Both the Senate and House return to work on Monday and much of what they do or do not do will be influenced by the upcoming election. The House is striving hard to shed the image of a do-nothing body, there are lots of hearings scheduled and a large number of bills coming to the floor. Currently there are only two hearings of probable interest to readers of this blog, one on CFATS and one on MTSA. Finally there is possible action on spending and cybersecurity.
The Environment and Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing on September 11th on the “The Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards Program – A Progress Report”. Under Secretary Beers and Cathleen Berrick of the GAO are the two currently listed witnesses with other witnesses yet to be announced according to the Staff Background Memo. ISCD Director Wulf will probably sit next to Beers at the witness table and I suspect that there will be some industry witnesses on a second panel.
This is not being billed as an oversight hearing and the Background Memo sounds like it will concentrate on how ISCD is completing the action items they set up after the release of the Anderson-Wulf memo. The memo provides the following list of hearing objectives:
• Allow DHS to provide a progress report on the CFATS program with respect to both implementation of the action items and overall achievement of benchmark objectives identified in the Anderson/Wulf memorandum;
• Give DHS an opportunity to discuss the viability of using ASPs and whether expanding ASP usage is warranted. In 2007, DHS announced it would only accept an ASP for Tier 4 facilities; and,
• Update Members on the status of GAO’s recommendations for the CFATS program.
The Memo also references an earlier report by GAO on the CFATS issue. It has the same title as the one published as Steve Caldwell’s testimony for the House Appropriations Hearing in July. Some discrepancy here though; the memo says it was published in August instead of July and claims that the earlier report was marked For Official Use Only. The earlier document was not marked that way, but, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, there might have been an FOUO addendum to that GAO report.
There is no indication that anyone is prepared to ask any questions about the real problem at ISCD, the inability to effectively evaluate Site Security Plan submissions.
NOTE: The House Appropriations Committee has not announced a date yet for the completion of that earlier hearing that was interrupted by a large number of floor votes. But they have other things on their agenda, as I’ll explain later, so I would not be surprised to see that hearing skipped.
BTW: The public comments tool that I discussed in an earlier blog post still does not appear to be working; it still only provides a ‘Site Maintenance Underway’ notice when you press the ‘Submit’ button. Their ‘Site Maintenance’ is as slow as Congress.
The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on September 11th on “Tenth Anniversary of the Maritime Transportation Security Act: Are We Safer?”. No other details are currently available.
Since none of the House-passed spending bills have yet made their way to the floor of the Senate (nor has the Senate taken any action on a Budget Bill, but that isn’t new for Reid’s Senate) we will start to see some sort of work being done on a Continuing Resolution to carry the government spending from October 1st through some time after the election. There have been news reports that an agreement has been reached on a six-month extension; with both parties apparently being convinced that they will control the 113th Congress and the White House.
There is still a possibility of S 3414 coming back to the floor of the Senate, as I mentioned about a month ago. The Administration is unofficially upping the ante on cybersecurity by floating a draft version of an Executive Order that is drawn from portions of this bill. A negotiated agreement on what amendments to vote on will give opponents some measure of control over how the Feds will control cybersecurity. An Executive Order will leave them relying on a Romney win for that control in an election that could easily go either way.