The congressional news site TheHill.com is reporting that work is being done on preparing an Omnibus FY 2013 spending bill that would replace the stopgap spending bill, HJ Res 117/PL 112-175, that was signed by the President back in October. They are reporting that this bill could be considered in the Lame Duck session.
There is currently no word about details that may be included in the bill, but there is a chance that the House Appropriations Committee cuts to the CFATS program found in HR 5855 could creep back into this bill. The earlier Senate DHS spending bill (S 3216) included some cuts to the CFATS program but was holding back on further cuts until a detailed DHS manpower and systems review of the CFATS program was completed. I have not seen the results of any such study but it would probably have been one of those politically restricted reports sent only to the appropriations committees.
On the other hand, an omnibus spending bill that included the standard CFATS extension until the end of the fiscal year would remove some of the pressure for early action on a comprehensive chemical facility security bill. Bills passed under time pressures are usually politically expedient rather than carefully considered and result in program delays and problems down the road. I think that we would prefer to see a carefully crafted bill passed in late 2013 or early 2014 than a politically expedient bill passed in February or March.
This type of spending bill might also be a way for Congress to slip some cybersecurity language in for covering some critical infrastructure systems. If it weren’t too onerous in its coverage of privately owned cyber-systems (including control systems) and avoided some of the privacy issues on IT security, it would be difficult to remove such provisions from this large of a bill.
It will have to be watched closely.