Speed and reliability and convenience are obviously hallmarks of mass transit, and we support mass transit as part of broader societal goals we have. But with so many passengers at so many stations, along so many paths, those systems are very difficult to secure.
We certainly haven't gone unsecured, and increasingly, again since 9/11, we've increased the presence of surveillance cameras, explosives-detecting dogs, roving security teams and, of course, greater public awareness.
Secretary Napolitano has energetically promoted, and Mr. Pistole also, the "See Something, Say Something" public education campaign because the security of our rail system really does hinge, in large part, on the awareness and actions of an observant citizenry.
But a decade after 9/11, as one of our witnesses, Dr. Steve Flynn, correctly, I think, suggests, we've got to move beyond "See Something, Say Something" to "Do Something."
Rail and transit security, of course, has been traditionally the primary responsibility of state and local law enforcement. However, in our time, the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, has begun to play a critically important role.
TSA has been working with state and local governments to improve rail and transit security. It now has 25 mobile security teams, known as VIPR teams, Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response -- one of the best acronyms that I think our government has -- VIPR -- sends into the field. And the president's fiscal year 2012 budget actually requests 12 more such teams.
TSA also has over 300 security inspectors working with local transit officials to assess the security of trains, platforms and rail yards.
But there's more that TSA and state and local governments and transit agencies can and I think should do -- must do. Let me just mention a few.
First, TSA really needs to fulfill a 2007 legislative requirement to develop uniform standards for rail and transit training programs for background checks for frontline employees and for transit agencies' security plans.
Second, the Department of Homeland Security, I think, should step up its efforts to develop creative non-intrusive transit security solutions, especially to detect improvised explosive devices, which history has shown are the weapons of choice for disrupting rail and transit systems.
As you know, Department of Homeland Security has a science and technology director explicitly to achieve purposes like this. But specific R&D for rail and transit security innovations, in my opinion, has been much too limited.
Third, TSA, I think, has to improve its intelligence sharing with state and local officials. It's come a long way but it -- but it needs to come further, and also with the private sector to provide information that is both current and useful to them, that is, in some sense, simplified and easier to manage.
Fourth, all of the stakeholders in transit security need to be conducting more exercises to accustom rail and transit officials with the unique requirements of disaster prevention and response involving mass transit, particularly trains. So I hope that TSA and FEMA will continue to expand these exercises and that local authorities will -- state authorities included -- will become more proactive and ensure that employees at every level are involved.
And fifth, we've got to continue to work with passengers to make them full partners in securing our rail and transit systems. That includes educating them about the risks, how to report suspicious activities, and how to respond should an attack occur.
We have the Department of Homeland Security's transit security grant program through which approximately $1.8 billion in rail and transit grant funds, security funds, have been distributed since 2006.
These funds are really critically important to our state and local authorities, and that's why I feel that the House action to zero these funds out is just plain bad policy, and I hope we will be able to overturn that here in the Senate. I do want to stress that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have successfully thwarted plots against rail and transit systems and we shouldn't, in talking about what more we can do, pass over that without acknowledging really remarkable work.