Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another NPPD Insider Complains

I got an interesting email from John Doe (you know the cousin to Anonymous) the other day entitled “CSAT/IP/NPPD/ Waste, Abuse, Fraud and mismanagement”. An attachment to that email was a scanned copy of a letter John wrote to Senator Cardin (D,MD) outlining some interesting allegations of fraud, waste and abuse within some programs at DHS NPPD, including CFATS. The copy of that letter sent to me was appropriately redacted to limit the chance that I would be able to determine who John actually was and to hide the identity of other personnel (good and bad) mentioned in the letter. So having said that, and being forced to take everything with a large helping of salt because of that, here are some of the problems that have been allegedly identified.

CFATS Program Review

John Doe reports that DHS IP/ISCD contracted with the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute to conduct an “independent peer review of the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) risk assessment methodology”. He further complains that former NPPD/IP personnel were working at the Institute and that compromises the independent nature of the review. Of course it would be difficult to find a HS think tank that didn’t have former NPPD personnel working for it.

He also reports that the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council (Chemical SCC) has raised questions about the conduct of the study in meetings in September and November. I can’t confirm that since the Chemical SCC meeting minutes are not generally available to the public,  but if they have complaints about the study, the members have the political clout to be able to get their concerns heard in Congress.

Preliminary Authorization Inspections

John Doe confirms what I have been saying about the PAI’s being conducted by the ISCD folks; they were an effort to collect the data needed for SSP reviews. This was data that should have been collected by the SSP tool in CSAT, but wasn’t due to poor design of the questionnaire. John does add that “inspectors were instructed to make them last at least a week, despite the fact that most PAIs could be completed during a single day or even by means of a phone call”. He also noted that the 4 to 7 man PAI teams all “received TDY and comp time for travel and related expenses”. Their being paid is not unreasonable, but the unnecessary travel is questionable.

Locality Pay Issue

Back in January 2011 I identified this issue as one that was causing friction between the Chemical Facility Inspection force and ISCD management. John Doe provides some new insights into the problem. He notes that inspector “were given no choice but to accept the locality pay for the metropolitan area to which they were being assigned (by NPPD Human Capital)(sic), despite protests by some that they did not live in that area or anywhere close to it”.

He also notes that the situation causing the underlying problem continues to exist today. In Region 3 he notes that only one inspector is permanently assigned to the Regional Office in Westchester, PA; all others are assigned to their homes as their permanent duty stations. And it is not practical to re-assign these CSI to regional offices as it would require a permanent change of station authorization including the payment of moving expenses.

Problems at Headquarters

John reports that ISCD requested that three floors of its office in Arlington, VA be classified for open storage of secret material. Anyone that has worked with classified materials knows that such areas require a huge amount of extra security to maintain proper protection levels for classified documents lying around on desk tops. Such expenses are reasonable when the daily use of such documents is so common that the requirement to secure them in safes and what not when not actually being used creates more problems than the open storage costs.

John notes that most ISCD employees do not routinely handle classified documents. In fact he reports that in four years working at ISCD he never saw a classified document, nor had most of his colleagues. Apparently ISCD recognized this problem in mid-2011 as they began talking about declassifying the space according to John’s report.

John also questioned the expense of requiring the vast majority of ISCD employees to have Secret security clearance since the costs of the background investigations and other processing ranged between $3,000 and $15,000 per employee. I understand his concern with so few employees routinely handling classified documents, but DHS could reasonably expect that the handling of classified intelligence reports might be required. It just isn’t practical to try to get clearances on short notice when they become necessary, so it seems to me that this would be a reasonable expense in an organization dedicated to homeland security.

CFATS Personnel Surety Program

John Doe reports that ISCD held a number of industry conference calls in October of this year to “allow industry to share these [their?] concerns with ISCD staff in order to enlighten the new proposed submission” even though the new ICR had already been written. While he notes that there was “an internal push to release the new ICR in the days prior to the November 2012 Presidential Election” we still haven’t seen that ICR published. Perhaps revisions are being made to the document even though he claims that DHS “had no intent of taking into consideration any of the concerns raised by industry during these meetings”. Either that or some other agency (OMB?) is once again holding up this ICR.

Alternate Security Plan Templates

We have been hearing for some time about the work being done to develop Alternate Security Plan templates that facilities can use in lieu of the SSP template on CSAT. John Doe reports that the work by private industry has been “astounding and resulted in a well-organized and simple ASP that is as useful to regulated facilities as it is to those at DHS charged with reviewing and inspecting against it”.

John complains that rather than using the ASP template as a model for correcting the deficiencies in the SSP tool, “ISCD is proposing a series of working group sessions to be held at locations around the country with industry participants”. The purpose would be to get user feed-back to re-tool the existing SSP tool.

Requesting Congressional Action

[Note: I mispelled Sen. Cardin's name in the original post from this point on. Sorry about that. Thanks to a sharp eyed reader for catching and reporting the mistake. 12-18-12 15:00 EST]

As I reported earlier in this post, the letter sent to me is a copy that was sent earlier this month to Sen. Cardin. John reports that he has attempted to get appropriate attention to these problems through normal channels, but he has been rebuffed at every turn. In fact, since he made known his attention to bring this to the attention of Congress, he claims that he has been the victim of whistleblower retaliation by the leadership of ISCD and NPPD.

I hope that someone on Cardin’s staff takes a serious look at these allegations. I am not in the position to say that I know that all of the allegations are true or even reasonably close to true. They do match in many instances things that I have been told by other insiders. Unfortunately, Cardin is not on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee so it is unlikely that he has anyone on his staff that is well acquainted with the CFATS program or the individuals involved.

I suspect that John Doe turned to Cardin because he was a Senator for the State where he lives. It probably would have been more effective if he had delivered this to Sen. Carper (D,DE) who will be taking over the Homeland Security Committee next month. Maybe Carding’s staff will share it with Carper’s. If John Doe has the documentation he claims in the letter, these allegations certainly deserve serious investigation by Congress.

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