The first round of hearings on the DHS 2009 budget started yesterday in the House Homeland Security Committee. Secretary Chertoff was the only witness in yesterday’s hearing. Today he will appear before the Senate committee.
Secretary Chertoff’s testimony highlighted the departments achievements to date. These include two areas specifically related to the chemical industry:
· Setting Chemical Security Standards: NPPD established national guidelines for chemical facility security in a comprehensive set of regulations to protect chemical facilities from attack and prevent theft of chemicals that could be used as weapons.
· Assessed Impacts of Chemical Attacks: S&T conducted the first comprehensive chemical threat risk assessment across a broad range of toxic chemicals that better focuses interagency priorities accordinglyto risk.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog (see “DHS 2009 Budget Released” there is only one item in the budget that directly pertains to security at chemical facilities, the Chemical Security Compliance Project (what we know as CFATS). The President’s budget requests $13 million more for this project than requested in the 2008 Budget.
In Chairman Thompson’s Opening Statement and in the Committees Budget Shortfalls Analysis much attention was made of how much the budget cut funding for a wide variety of programs (none related to chemical security programs). The Secretary’s testimony noted increases of hold steady on almost all of those programs.
The difference between the two was due to what baseline was used. Chertoff increases were referenced back to last year’s budget request. The Chairman’s figures were referenced back to last year’s appropriated figures. It is likely that this year will also see congress increase funding for the many grant programs; after all it is an election year.