Momentum: Issue #77

August 2, 2021

How to Make the Digital Layer of the U.S. Transportation System Safer

On July 21, ITS America President & CEO Shailen Bhatt testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at a hearing titled “Addressing Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Facing Our Nation’s Physical Infrastructure.” At the hearing, he called for a more robust national transportation cybersecurity strategy to make the U.S. transportation system safer by ensuring transportation agencies meet certain marks determined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Center for Internet Security.

To do so, Bhatt recommended the following:

  • Provide state, local, and other transportation agencies funding at up to 100% federal share, technical assistance, and best practices to improve their cyber defenses;
  • Set up a DOT grant program to help rural transportation agencies and areas of persistent poverty or income inequality modernize intelligent transportation systems;
  • Reimburse transportation entities that have been proactive and used state, local, or other funding sources to modernize ITS and improve cyber defenses; and
  • Allow flexibility in how transportation funds are used to invest in future cybersecurity workforce capacity.

“Just as we have underinvested in roads, bridges, and tunnels over the last two decades, the same is true for cybersecurity – we have not made the necessary investments to protect our transportation system. Developing a resilient system begins with cybersecurity. We should take it just as seriously as we do for other industries,” Bhatt said in his opening statement.

“We fund safety programs up to 100% federal share – we should give cybersecurity the same level of support. State and local transportation agencies need resources to shore up their infrastructure.”

Bhatt also made clear the importance of ITS. “ITS technologies are making our system safer and more efficient – by moving people, data, and freight, they support the U.S. economy. We must, however, secure our critical infrastructure assets and manage the vulnerabilities that come with a more complex system.”

In his testimony, Bhatt thanked Committee Chair Tom Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) for making cybersecurity explicitly eligible, for the first time, under federal highway formula programs in the Committee’s Surface Transportation Reauthorization (STRA) Act of 2021, for which ITS America and our members have strongly advocated for a long time. STRA is now included the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal.

A big thanks to these ITS America members that provided valuable assistance in preparing Bhatt for his testimony: AECOM, C. Douglass Couto, HNTB, New York City Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Mission Secure, Southwest Research Institute, Texas Department of Transportation, and WSP.

Read Bhatt’s full testimony here.