It’s going to be a busy week for Congressional hearings of interest to the chemical security community, CFATS, cyber security and weapons of mass destruction will all get their hearing in Congress this week
FY 2012 Budget Hearings
While Congress has yet to fully fund FY 2011 they are still working on the FY 2012 budget process. This week DHS’s National Protection and Program Directorate (NPPD) gets to explain-justify the President’s budget request before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Under Secretary Beers and Deputy Under Secretary Reitinger. Both CFATS and CERT show up in this area of the budget so this will be an important hearing for the community. This hearing will be on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. EDT.
While CFATS may be discussed in the budget hearing, it will be the main topic of conversation before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On Thursday at 9:00 a.m. EDT they will hold a hearing on HR 908, Rep. Murphy’s (R, PA) Full Implementation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act. Chairman Upton (R, MI) has already publicly endorsed this bill which is why it’s first appearance will be a full Committee hearing. The witness list has yet to be published.
This bill is the simplest of the four bills introduced to date to extend the CFATS authorization. This one simply extends the current expiration until October 4, 2017. That doesn’t mean that this will necessarily be a simple hearing. In the 112th Congress this Committee was responsible for the addition of water treating facilities to HR 2868 so there will be at least some interest in adding provisions to this bill to remove the water facility exemption to CFATS. We’ll watch to see if the American Water Works Association has a witness at this hearing.
Again, while cyber security may be a topic at the budget hearing, it will be the main focus before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Sen. Rockefeller’s (D, WV) Committee will look at the consequences of cyber attacks with witnesses from the FBI, IBM, Verizon and the American University.
There probably won’t be much in the way of specific mention of control systems. Still, since Sen. Rockefeller has yet to introduce cyber security legislation in this session, it would be prudent to watch this hearing to see if we can tell what he will include in his inevitable bill.
Finally, it must be time for me to go to the Dentist for a cleaning because the road show team from the 9/11 Commission is back before Congress. They are going to be appearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. EDT to update Senators Lieberman (I, CT) and Collins (R, ME) on the risk of weapons of mass destruction. One always hopes that someone will sooner or later mention that the cheapest and easiest WMD attack would be a conventional terrorist attack on a high-risk chemical facility, but I expect that they will once again harp on nuclear weapons and biological warfare, lest we forget.
To Be Announced
Some time late this week there will be a new bill introduced providing for the funding of the Federal Government for the rest of this fiscal year beyond April 8th and there will be a House Rules Committee Hearing on the bill. Hopefully that will take place this week, allowing for enough time for subsequent action on another short term spending measure next week before the current CF expires. It is too much to expect that the Appropriations Committee will ever meet on one of these FY 2011 spending bills.