Friday, June 12, 2009

FY2010 Budget Hearing: NPPD & TSA

I missed watching the subcommittee hearing Wednesday on the NPPD and TSA budgets for DHS. Fortunately, most of these hearings are available on the web, so I went back today to watch it and I am glad that I did. If you read the testimony submitted, there is very little to do with CFATS, but there were certainly some CFATS questions asked. Chairwoman Jackson-Lee The only real mention of CFATS in any of the written testimony (besides a recap of the current status in Deputy Undersecretary Reitinger’s testimony) is one sentence in the opening statement of Chairwoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D, TX). There she states that: “the Committee [Homeland Security] is moving quickly to extend and comprehensively modify the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards”. In her actual opening remarks she added that hearings on the CFATS reauthorization legislation will start next week. CFATS Extension Ms Jackson-Lee did not have any questions about CFATS but two Republican members of the Subcommittee certainly did. Both the Ranking Member, Charles Dent (R, PA) and Congressman Daniel Lungren (R, CA) had some pointed questions to ask Secretary Reitinger. Congressman Dent asked if DHS knew that the Homeland Security Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee were hard at work on a CFATS reauthorization bill. When Mr. Reitinger replied in the affirmative the next question was then why did the Department include a one year extension in their budget request. The Secretary’s response was well prepared; CFATS has not yet been fully implemented and it would take that long to learn the full lessons of CFATS and work with Congress to fine tune the process with permanent legislation. Mr. Dent agreed with that assessment and mentioned that that was why he had introduced HR 2477 to extend CFATS for three years. The IST Question Both Rep. Daniel Lungren (R, CA) and Rep Dent asked Mr. Reitinger questions about Inherently Safer Technology (IST). It didn’t take any great skill at reading between the lines that neither Congressman liked mandatory IST. Dent started it off by asking how many IST experts were in the employ of DHS. The question was almost rhetorical, but the Undersecretary played the game and answered that there were probably none, but the Department was hiring people with a chemical background for positions as CFATS inspectors. No one was so discourteous as to mention that there is a long way between a ‘chemical background’ and expertise in IST. Mr. Dent then asked another semi-rhetorical IST question; how much money was in the FY 2010 budget for IST experts? Towards the end of his questioning, Mr. Lungren asked if Mr. Reitinger thought that it would be possible to write a ‘reasonable’ IST application into the CFATS regulations. The Undersecretary bypassed the question by reminding the subcommittee that there was nothing in CFATS that prohibited facilities from voluntarily using IST to lower their tier ranking or take the facility right off of the high-risk listing. Surface Transportation Security With a TSA representative, Gale D. Rossides, the Acting Administrator, sitting at the witness table there were a few questions about surface transportation security issues. The TSA Authorization bill that passed in the House last week was written without TSA input, so there were certain disconnects between the funding authorized and the President’s budget request. This is most telling in the number of Surface Transportation Security Inspectors the two documents envision hiring in FY 2010. With the ease with which the HR 2200 passed, it seems obvious that the President’s budget request will see an increase to reflect the larger number of inspectors in HR 2200.

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