The DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) published a 30-day information collection request (ICR) notice in Monday’s Federal Register (79 FR 6417-6452) for the long overdue personnel surety program (PSP) for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. The ICR lays out at great length (35 Federal Register pages) how facilities would be expected to vet their employees, contractors, and visitors for unaccompanied access to security critical areas at high-risk chemical facilities regulated under CFATS.
NPPD’s Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) expects that facilities will use one or more of three basic options for vetting personnel against the Department’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB):
Option 1 – Direct vetting
Option 3 – Electronic verification of TWIC
These options are essentially the same ones that were included in the earlier 60-day ICR notice, but the devil is in the details. Included in the ICR discussion are responses to the 28 comments that had been received on the earlier notice. Those ISCD responses include why they have adopted or rejected the changes suggested by the commentor.
As I did with the earlier ICR notice, I will be taking a detailed look at the provisions of the revised program in a series of blog posts.
Public Comments Solicited
As with all 30-day ICR notices public comments are being solicited. While they may be sent directly to the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), NPPD has made provisions for submission through the Federal eRulemaking Portal (www.Regulations.gov; Docket # DHS-2012-0061). Comments should be submitted by March 5, 2014.
The publication of a 30-day ICR notice on a new information collection program usually means that the program is nearing implementation; typically going on line in three to four months. For controversial programs the delays can be quite lengthy and the most controversial plans frequently die here, still born. While the CFATS program clearly needs a viable PSP, it is unlikely that this ICR will move forward quickly.
CFATS Legislation Effects
Throwing a further potentially complicating factor into this process is the impending introduction of new CFATS legislation by Rep. McCaul, Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. One of the components of this bill that I have been hearing rumors about is language addressing the personnel surety issue. Chairman McCaul has frequently chided ISCD Director Wulf for not making more use of the TWIC program for the CFATS PSP.
Of course, that bill would have to pass in both the House and Senate for it to have any legal effect on the CFATS PSP. But, the presence of a viable bill in the legislative process with a significantly different look at PSP might serve to delay consideration of this ICR at OIRA.
On the other hand, the reasons for the frequent delays in the introduction of McCaul’s bill may have been because he was waiting for this notice to be published because the bill explicitly provides legislative support for this program. In that case, if the bill were to move expeditiously through the legislative process (and it would have to come to a Senate vote before the summer recess to have much chance of passing in an election year), then OIRA’s review of this notice might be accelerated.