SMART Transportation Division Alt. National Legislative Director and TD National Safety Team Director Jared Cassity has been appointed to serve as a voting member on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Surface Transportation Security Advisory Committee (STSAC).

Brother Cassity is one of six new surface transportation industry leaders appointed to STSAC and the lone labor representative on the committee.

“These new members bring significant experience in surface transportation and add particular expertise in pipeline operations and cybersecurity to the committee,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “As an agency, we work to remain steps ahead of evolving threats, and I anticipate the experience these professionals bring to the committee will help us.”

Brother Cassity is a member of Local 1377 (Russell, Ky.) with a long union resume. He started his railroad career with CSX in September 2005 and was promoted to engineer in 2008. He has served SMART-TD as a vice local chairperson, secretary and treasurer, legislative representative, local chairperson, assistant general chairperson and as Kentucky state legislative director. He was elected alternate national legislative director at the Second SMART-TD Convention in 2019 and became director of the TD National Safety Team in June 2021.

“I’m proud to serve on the committee and honored by this appointment,” Cassity said. “I will give honest and constructive recommendations to TSA as we work to make surface transportation in the nation safer, especially with the many transformative opportunities presented by the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

The TSA Modernization Act of 2018 required TSA to establish the committee to advise TSA’s administrator on surface transportation security matters, including recommendations for the development, refinement and implementation of policies, programs, initiatives, rulemakings and security directives pertaining to the surface transportation sector. STSAC is composed of up to 40 voting members, representing surface transportation providers, users of surface transportation, and surface transportation employees. The Committee also has 14 non-voting members serving in an advisory capacity from the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Transportation Safety Board.

Congratulations to Alt. NLD Cassity for receiving this important role!

In this photo posted to Twitter by Evan Courtney, Local 84 member Terrence Dicks, in blue, the Amtrak conductor who was aboard the Sunset Limited during a fatal gun battle Oct. 4, comforts a Tucson police officer at the scene.

A DEA officer was killed, as was a suspect, and two other law enforcement officers were wounded when gunfire erupted inside Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train the morning of Oct. 4 while it was stopped at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum in Tucson.
One suspect was in custody, according to media reports, and none of the 137 passengers or 11 crew members aboard the train were injured in the incident, which authorities said was precipitated by a routine search for illegal contraband and drugs aboard the train.
Video of the incident as it happened was captured by a live railfan cam at the museum station.
Terrence Dicks, a 20-year member of our union and a member of Local 84 (Los Angeles, Calif.) who was the conductor on the train when the gun battle happened, can be seen in a photo provided to The Associated Press and other media outlets on Twitter by passenger Evan Courtney providing comfort to a Tucson police officer who had responded to the scene.
The identities of the slain DEA agent, the injured officers nor the suspects were not released at the time of this article’s publication.
“We express our most heartfelt sorrow to the law enforcement brothers and sisters of the DEA agent who was killed in this senseless act of violence, and we wish for rapid recoveries for the two wounded officers,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes. “We also express relief that the incident in Tucson did not result in additional casualties among the passengers and crew who were aboard the train.
“But that such an incident happened during a routine stop and search exposes a great flaw in the security measures currently used on our nation’s passenger rail system. We again call upon Congress to enact measures that bring the level of security screenings aboard the nation’s passenger trains to where they are in the nation’s airports.”
SMART-TD initially called for such measures by federal agencies soon after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the nation’s capital.

SMART TD and BLET submitted joint comments to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Thursday, March 16, on their proposal to require security training for employees of higher-risk freight railroad carriers, transportation agencies, passenger railroad carriers and over-the-road bus companies.
TSA’s proposed rule will require companies to train employees performing security-sensitive functions on how to observe, assess and respond to terrorist-related threats or incidents.
SMART TD and BLET said in their comments:

“We support stronger security training requirements for surface transportation employees who serve a critical role in the movement of passengers and commercial goods nationwide. Train operators in particular are responsible for the movement of hazardous materials, which can be a high-risk target for terrorist attacks.

“In 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule which established minimum training standards for all safety-related railroad employees, as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. We urge TSA to engage with the FRA to implement improvements to those training standards and make sure that both sets of standards don’t conflict with one another.”

Click here to read TSA’s proposed rule.
Click here to read SMART TD and BLET’s joint comments in their entirety.
Click here to read all comments submitted to the TSA on this proposed rule.

Great_Lakes_Airlines_logo_150pxGreat Lakes Airlines has announced a new date to begin flights between Salina, Kan., and Denver. Flights will now begin June 15.
The airline was originally set to begin flights April 1, but was delayed due to the lack of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security screening at the Salina airport.
TSA announced at the end of April that they would restore screening service at the airport, but did not say when. Interested parties can begin booking their flights to or from Salina, Kan. now via the Great Lakes Airlines website.
Read more from the Salina Journal.

great_lakes_airThe TSA Fairness Act (H.R. 4549) passed in the House of Representatives April 13. The bill requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to provide security services at smaller airports that are serviced commercially.
This Act is significant because the TSA currently has the right to refuse service to smaller active airports. A key example is Great Lakes Airlines; the airline has has been unable to begin service at the Salina, Kan. airport (originally set to begin April 1) because TSA has refused to supply security at the airport.
Read more from Aviation Pros.

Homeland Security sealWASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration has completed its review of 28 airport access control recommendations provided to the agency by the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) at the request of Secretary Jeh C. Johnson, Department of Homeland Security.

The recommendations are the result of a comprehensive review conducted over the course of three months. In January 2015, Johnson asked the ASAC to determine if additional risk-based security measures, resource reallocations, new investments or policy changes are necessary to address the potential insider threat vulnerability at U.S. airports.

As noted in the report, “the recommendations were developed within the context of Risk-Based Security (RBS), a holistic approach to aviation security endorsed throughout every level of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

RBS has proven to be a significantly better system than a one-size-fits-all system because it enables better allocation of resources and it focuses on identifying those with intentions to harm persons and/or property.

“I am deeply grateful to the Aviation Security Advisory Committee for their work developing these recommendations,” said Peter Neffenger, TSA Administrator. “They are instrumental in mitigating the potential insider threat vulnerability at our airports.”

ASAC provided their recommendations to TSA April 8. TSA took five immediate steps in response to the ASAC’s report:

  • Requiring increased frequency of criminal history records checks.
  • Requiring all airport and airline employees traveling as passengers to be screened by TSA prior to travel.
  • Requiring airports to reduce the number of access points to an operational minimum.
  • Subjecting airport employees to additional randomized screening throughout the workday.
  • Advancing a culture of situational awareness for all airport employees through a promotional campaign, “This is My Airport.”

In addition, TSA is beginning a phased implementation approach for FBI Rap Back with an aviation pilot using Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, and Delta Air Lines. The program will enable real time criminal history monitoring of the aviation worker population. Rap Back is part of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification Program, introduced in September 2014.

TSA fully concurs with 26 and partially concurs with two of the recommendations. Statutory limitations in one instance, and the need to conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis locally in another, are the reasons for the partial concurrence of two recommendations.

The agency is acting on all 28 of the ASAC recommendations and has set a definitive schedule for assessing and reporting the results on actions taken based on the recommendations.

Four of the recommendations are closed:

  • TSA has shifted resources to increase random screening of aviation workers.
  • TSA, in collaboration with industry, has identified biometric standards for access control.
  • TSA has identified its enforcement authority for instances of non-compliance with airport badge accountability requirements.
  • TSA has initiated a security awareness campaign (“This is My Airport”) that offers an anonymous 24/7 tip line for employees at airports nationwide.

The other 24 recommendations are open and are the subject of ongoing activity by TSA with identified milestones.

TSA’s actions resulting from the study and implementation of the ASAC recommendations are intended to reduce opportunities to participate in misconduct for the few aviation workers who intend to do so. The actions will increase TSA’s ability to ensure that access to secure areas is only granted to those who should have it and is denied to those who shouldn’t. Finally, they will increase every aviation worker’s expectation that all workers will be subject to screening at some unexpected point during the workday.

TSA is working with ASAC to:

  • Increase and improve communication and coordination among agencies and industry partners.
  • Gain faster and ongoing access to the right information.
  • Share the right information and intelligence with the right partners on technical platforms that those partners can use.
  • Train partners to maximize the use of the information while protecting civil rights.
  • Continue to reduce access points into secure areas to the minimum.
  • Increase random checks at access points and throughout the workplace.
  • Use technology to channel employees to unpredictable checks.
  • Use technology to enforce adherence to the standards.
  • Use information and training tools to ensure everyone understands the rules and their enforcement.
  • Provide tools to report suspicious behavior.
  • Encourage, reward and publicize employee security awareness and engagement publicizing the report.

TSA will continue to work with the ASAC to strengthen the overall security of our commercial aviation network and mitigate the potential insider-threat posed by aviation workers.

The agency will provide the ASAC with regular updates on progress associated with all open recommendations until each is closed.

BOSTON – With news stories lately about train wrecks involving crude oil – the Bakken crude oil boom is fueling that – you may have wondered what steps were being taken to make sure those cars stay on the track, especially in densely populated urban areas such as Providence or Boston.

I did too, and began digging into it. Quite by accident I discovered some truly bad news, not involving crude oil tankers, but involving so-called “toxic inhalant hazard” cars, which, as it turn out, are far more dangerous.

Read the complete story at the Providence Journal.

Witnesses say it’s a grey sedan.

A grey four-door sedan — occupied by two men.

A grey four-door sedan occupied by two men that shows up at railroad facilities.

The men claim to work for the Federal Railroad Administration. That say they are there to inspect a bridge, or to observe train and engine crews switching tank cars in a yard.

But when asked for their identification, the two men immediately drive away in their grey sedan.

That’s the story told by a Canadian Pacific railroad bridge tender in Milwaukee, Wis., and 31 hours later by a Union Pacific supervisor 2,100 miles southwest of Milwaukee at a UP yard in Long  Beach, Calif., where tank cars were being switched.

Although the bridge tender notified Canadian Pacific police, and the UP supervisor notified the FRA – both providing a description of the vehicle and the two occupants — neither was able to obtain the vehicle’s license plate number.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is investigating. The FRA said that in neither of the reported incidents were their employees nearby.

For it to be the same vehicle and same pair of men in Milwaukee and Long Beach — 2,100 miles apart — they would have had to travel non-stop at 68 mph for 31 hours.

So, could they be separate sets of federal officers in a similar sedan testing security awareness? If not, then …?

It’s the, “If not, then … ?” that is so properly worrisome in this era of worldwide terror attacks.

The FRA and TSA continue to remind front-line rail employees that they are the critical eyes and ears first able to spot and report potential terrorist activity.

Advises the FRA and TSA:

* Request credentials of any person claiming to be an official government inspector, law-enforcement officer or representative.

* When observing a suspect vehicle, record its description (type, color, make, model, number of doors) and license plate number.

* Stay vigilant for suspicious people, behaviors, activities, and objects at and near rail facilities.

* Report potential security concerns to the railroad’s communications or operations center, following individual railroad procedures for such reporting.

* Review these procedures with other employees and supervisors during awareness briefings.

By International President Mike Futhey

Train and engine employees are the eyes and ears of every railroad, and most often the first to recognize threats and provide a response.

The post 9/11 environment dangers now include foreign terrorist threats as well as home-grown threats by disturbed individuals.

The UTU is currently engaged with Amtrak in seeking federal funds to finance training of conductors, assistant conductors, on-board service personnel and yard employees to enhance their abilities to recognize behavioral traits of individuals intending to engage in terrorist activity. This project will include coordination with the Transportation Security Administration.

Under the leadership of my administrative assistant, Bruce Feltmeyer (Local 1402), we have proposed a federally funded joint effort with Amtrak to develop situational awareness training of Amtrak employees best positioned to recognize impending attacks, whether it be aboard trains, in stations, in yards or along the right-of-way.

The core of the project is to produce a security awareness manual for front-line Amtrak employees, presenting various terrorist scenarios and means of recognizing behavioral traits of those intending to cause harm to physical facilities, passengers and Amtrak employees. This manual will be accompanied by a scenario-based video.

Bruce is uniquely qualified. During his years of rail service, he has developed training programs for the on-line UTU University; and, as a Union Pacific employee, he helped to develop customer-service related training materials for conductors and newly hired managers. He also taught business software as an adjunct professor at a St. Louis community college.

As the UTU and Amtrak are painfully aware, millions of dollars are being spent to recognize and prevent terrorist threats at airports and aboard aircraft, but far fewer funds are allocated to protect the nation’s rail, transit and bus infrastructure. At train, transit and bus stations, passengers routinely board trains and buses with backpacks and luggage that is not screened.

If our joint funding grant is approved, the UTU and Amtrak jointly will build upon those efforts to enhance the ability of front-line Amtrak employees to recognize threats and learn how best to report concerns to dispatchers and law enforcement.

A successful joint project with Amtrak could lead to additional labor-management coordination in employee security training with freight railroads, transit operators and bus companies.

Terrorist threats are real and have been carried out against rail, transit and bus operations in other nations. Enhanced security that directly involves front-line employees protects our livelihoods. The UTU is capable, willing and anxious to play a key role training front-line employees to help protect our ground-based transportation networks.

On a related note, those attending UTU regional meetings in Phoenix and Asheville this summer will have opportunity to attend four-hour workshops hosted by the National Transit Institute of Rutgers University. Presentations will be made on existing surveillance monitoring techniques and methods of identifying would-be terrorists intent on using explosives, biological chemicals and/or firearms in an attack.