President Bush has directed the Dept. of Homeland Security to produce a security plan for surface transportation by the end of December. In an executive order issued Dec. 5, Bush says that DHS must "develop a comprehensive surface transportation systems sector specific plan" by Dec. 31.

The document also says that 90 days after the overall plan comes out, DHS must produce an "annex" for each surface transportation mode. Those annexes must identify "any security gaps" for each mode, outline how the security plan will be carried out and spell out the roles of federal and nonfederal government agencies and private companies.

By June 2007, the executive order adds, DHS must provide lists of "available technologies and products relating to the protection of surface transportation."

American Public Transportation Association President William W. Millar says his group has been working with DHS on a security plan, including a transit annex "that is close to being finalized." Millar says the White House didn't consult with the transit industry about the new executive order.

"While we agree that a security plan for public transportation is an urgent matter, an artificially short deadline set after years of delay should not get in the way of having a sound and effective document that will help improve security for the millions of Americans who take mass transit," he says.

Beyond that, Millar says full funding for transit security is needed. Last year, the Senate defeated a proposal to add $1.2 billion for transit to a DHS spending bill.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), who will chair the House Homeland Security Committee next year, says, "I fail to understand the President's timing or purpose in issuing this executive order." Thompson says Congress in 2004 required the administration to take steps to increase surface transportation security, but the plan it produced was late, "did not contain substantive information" and was classified, so industry could not review it.

Thompson also says he and incoming Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) plan to propose surface transportation security legislation.