Wednesday, November 4, 2015

CFATS Fact Sheet Published – 11-4-15

Today the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) published their latest CFATS Fact Sheet containing information on the status of site security plan (SSP) implementations for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. They continue to show steady increases in the number of authorized and approved SSPs and a similarly increasing number of post-approval compliance inspections.

The table below summarizes the numbers from this report and the previous report.

October 2015
November 2015
Covered Facilities
Authorized SSPs
Approved SSPs
Compliance Inspections

We continue to see a slow but steady decline in the number of facilities that are leaving the CFATS program. ISCD has not yet provided any detailed information on the reasons for the decline in covered facilities. Various potential reasons (in no particular order) include facilities going out of business, facilities reducing the level of inventory of chemicals of interest (COI) below the screening thresholds, and facilities replacing COI with presumably less hazardous chemicals. The later would be the most preferable from the aspect of program goals.

We still have the interesting data anomaly that I noticed last month where there are more authorized SSPs than there are facilities in the program. Apparently ISCD is just keeping a simple tally mark each time they authorize an SSP. Since I know that there are at least two facilities that are in the process of submitting their SSP, it is obvious that not all covered facilities have an authorized SSP at this point in time (and I would be disappointed in the chemical industry if that point were ever reached). So we either have facilities with multiple authorized SSPs (unlikely but possible) or a number of the facilities with authorized SSPs have left the program. This then raises the question, has the cost of security put some of these facilities out of business?

While it is still early in the expedited approval process (EAP) I am disappointed in the lack of a surge in SSP approvals. We should certainly be seeing by now the approval of the initial batch of EAP submissions. The lack of that surge indicates that either this congressionally mandated program is less popular than expected, or that the ISCD implementation is more complex than Congress expected. The Fact Sheet data will never provide the information necessary to determine which the predominant cause is, but it does bear watching this space for future developments.

This is the second month that ISCD has provided compliance inspection data, so it is difficult to effectively comment on the significance of 84 new compliance inspections being completed in the last month. The data does, however, remain incomplete in that ISCD has provided no information on the pass/fail rates for those inspections. We know from an earlier GAO report that there was a fairly low pass rate (a little more than 50%) on the initial 83 compliance inspections. The lack of result data in this fact sheet raises the inevitable questions about the ability of chemical facilities to comply with their site security plans.

I would like to make a new suggestion for data that could be included in this monthly update; the number of active Chemical Security Inspectors supporting the program. We know that the program has had problems in the past meeting their manning projections and the appropriations folks have been taking them to task for this in recent appropriations bill reports. A simple reporting of the number of authorized and filled slots would be valuable.

I haven’t mentioned this in a while, but for all my nit-picking complaints about the information in these reports, I have to note that ISCD voluntarily started providing this monthly update on their process and making it publicly available on their web site. Other regulatory agencies should take note and make similar efforts.

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