'Security is commerce'

The federal government and private industry still don't seem to understand

that strengthening and enforcing transportation security measures would

boost public confidence and business, a former inspector general for the

Transportation Department said.

"Security is commerce and without it, there isn't any," Mary Schiavo,

now an aviation disaster attorney, told attendees at a homeland defense

conference in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18. The one-day conference was co-hosted

by E-Gov and the National Defense Industrial Association. (E-Gov is owned

by 101 Communications LLC, which also owns Federal Computer Week.)

The security problems -- a disregard for laws, the existence of disparate

enforcement throughout the country and a reliance on technology -- have

contributed to a lax system not just in the aviation industry, but in all

forms of transportation, she said, including trucking, trains and oil pipelines,

which fall under the Transportation Department's control.

Schiavo also noted a lack of institutional and historical memory of

incidents and tragedies, particularly in aviation, and a lack of information

sharing between federal and law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

She said this has contributed to a failure to separate the "good eggs"

from the "bad eggs."

"We've come down to a situation where the situation has been so compromised,

we're having a difficult time sorting," Schiavo said. For example, she said

the Computer Assisted Passenger Screening (CAPS) system, an optional system

in place since 1998, failed to show who might be a risk on Sept. 11. CAPS

collects information on passengers before they board an airplane and feeds

it into a database that determines whether some passengers should be subject

to additional security procedures. The problem is that the database isn't

comprehensive and relies on information provided by the passengers, she

said.

She also said that companies found in violation of security measures

can negotiate their sanctions "almost down to nothing" because governments

believe the transportation industry would invest money to bolster security.

A view also exists in the transportation industry that security and enforcement

efforts are perceived as adequate, she said.

Toughening security measures will drive the transportation industry's

future, but Schiavo said the industry cannot continue to support companies

that provide little or no security. "The last thing we want to do is go

back to normal because normal is what got us here," she said.

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