Sunday, May 11, 2014

Congressional Hearings – Week of 5-11-14

Well the House is working back in their home districts this week, so it will be somewhat quieter. There is only one hearing scheduled this week that should be of specific interest to readers of this blog; a CFATS hearing.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on Wednesday looking at “Charting a Path Forward for the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards Program”. The witness list includes all of the usual suspects with one exception: Dana Shea (who writes periodic assessments of the CFATS program for the Congressional Research Service) will be making an appearance. The other witnesses include:

• Suzanne E. Spaulding, DHS;
• David M. Wulf, Director, DHS;
• Stephen L. Caldwell, GAO
• Anna Fendley, United Steelworkers
• Timothy J. Scott, ACC

The Senate does not have an active CFATS bill (S 68 and S 814 apparently died with their sponsor, Sen Lautenberg) under consideration so there doesn’t seem to be any specific ax to grind in this hearing. That means that there may be real questions about the progress in the CFATS implementation. Dir. Wulf and his people have significantly sped up the SSP authorization and approval process, but it is nowhere near as fast as they had hoped by this point.

It will be interesting to see if anyone will try to actually explain to the Senators that a large portion of the blame for the slow pace of implementation rests with Congress. No other security program requires facilities to submit site security plans to a central agency for authorization and approval and then inspection. To make matters worse, Congress then prohibited ISCD from telling facilities what they specifically needed to do to gain that Department approval. Granted there were legitimate reasons for setting things up that way, but it made the Department’s job harder.

There were some Department administrative problems in the middle years of the program, but Congress conveniently forgot to undertake any real oversight of the program so they were equally culpable. Instead of actual oversight each of the hearings during that period were used by the politicians to ask questions to support their preconceived notions of what should be included in the next CFATS bill; and even then the responses were mostly ignored.

Okay, I’m off my soap box for now. I will not have a chance to watch the hearing live so I probably won’t report on any of the details until next weekend. While there won’t be a SOCMA witness at the table for this hearing I expect that interested parties could watch their TWEETS® about the hearing at: @socma

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