Friday, March 12, 2010
CFATS is Dying?
I got an interesting email from Bill Crews, Security Manager at the Port of Houston. He told me about a conversation he recently had with someone who mentioned that ‘CFATS was dying on the vine’. I’ve heard this in a couple of different places now and I think that that is a completely inappropriate conclusion to draw. Unfortunately, I may have had a hand in the starting of the rumors of the premature death of CFATS. Source of the Rumor Earlier this week SecurityDirecorNews.com published an article by Leischen Stelter based upon an interview she did with me. Entitled: CFATS: “It’s dead”; Leischen did a very good job describing my views on the state of legislation to extend and expand the authority for CFATS. Now anyone that has had anything to do with the news business knows that headlines are not necessarily communicators of fact, but are crafted as attention grabbers to get the reader to read the article. In this case, the “It’s Dead” quote is taken from my description of the apparent status of HR 2868, not CFATS. That is absolutely clear from reading Leischen’s article. CFATS Health Report First off, I have not heard a single politician say anything about canceling CFATS. While many people in the activist community believe that CFATS does not go far enough in protecting the people of the United States from the potential consequences of a terrorist attack on high risk facilities, they want to expand it not kill it. The opposition to the expansion of CFATS coverage has been generous in their praise of the current program and have offered lengthy extensions of the current CFATS authority as an alternative to the expansion of that authority. DHS has been slower on the implementation of CFATS than many of us would have liked to have seen, but they have been operating at a considerable handicap because they have had to make this stuff up as they go along. DHS has developed an innovative series of on-line tools for collecting very detailed information on a wide range of facilities that use potentially dangerous chemicals. Additionally they have had to establish a completely new regulatory scheme with little political guidance from Congress and some very serious constraints upon their authority. The CFATS inspection staff continues to grow. The latest series of new hires is preparing to attend the Chemical Security Academy (oh yes, this also had to be developed) so that they will have both the technical and regulatory skills necessary to help facilities adequately protect themselves against terrorist attacks. Another job posting is expected in the near future for the next class of inspectors. Finally, the leadership of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (the home of CFATS) has been running around talking to industry (and a very widely eclectic group of industries it is) to explain the new rules even while they are cajoling individual facilities into plugging the holes in their site security plans. And, oh yes, we’ve just learned that, even with all of that on their plate, they have completed a draft of comprehensive chemical security legislation so that maybe this time they’ll have a law that can actually be enforced. No, CFATS is not dead or dying. It is one of the more vibrant and active programs in DHS and it is just now reaching its maturity. Premature reports of its demise are not only incorrect but inappropriate.