'Security is commerce'
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 19, 2001
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
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.