Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lieberman Weighs in on CFATS Spending

Last week Sen. Lieberman (I, CT), the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee outlining his thoughts on the Department of Homeland Security budget. It is a rather lengthy letter, as one would imagine given the breadth of DHS operations. There is one paragraph in that letter that refers to Chemical Site Security and I will reproduce it here in its entirety:
“I am pleased that the Department continues to move ahead with the critical chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards or CFATS program. This is a critical and long overdue effort to enhance security at facilities, some in or near densely populated areas, that make or use hazardous chemicals and could prove inviting targets for terrorists. As Congress examines how best to reauthorize this program, it is essential that it receive adequate funding to continue the work of soliciting and reviewing facility security plans and beginning site inspections. Last year, DHS saw a significant funding increase for the CFATS program to $73 million, and we need to maintain and expand those resources in the coming fiscal year.”
This comment is important because Congress keeps programs and funding in separate categories. The legislation for re-authorizing CFATS will be separate from the bill authorizing DHS to spend money on CFATS. Lieberman will have a significant role in the Senate in the re-authorization process, but will have less direct control over the budgeting process. The fact that he is asking for a generic increase in the spending for CFATS may indicate that he thinks that the reauthorization will not greatly expand the program. Finally, there are some people that believe that simply continuing the funding for CFATS will be the easiest way for Congress to deal with the reauthorization issue. The $73M+ is a relatively small amount of money in the overall DHS budget and it would probably draw little attention in the overall debate on that budget. An actual reauthorization bill, with the almost certain inclusion of some sort of IST language, may be too controversial to get through a closely divided Senate.

1 comment:

Pan Kamal said...

CFATS needs to get reauthorized. The protection afforded by CFATS is well thought out. The remaining piece of technology that will give us a huge leg up in protecting our critical infrastructure and other homeland assets is software and systems to link physical access control with the IT systems that manage and monitor chemical processes and storage of hazardous materials. There are companies starting to offer these technologies today.

 
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