London Blasts Fuels Spending Fight for Transit Security

N.Y. Senator Charles Schumer vows to double funding for rail, mass transit security in 2006


WASHINGTON -- A series of terrorist attacks Thursday on London's transit system could spark a fight next week over how much the federal government spends on rail and mass-transit security.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would seek next week to double the amount of funding allocated in fiscal 2006 to rail security and mass-transit security, including subways and buses.

The amendment to the annual homeland-security spending bill would double the $100 million currently proposed for both mass transit and rail security, allocating $100 million for each. It would also double funding for bus security improvements to $20 million. Fiscal 2006 begins Oct. 1.

"It is clear that we're not doing close to enough and must do more. The soft underbelly of buses and subways and railroads are fully exposed to similar terrorist attacks unless we take real steps to beef up mass transit security immediately," Schumer said, in a written statement.

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his agency had completed a review of security needs and would be coming out soon with policy proposals of its own.

"I wouldn't make a policy decision driven by a single event," Chertoff said at a news conference. "I think our priority here is to get to the bottom of this, make sure we understand what the dimensions of this set of acts are, who perpetrated them, determine whether there are any lessons in intelligence that we're going to gain from this, and then move forward."

Democrats, including Schumer, have long pushed for increased funding for rail and bus security.

Some security-related stocks, including shares of transit-related surveillance equipment rallied sharply on Thursday. See full story.

The Department of Homeland Security raised the threat alert level for all public transit systems to high, or code orange, from elevated, or yellow. The alert covers regional and inter-city passenger rail, subways and bus systems. See full story.

Chertoff said the U.S. transit system remains safe, but said the call for extra vigilance was prudent in the wake of the London attacks.

"We feel that, at least in the short term, we should raise the level here because, obviously, we're concerned about the possibility of a copycat attack," he said.