Thursday, May 28, 2009

CFATS Extension in Budget Request

A reader called me today to ask an interesting question. He had heard that the 2010 budget request included an extension of the CFATS authorization. He wanted to know if there was any truth to that rumor. I told him that I hadn’t looked at the actual budget request; readers will recall that I have analyzed the Budget in Brief, but I still hadn’t gotten around to pawing through the actual budget request. So, any way, I told him that I would look into it and get back to him. I got a copy of the 2010 DHS Budget Request from the web site and started paging through it. It’s a good thing that the high school I went to in San Jose, CA taught speed reading; I found what I was looking for on page 62 of a 62 page, small type (8 pt New Century Schoolbook-Roman type), lots to look at:
“SEC. 538. Section 550 of Pub. L. No. 109-295 is amended in subsection (b) by deleting from the last proviso ‘three years after the date of enactment of this Act’ and inserting in lieu thereof ‘October 4, 2010’.”
Without any fan-fare or notice the White House is proposing to extend the authorization for the CFATS program almost one year. A Fail-Safe Plan? Now, there is no way of actually telling from this document if this is anything more than a stop-gap measure, put in place to protect against the eventuality of the Congress not being able to pass a re-authorization bill. If that were the case, you would like to think that the President (more likely an advisor) would have explained this to the necessary leaders in Congress so that they would continue to try to work out an appropriate re-authorization bill. This could explain why Congressman Dent’s reauthorization bill (HR 2477) was not referred to the Homeland Security Committee. It would not actually be needed as a stop-gap measure, because the fall back plan was in the budget. From the best that I can tell my contacts in working in the CFATS program at DHS did not know about this provision being in the budget. They might have been told not to talk about this, but they have seem kind of concerned about the future of their program and the lack of public action in Congress on the reauthorization process. Some of them were actually relieved to see HR 2477 introduced; it would only have been a stop gap, but it would keep their jobs going. Or the Real Plan? Back at the end of April I wrote about the change in wording about chemical facility security on the web site. At about that time there were indications that the two Committee staffs were still having problems working out their jurisdictional issues on the reauthorization bill. Those delays may have made it essentially impossible for the House to hold hearings in the two committees, mark-up and resolve the resulting conflicting issues, and get a bill to the floor of the House in time to get the bill to the Senate before the August recess. This would make it unlikely that a re-authorization bill could be passed before the expiration of the current program. I have a feeling that the Obama Administration has made a series of political calculations and decided that it has more important things on its plate than resolving the many issues involved in revising the CFATS program. A great deal of political capital would have to be expended to get a major revision through the Senate and health care, energy policy, cap-and-trade, and the economy are much higher priority. They can almost certainly wait a year for this fight. Industry would prefer to see a two or three year extension, but will certainly accept a straight one-year, no-modification extension. The question becomes will the coalition calling for IST implementation accept that deal? They have been fighting hard for over two years now and have little to show for their efforts. Many of the organizations will see the energy policy and a cap-and-trade bill as an adequate short term trade.

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