Saturday, June 26, 2010
Representatives from the United States and European Union officially signed the "second stage" Protocol to the 2007 U.S./EU Air Transport Agreement in Luxembourg last Friday. See Press Release, Department of Transportation, U.S. Signs 2nd-Stage U.S.-EU Aviation Agreement, DOT 124-10 (June 24, 2010) (available here). From the release:
Cynthia Stroum, the US Ambassador to Luxembourg and Susan Kurland, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, along with representatives of the European Union (EU) and its 27 member nations, today formally signed an aviation agreement that continues the expansion of air services set in place by the 2007 U.S.-EU Open-Skies accord.
“This agreement will benefit consumers, airlines, workers, communities and airports on both sides of the Atlantic,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
The second-stage U.S.-EU agreement signed today was concluded on March 25, 2010. It builds on the U.S.-EU Open-Skies agreement, the historic accord signed in April 2007 that eliminated restrictions on services between the United States and EU member states. That agreement allowed airlines from both sides to select routes and destinations based on consumer demand for both passenger and cargo services, without limitations on the number of U.S. or EU carriers that could fly between the two parties or the number of flights they could operate.
The new agreement affirms that the terms of the 2007 accord will remain in place indefinitely. It deepens U.S.-EU cooperation in aviation security, safety, competition, and ease of travel, and provides greater protections for U.S. carriers from local restrictions on night flights at European airports. It also includes a ground-breaking article on the importance of high labor standards in the airline industry. The new agreement also underscores the importance of close transatlantic cooperation on aviation environmental matters in order to advance a global approach to global challenges.
Blog readers may be interested in the U.S. Government Accountability Office's recent report, Transportation Security: Additional Actions Could Strengthen the Security of Intermodal Transportation Facilities, GAO-10-435R (May 27, 2010) (available here). From the summary:
Terrorist attacks on mass transit and commuter rail facilities in Moscow, Madrid, London, and Mumbai, and the significant loss of life and disruption they caused, have highlighted the vulnerability of transportation facilities to terrorism and the need for greater focus on securing these facilities, including intermodal transportation terminals. Such intermodal transportation terminals--locations where multiple modes or types of passengers or cargo transportation connect an merge--are potentially high value targets for terrorists because the large number of passengers or volume of cargo can lead to significant loss of human life and economic disruption. For example, New York City's Pennsylvania ("Penn") Station, the nation's busiest rail station, functions as an intermodal hub for Amtrak, two ma commuter rail lines (New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road), as well as six city subway routes. According to Amtrak, an average of 500,000 passengers the station daily. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has primary responsibility for homeland security, including transportation security, under the Homeland Security Act. Within DHS, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has primary responsibility for securing the aviation and surface transportation sectors. The Department of Transportation (DOT) supports DHS by providing technical assistance through some programs (e.g., supporting the development of security standards for mass transit and passenger rail systems). DOT also assists DHS when possible with implementation of its security policies, as allowed by DOT statutory authorities and available resources. A number of other entities, including Amtrak, transportation agencies, local law enforcement, and state and local governments, have day-to-day responsibilities for securing the aviation and surface transportation sectors. Amtrak, for example, operates the nation's primary intercity passenger rail system and serves more than 500 stations across the country. DHS and DOT formalized their roles and responsibilities for transportation security through a memorandum of understanding signed in September 2004, which identified that they would work together to achieve the required level of multi- and intermodal security. You raised questions about the level of security and protection at intermodal transportation facilities throughout the nation, and asked us to examine federal efforts to secure these facilities. On January 7, 2010, we met with your staff to update them on the status of our work assessing the security of aviation and surface transportation modes and intermodal facilities. As agreed, this report summarizes the work that we have completed in recent years in the aviation and surface transportation security area that is most directly related to intermodal facilities, as well as our ongoing work in these areas. Although this work focused on individual modes and related facilities within the transportation sector--such as aviation, mass transit and passenger rail, freight rail, and highway infrastructure--many of the facilities examined were also intermodal. Thus, this report addresses the following questions: (1) To what extent has DHS taken actions to ensure that efforts to strengthen the security of the aviation and surface transportation sectors are based on a risk management framework, particularly those that include intermodal facilities? (2) To what extent has DHS taken actions to ensure the security of the aviation and surface transportation sectors, particularly those actions that involve intermodal facilities?