Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Observations on the CFATS Hearing

I didn’t get a chance to watch the entire hearing today, the split hearing because of 9/11 ceremony put a severe cramp in my schedule. I’ll have a chance to review the rest of the hearing sometime this weekend, but the initial portion of the hearing that I did see provided some interesting information.

Personnel Surety

Chairman Shimkus (R,IL) was particularly concerned about the personnel surety program, or more accurately the lack of one.  He was particularly concerned about how the Department could approve a Site Security Plan when the facility had no way to do the required check of the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). Under Secretary Beers explained that the two facilities (on additional one since September 4th) with approved SSP actually had ‘conditional approval’ pending the completion of the ISCDs personnel surety program development.

No real questions were asked about the reasons that the personnel security ICR had been withdrawn as Shimkus was trying to keep the hearing moving quickly so that there was a chance for at least one round of questions; Beers would not be back when the hearing resumed. Beers did report that the new ICR would be ready for the publication of the new 60-day notice in 30 days. I’m sorry but I’ve seen so many DHS delays that I’ll be surprised to see it within 60-days.

Beers also assured Ranking Member Gene Green (D,TX) that the new personnel surety program would specifically incorporate the use of the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC).


The Department has been touting their new training program for conducting approval inspections, the inspection to determine if the facility is actually properly implementing their authorized SSP. With 73 conditionally authorized SSPs to work on, Director Wulf informed the Subcommittee that ISCD planned on conducting 10 approval inspections in September (it’s not clear if that includes the site approved since September 4th).

When pressed, hard, for the projected rate of SSP approvals Wulf said that ISCD planned on inspecting and approving 300 SSPs in the next year. I missed the Congressman’s name who commented that it would ‘take a century’ to complete inspecting all of the covered facilities. That’s a slight exaggeration; it would only be about 15 years.

ISCD Personnel Issues

The only hard questioning came from Rep. Cassidy (R,LA) who focused his questioning on the personnel issues raised in the Anderson-Wulf memo. He repeatedly asked Wulf if anyone had been dismissed or demoted because of the issues raised in the memo. The answer was no, but Cassidy didn’t give him much chance to explain why not. The 5 minute questioning format of hearings means you have to demand short answers if you have lots of questions.

Other Issues

The Tweets from @SOCMACONNECT and @socma for the remainder of the hearing look like there might have been some interesting exchanges. Oddly enough I didn’t see anything on TWITTER about the testimony or responses from Ms. Anna Fendley (United Steel Workers) or Mr. Paul Orum (Blue-Green Coalition). I’m looking forward to having a chance to review the webcast of the rest of the hearing.

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