- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

Homeland Security officials still lack a continuity-of-operations plan to ensure that the nation’s transportation systems are not interrupted in the wake of a terrorist attack, according to an inspector general report released yesterday.

Without the plan, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) “ability to support, coordinate, and direct intermodal transportation security during an emergency could be impaired or fail,” the report said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has the task of overseeing the plan, but “has provided only limited oversight,” because it “does not currently “have the authority to serve as a regulatory agent responsible for ensuring” that agencies have a viable Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), the report said.

In his response to the audit, FEMA Director R. David Paulison disputed whether his agency is responsible for oversight, rather than assistance.

The order says FEMA “shall coordinate and support” national emergency preparedness and does not specify the COOP program, Mr. Paulison said.

Mr. Paulison noted that nearly 30,000 employees have taken advantage of emergency courses offered by his agency.

According to federal guidelines, the TSA must be capable of implementing an emergency plan without warning and be fully operational within 12 hours.

The current program “only partially” addresses 11 key elements required in a plan, including alternate operating facilities, delegation of authority, orders of succession, protecting vital records, interoperable communications and reconstruction.

The TSA is a key component of homeland security and oversees security for highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports and 450 U.S. airports with 50,000 employees.

“TSA has developed a cumbersome COOP plan that would require more than 200 agency personnel to conduct 138 mission-essential functions at two or more different locations during the most extreme emergency situations,” the report said.

The report questions some functions considered “essential,” such as investigating routine complaints, paperwork, and collecting customer and airline feedback.

The specific “mission-essential” functions not addressed in the plan were redacted from the report, as well as some parts of the TSA’s response to the investigations.

“TSA officials agreed that COOP planning has not been a TSA priority, as evidenced by the …,” one redacted statement in the report said.

The response from Robert Jamison, TSA deputy assistant secretary, completely redacted how the agency plans to address the 11 elements cited by the inspector general.

“However, TSA has made several significant changes to the program in recent months that are not reflected in the report,” Mr. Jamison said. “For example, the assistant secretary has made COOP a high priority, and COOP management has begun developing a detailed and comprehensive program management plan and multi-year strategy.”

The inspector general’s report recommended more funding be allocated and stronger oversight from top homeland officials. After the audit began, the Department of Homeland Security allocated $10 million in funding for the program.

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