Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CFATS in Senate Version of HR 933

The CFATS program is generally not large enough to show up in the actual language of a Homeland Security spending bill, other than the obligatory extension of the program that I noted I last night’s blog post. We generally have to look to the Committee Reports on the bill or the Explanatory Statements that may accompany the bill as it moves from the Appropriations Committee to the Senate floor.

I mentioned one such statement last night about the CG-NPPD MOU on CFATS, but there was additional information about the CFATS program that deserves a more detailed look than that hurried review.

CFATS Spending

Last year the Homeland Security spending bills from both the House and Senate cut the money allocated to Infrastructure Security Compliance, the account the covers both the CFATS program and the yet to be ruled Ammonium Nitrate Security Program; the House cut the funding in half and the Senate reduced the spending less drastically, but severely. Fortunately for ISCD, neither bill passed and they received the 0.16% across-the-board increase received by most agencies.

Since HR 933 as passed in the House did not include a Homeland Security spending bill, ISCD would have continued to receive the same increased rate (minus the 9% sequester of course). Since the Senate language does include the DHS spending bill, the Explanatory Notes provides spending levels for Infrastructure Security Compliance; $77,945,000 (pg 45). This is down from $99.3 Million in the FY 2012 spending bill.

Furthermore, the Senate Appropriations Committee places a hold on $20 Million of that “until the Under Secretary for NPPD submits to the Committees an expenditure plan for the CFATS program for fiscal year 2013”. They will get it eventually (providing Under Secretary Beers is actually able to get NPPD to comply with a congressional mandate), but it will complicate the spending by ISCD

And of course, the Sequester is still in place to further reduce those funds. It will be interesting to see if Beers addresses these spending issues before Chairman Shimkus’ (R,IL) Subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

GAO Program Reporting Requirements

The Senate language would erase the House requirement in the FY 2012 spending bill to review the feasibility of turning the CFATS program over to the Coast Guards much weaker MTSA coverage. Instead it requires a continuing series of GAO reports on the CFATS program. Initially GAO would continue its current examination of  the ISCD’s “ongoing effort to examine the extent to which DHS has made progress and encountered challenges in developing a viable CFATS program” (pg 45).

NOTE: The most recent of these reports will be issued Thursday as part of the CFATS hearing in before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy (Committee on Energy and Commerce).

When ISCD has completed a ‘sufficient number of compliance inspections’ (sufficient is not defined, but this is a long way off in any reasonable definition because no ‘compliance inspections have yet been completed) the GAO reporting will shift to looking at:

• How compliance inspections are performed;
• Whether inspectors are properly trained and have the right skill sets to perform compliance inspections; and
• If the CFATS program faces any barriers or challenges in managing the compliance inspection process

ISCD Hiring

After cutting funding and withholding money the Senate Appropriations Committee addresses the staffing of ISCD. They note that “NPPD is expected to continue to increase its on-board FTEs [Full Time Equivalents] to reach the fiscal year 2013 requested level, to include the hiring of the appropriate level of inspectors to meet mission requirements” (pg 45). Admittedly the past justification for cutting $20 million has been that ISCD hasn’t staffed up to their projected requirements so they didn’t need the money anyway, but hiring the new folks is going to be complicated by the spending reduction and the Sequester.

ISCD is also being required to report, semi-annually, on “any variation to the level of inspectors
requested with a justification for the change”.

Briefings Required

In addition to the reports required, the Senate Appropriations Committee is also expecting ISCD to provide them with a number of briefings. Topics include:

• Alternative security programs (downgraded from a report to a briefing);
• Status of any proposed personnel surety information collection requests;
• Addressing industry concerns with respect to notifying industry of individuals identified as being on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB)

Moving Forward

None of these provisions are likely to be changed by any potential floor amendments to this language in the Senate. The only question is whether or not HR 933 will pass. All of the reports that I have seen indicate that “the fix is in” on support by the leadership in both the House and Senate for the bill as being amended. Whether the leadership in either house has sufficient control of their members to make this actually happen remains to be seen.

Congress is currently scheduled to begin their Easter Recess on March 22nd. This is five days before the current Continuing Resolution expires.

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