TSA ships security to ports, highways

Steve LeSueur

Created following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Transportation Security Administration endured a rough start as it tried to soothe a nation of anxious travelers.

In the rush to meet a congressional deadline to hire and deploy federal airport security employees at the nation's commercial airports by Nov. 19, 2002, the agency quickly ran over budget -- by some $600 million according to the General Accounting Office. Congress grilled agency chiefs repeatedly about its hiring practices.

At the same time, air travelers complained about long delays, intrusive inspections and questionable security procedures. The agency's reputation was not enhanced by discoveries that some of its new security personnel were illegal aliens or had criminal records.

Despite these problems, the agency has moved steadily forward, putting into place airport security measures that industry executives say are attracting attention from other nations. James Loy, TSA administrator, acknowledges that the agency has not perfected airport security, but he feels confident enough to start shifting attention to other areas of transportation, such as highways, railroads, harbors and mass transit systems.

In our feature story, Loy and Chief Information Officer Pat Schambach describe some of their plans for continued improvement. Loy said, for example, the agency already has awarded more than $425 million in grants to track cargo and improve security at ports.

"A significant portion of TSA grants are going to the research and development of new technologies," he said.

The opportunities are just starting to appear, as industry executives told Staff Writer Patience Wait. Her front-page story has the details.

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