Chemical plant securityLawmakers, citing shortcomings, threaten funding for chemical plant safety program

Published 25 July 2013

Heads of three congressional panels urge DHS secretary Janet Napolitano to take to correct shortcomings in the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. “As the authorizers and appropriators of this program, we write to you to express serious reservations about continuing to extend CFATS funding without evidence of substantial programmatic improvement,” the three chairmen write in their letter to Napolitano. The lawmakers pointed to flaws in the program’s risk evaluation system, compliance hurdles, implementation delays, and the failure of the program to identify vulnerable facilities.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Carter (R-Texas) earlier this week wrote to DHS secretary regarding the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Given the program’s shortcomings, the congressional leaders expressed “serious reservations” about extending funding for the program unless significant progress is made.

They wrote:

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General, and the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection itself have all recognized that, over the past five years, DHS’s ineffectual management and implementation of the CFATS program has frustrated the Department’s critical mission to secure America’s facilities containing chemicals of interest. As the authorizers and appropriators of this program, we write to you to express serious reservations about continuing to extend CFATS funding without evidence of substantial programmatic improvement. The basic programmatic building blocks of CFATS are missing, and we are running short on both patience and confidence with regard to the Department’s ability to correct its deficiencies.

The lawmakers pointed to flaws in the program’s risk evaluation system, compliance hurdles, implementation delays, and the failure of the program to identify vulnerable facilities as highlighted by the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.

The letter continued:

Unfortunately, problems with the Department’s efforts to implement these programs are not limited to those discussed here. As the Chairmen responsible for authorizing and funding CFATS, we are convinced the program should not continue in its present condition.  While the need to secure American facilities with chemicals of concern is a critical one, the CFATS program is simply not getting the job done. … Over the course of this fiscal year, the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Homeland Security Committee will continue the rigorous oversight and strict guidance needed to get CFATS on track.  We intend to identify specific milestones the program must achieve in order to establish its viability. Ultimately, we would like to consider a multi-year reauthorization of CFATS — but only if it is the right program for the job.

The committee leaders are requesting a series of reports from DHS to assist with oversight, specifically examining how the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) plans to improve implementation of the program.

See the full letter here.

 

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