaring differences in the way different transportation industries are being handled by the different parts of DOT.

In some industries, individual companies are being asked to develop their own security plans and submit them for approval by the federal agency. In other instances, the agencies themselves are developing the security plans for industry. And in yet another, the companies are just being asked to have a plan in place with no agency review.

We even find inconsistencies in what is and isn't considered classified information. While the number of new Federal Air Marshals sought in the President's budget is classified, the number of new Coast Guard Sea Marshals is printed for all to see in the Coast Guard's annual budget.

There are even more significant inconsistencies in the funding levels requested in the President's budget. For aviation security, the President requested several billion dollars. For the Coast Guard, the President requested historic funding increases. But for the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Research and Special Programs Administration, there are no major funding initiatives to deal with security in these transportation modes. For Port security, Congress funded almost $100 million in direct grants for security improvements at our ports in 2002. The President, however in his budget request, has requested zero dollars - zero - for port security grants.

In the absence of clear leadership by the Administration, individual transportation industries have sought to stand up to the challenge. The major Class I freight railroads have sought to implement their own new security regime. So have some of the larger and more organized sectors of the trucking and chemical industries. But even they are working somewhat in the dark. No sooner did the railroad industry set up a new security regime pegged to four different security alert levels than Governor Ridge announced his new national system with five different security alert levels. Clearly, we need to improve our communications so that we're all working together as effectively as possible.

I believe we've got to focus on the weakest links in the system. All of our efforts on transportation security will be no better than the effort of the least paid security guard manning the perimeter fence of a rail yard or a pipeline pump station.

We've known for years about vulnerabilities in how states distribute commercial driver's licenses. It shouldn't have come as a surprise when it was discovered some months ago the known terrorists were obtaining commercial drivers licenses with special endorsements to carry hazardous materials.

It is precisely because terrorists go after the weakest link that we must not depend solely on voluntary measures by industry. I commend the industries that have stepped up to the plate to do the right thing. But we must remember that hazardous materials are carried by more than just Class I railroads and major trucking firms. There are over 38,000 individual trucking firms, many that consist of only one truck, that are authorized to carry hazardous materials. Those truckers don't have the time, money, or desire to review the Federal Register to learn what new voluntary measures are being recommended by DOT. That's why we need comprehensive and enforceable policies that will govern the behavior of each and every one of them.

We need more than just voluntary recommendations and agency advisories to "take greater care." My goal for this hearing this morning is to get answers as to who is in charge of these security functions. If the answer to that question is that no one is in change, then I want to know who is going to take charge. How is our federal government going to attack these weakest links in our security system? And when precisely are we going to see real policies put into place to eliminate the vulnerabilities?

I'm very pleased that so many distinguished members of the Administration have joined us today. Our Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, John Magaw, was required to reschedule events in Europe so that he could be with us today. I appreciate his flexibility and attention to this issue. We are also joined by the Administrators of the: Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Research and Special Programs Administration. We are also joined by the appropriate representatives from the Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration. I thank you all for being here this morning.