WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of a congressional security committee expressed concern to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about its lack of progress on a measure to improve safety for school bus passengers.
The measure, part of the HR 1 act signed by President Bush in August, directs the DHS secretary to submit a pupil transportation security report to Congress within a year of enactment.
Congressmen Bennie Thompson and Bob Etheridge, both of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter in January to Edmund “Kip” Hawley, the assistant secretary of homeland security for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), asking how and when the department plans to conduct the school transportation threat assessment.
Etheridge worked to include the measure in HR 1 based on a suggestion from North Carolina state pupil transportation director Derek Graham.
The National School Transportation Association was also instrumental in the measure’s inclusion. The contractor group said in a recent newsletter that it had been pressing TSA to respond appropriately and had expressed its frustration to Etheridge. Graham had also contacted Etheridge, who responded quickly.
“I am very concerned that after six months, it appears that the Department of Homeland Security has not begun to take action on my measure to improve the safety of millions of children,” Etheridge said. “DHS must detail how it expects to conduct a thorough assessment of our nation's school bus safety in the six months remaining until its report is due to Congress.”
In a telephone conference with members of the pupil transportation industry last month, TSA officials acknowledged the lack of progress on the threat assessment and said that Congress had not provided any funding for it.