Friday, July 13, 2012

Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer Hearing Follow-up

Well they held their closed hearing yesterday and, unless someone leaks the information, we will never know what ‘sensitive information’ was presented to the Sub-Committee by DOD and DHS that merited the testimony being presented behind closed doors. I will have to admit that according to what Chairman Lungren (R,CA) said in his opening remarks, it doesn’t sound like there was going to be any testimony about any active or recently foiled IED plot.

This conclusion is supported by the opening comments made by Ranking Member Clarke (D,NY) when she said:

“However, my preference would have been to take the testimony in public, in unclassified formats. I’m sure we could ask all of our witnesses back to give us classified briefings if needed, but, Mr. Chairman, I will not object to your motion to go into executive session.”

The prepared testimony from the witnesses (Woods – ICE, Barbero – DOD, and Johnson – GAO) was rich in administrative details about the counter IED and IED prevention activities being undertaken in Afghanistan. There were no technical details presented, but this Sub-Committee isn’t charged with overseeing that program, so they have no real need for those sensitive technical details.

A couple of interesting points were raised by Lungren in his opening comments. Early in those comments he noted that NPPD declined to send a witness to participate in the hearing. One would presume that the official reason had to do with the fact that, according to the title of the hearing, this was supposed to concentrate on anti-IED operations in Afghanistan and NPPD has not operational experience in that area that would allow them to provide useable information on the topic.

The real reason NPPD declined was alluded to towards the end of Lungren’s remarks when he mentioned the much delayed Ammonium Nitrate Security Program for which we are still waiting to see NPPD publish a final rule). I know from sources in ISCD that the ANPRM and the NPRM had been held up for quite a while in OMB deliberations and I suspect that the same thing is happening now, though the rule hasn’t yet reached the stage where it is officially submitted to OMB for EO 12866 review.

There was no projected date in the Fall 2011 Unified Agenda for the Ammonium Nitrate final rule, but that was because the comment period had just closed in December (well the Fall 2011 Unified Agenda was published in January 2012). We are still waiting to see the Spring 2012 Unified Agenda to be published, maybe that will provide a reasonable date for the publication of the final rule for the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program.

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