The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on July 6, 2006 its annual ‘Direct Critical Infrastructure Grant Allocations.’ A total of $399 million was allocated, and five of seven grant programs were awarded, including the Transit Security Grant Program, which awarded $136 million to systems determined to be “at risk based on factors including total ridership, underground rail systems, and underwater system.”
The Buffer Zone Protection Program allocated $48 million to provide “grant funding to build security and risk-management capabilities at the state and local level to secure critical infrastructure including chemical facilities, nuclear and electric power plants, dams, stadiums, arenas and other high-risk areas”. As a separate program, the Chemical Sector Buffer Zone Protection Grant Program allocated $25 million to enhance “the protection of facilities that, if attacked, could cause Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)-like.”
The Intercity Passenger Rail Security Grant Program awarded $7.2 million to Amtrak “to continue security enhancements for intercity passenger rail operations in the Northeast Corridor (service between Washington, DC and Boston), Amtrak’s hub in Chicago and to expand these enhancements into the West Coast Service Area in key, high-risk urban areas.”
Finally, the Trucking Security Program provides $4.8 million to The American Trucking in support of the Highway Watch program efforts “to continue as a sustainable national program to enhance security and overall preparedness on our nation’s highways” (see this WAR Report).
An increased focus on critical infrastructure grants, and transit security in particular, is required as additional funding is needed to reflect the emerging reality that emergent and self-motivated jihadist terrorist cells appear to have set their sights on mass transit infrastructure. Many of the major al-Qaeda -directed or inspired attacks since 9/11 have targeted mass transit infrastructure. These attacks include Madrid , London , Mumbai (Terrorist Incident and Intel Report), as well as the disrupted plot against the PATH commuter trains connecting New York City and New Jersey .
The global jihadist movement may view mass transit systems as vulnerable soft targets that, when attacked correctly, offer the opportunity to cause a large number of casualties, economic damage, and favorable propaganda. Additionally, newly emergent terrorist cells may simply inherit the targeting guidance and tactics of previously successful attacks against mass transportation targets.
As a result, it is commendable that DHS has focused more than one-third of its infrastructure grants on mass transit security. However, as transit security funding remained relatively flat from its 2005 level of $136 million, DHS may do well to consider readjusting some of its funding priorities to reflect the apparent reality that emergent terrorist cells have set their sights on mass transit infrastructure.