The Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today continued its oversight of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program (CFATS) with a hearing to review the progress of the program in safeguarding our nation's chemical facilities against terrorist threats. This hearing follows the subcommittee's previous hearings held last year, which discussed an internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that exposed a series of flaws and achievement gaps within the CFATS program.
"Sadly, it has been a very painful process to see how badly CFATS had fallen short of our expectations and to see the struggle, both inside DHS as well as externally, to get the program back on track. There are some positive reports about progress from DHS, GAO and the regulated stakeholders, but we've uncovered more details showing that in key areas the suggested progress is not what we had hoped," said Chairman Shimkus.
In response to the 2011 DHS internal memo, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the program and determine what steps DHS is taking to address the identified problems through its Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) Action Plan under the direction of Director David Wulf.
The subcommittee heard updates from Director Wulf and Under Secretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate Rand Beers on the status of the CFATS program, progress made, and remaining work to be accomplished. Their joint testimony stated, "We believe the Department has turned a corner on the CFATS program. We are moving forward strategically to address the challenges before us. As we implement CFATS, we will continue to work with stakeholders to get the job done of preventing terrorists from exploiting chemicals or chemical facilities."
Stephen Caldwell, Director of Homeland Security and Justice for GAO, provided an update on GAO's ongoing review of DHS' execution of the ISCD Action Plan. GAO found that DHS has made some progress in implementing the plan but also identified gaps in the process. Caldwell testified, "Our preliminary analyses indicates that the tiering approach ISCD uses to assess risk and assign facilities to final tiers does not consider all of the elements of risk associated with a terrorist attack involving certain chemicals. According to the NIPP, which, among other things, establishes the framework for managing risk among the nation's critical infrastructure, risk is a function of three components--consequence, threat, and vulnerability--and a risk assessment approach must assess each component for every defined risk scenario. Furthermore, the CFATS rule calls for ISCD to review consequence, threat, and vulnerability information in determining a facility's final tier. However, ISCD's risk assessment approach does not fully consider all of the core criteria or components of a risk assessment, as specified by the NIPP, nor does it comport with parts of the CFATS rule."
William Allmond, Vice President of Government and Public Relations for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, explained that while there has been improvement in CFATS implementation, greater flexibility is still needed for small and medium-sized facilities to comply. Allmond stated, "DHS should be more willing to extend the amount of time a small and medium-sized facility has to respond to a post-inspection report. Facilities are learning that, even if they had an inspection that overall seemed to go well, they are having to rewrite much of their site security plan to address issues discovered during the inspection. It is difficult for these smaller facilities to mobilize sufficient personnel to address such requirements following a CFATS inspection within a deadline of 30 days, which has been the usual case. Under a 30-day deadline, facilities are having to pull two to three workers for two to three days each--a total of over 70 man hours--from their productive jobs to ensure they meet the deadline. To us, this is unreasonable."
The subcommittee will continue its oversight of the program to determine the best path forward for CFATS and its reauthorization. Chairman Shimkus added, "I believe we are at a critical juncture for the success of the CFATS program, in that the internal issues distracting the program are not now our focus, but rather getting the program right, functioning effective