Transportation securityNY-NJ Port Authority centralizes security operations

Published 6 April 2012

The Port of Authority of New York and new Jersey has created a stand-alone Security Department and is now searching for a Chief Security Officer to oversee all security and safety functions, resources, and personnel

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution last week aiming to strengthen coordination and accountability across security-related programs and personnel by creating a stand-alone Security Department and appointing the agency’s first Chief Security Officer (CSO). The new CSO will be selected after a nation-wide search, and will direct all elements related to agency security matters, with the Security Department assuming full operational control of the Port Authority Police Department.

The Port Authority says that the decision followed a confidential briefing by former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff. Chertoff is co-founder of the security-consulting firm, the Chertoff Group, which the board retained in late May of 2011 to perform a top-to-bottom study of the Port Authority’s management of security and agency-wide security operations. The Chertoff Group examined more than 20,000 pages of documents and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with Port Authority executive leadership, operational managers and union leaders, among others.

Chertoff, in his report, cited capital investments to harden security around critical Port Authority facilities and infrastructure, as well as strengthened interagency partnerships. He and his team found, however, that the agency’s security structure was highly decentralized, with complex internal procedures that resulted in a lack of coordination with respect to important security issues; the absence of a clear sense of mission; and inadequate lines of responsibility and operational control over the organization.

Leaders of the Port Authority were in agreement that the new, centralized structure would enhance security.

The Port Authority is responsible for some of the world’s most critical transportation assets,” said Port Authority chairman David Samson. “Our creation of a centralized Security Department, overseeing the Port Authority’s policing and our other security resources, will enhance our billions of dollars of investment in security infrastructure, improve security communications and responsiveness, and add to our security efforts.”

These steps will, when implemented, result in a more flexible, accountable and effective approach to public safety at the Port Authority,” said Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. “Beyond that we will derive maximum value from every dollar we spend on public safety.”

Creating an empowered, standalone Public Security Department within the Port Authority will allow the PA Police Department to better protect our customers, employees and assets,” said Executive Director Pat Foye. “We will move quickly to identify a Chief Security Officer and create the new department.”

There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our customers, commuters, and passengers,” said Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “We will always make sure we have the strongest and most organized security organization in the world.”

I commend the Board of Commissioners and executive leadership team for taking the initiative to conduct an end-to-end review of their security operations,” said Chertoff. “While there is no doubt the Port Authority has made significant investments to strengthen security since 9/11, applying these additional measures will establish clear lines of authority, improve decision making and help safety and security personnel more effectively carry out their responsibilities.”

The board’s resolution establishes a temporary transition team, led by Port Authority executive director Pat Foye and Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni to help assemble the new security division. The Chertoff Group will assist in the transition planning.