Monday, February 22, 2010

Reader Comments 02-21-10 CG Inspectors

This weekend a reader, Matthew, left a comment on a blog posting from last fall about CFATS Inspectors. Matthew wrote:
“An solution to the problem... Coast Guard facility inspectors. Not active duty ones but folks getting out or already out. We already do this daily. There is no need for DHS to train some tsa screener how to inspect a facility. The skill set is already there hopefully they us it.”
While the Coast Guard has been inspecting MTSA covered facilities for quite some time now, those inspections are not the same type of inspection that the ISCD chemical security inspectors will be completing. For one thing, the MTSA inspections that the Coast Guard conducts are much more straightforward with fairly well defined rules. This allows the Coastie inspectors to rely heavily on checklists while conducting their inspections; something is there or it isn't. Since Congress forbade DHS from using that type of regulatory scheme in setting up the CFATS program, the duties of the chemical security inspectors (I’m sorry but I refuse to use the CSI acronym for these folks) are much more complex. This is the reason that there is a 14 week course for these inspectors verses the one day training Coast Guard inspectors get in their A School. I am sure however, that ISCD would be perfectly willing to hire ex-Coasties with MTSA experience (everything else being equal) into their chemical security inspectors program. That experience would certainly be valuable. I would be willing to bet that they would also get the veterans hiring preference points added to their applications. I understand that the most recent hiring announcement just recently closed, but there will be another announcement on later this year.


Anonymous said...

I agree, and disagree with the above response. The CG's MTSA regs are written exactly as you describe for CFATS (i.e. they are performance-based rather than prescriptive-based). That's the part I disagree with.

The part I agree with is that many CG inspectors approve (or disapprove) MTSA plans and conduct inspections thinking that a checklist-method works for these regs. The regs were specifically designed NOT to be checklist-driven. Since MTSA was enacted we have battled to convince CG inspectors to "read the plan" and leave their regulations at the office during inspections. We have seen many cases where the CG inspectors are unable (or unempowered) to differentiate between critical infrastructure and "mom & pop" operations. This isn't entirely the inspectors' fault, it is also a byproduct of regulations which apply across a wide spectrum of "like" facilities. The good news with CFATS (and unlike MTSA), is that they apparently recognize that all Chem facilities don't fall into the same risk category. By comparison (and as an example)the MTSA regs don't differentiate between waterfront refineries (critcal infrastructure) in heavily-populated areas and small vessel fueling facilities in remote regions of the country. In other words, as far as MTSA is concerned all bulk oil facilities are created equal. The regs left it up to the local Captains of the Port to approve security measures for each facility based on the facility's internal security assessment. Unfortunately, in many cases the CG is more comfortable with "prescriptive" (i.e. checklist) regulations and are very hesitant to base their plan approvals and inspections on anything other than "letter of the law" (or regulation). This represents a problem when the regs were not designed to be adhered to in this way. The MTSA regs are full of terms like "as appropriate", "may", and "as necessary." For them to work as designed, the inspectors and plan approvers must be able (and empowered) to think outside the box and be able to do their job without checklists.

Bottom line: Whether the industry is looking forward to new CFATS regs and the inspectors which come with them or not, it will be refreshing to have a cadre of inspectors who have undergone fairly extensive (and specific) training in the regulations, have "real-world" experience (hopefully), and who are empowered to "change gears" based on what they are seeing in front of them during the inspection (ie. type of facility, location of facility, etc).

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the story and the comment for the most part I think it is worthy to note that the Coast Guard Facility Inspectors were handed a set of regualtions a few years back and told to enforce them with little to no guidance. While we can all rant and rave about the injustice's done to the "mom and pop" facilities who had stringent (and arguably unncessary) regulations enforced on them I think you have to remember that there should be a grace period for the CG to figure out how to do their job the best and safest way. In this instance I would consider the Coast Guard's approach to 33 CFR 105 facility security was "better too much then too little". Again, that can be argued either way. My point is, as a CG Facility Inspector I want to make sure everyone who reads that story understands there was more than 1 day of training during MST "A" school. There is in-field training that is required prior to receiving that qualification that takes months and requires a lot of shadowing of someone qualified. If a CG member was unable to attend MST "A" they are required to go to a 21 day "C" school. Trust me, the training does not say "use a checklist" and almost universally teaches that every facility is different and should be treated as such. There is evidence to support this within every COTP.

Due to the extensiveness of training I feel that Coast Guard Facility Inspectors are, in my opinion, the most qualified to quickly transition from CG to CFATS Inspector. That is unless you have a degree in Chemical Facility Inspecting or something, in which case I tip my hat! Any thoughts?

PJCoyle said...

My response to the second comment from Anonymous can be found at:

Unknown said...

Until this becomes law, there is no use discussing a link between MTSA and Chemical Facilities that are currently exempt from CFATS due to being MTSA compliant.

However, for the sake of determining who would be qualified to become Chemical Security Inspectors, I believe that all depends on how the director is going to work with the private entities that fall under the regulation. So far, we've seen chem regulations not try to fit every facility type in the same box by having different tier levels unlike 33 CFR Part 105 which treats all facilities the same regardless of risk profile. If the director takes former CG Commandant Adm. Thad Allen's approach which mandated a public private partnership where open dialogue was the key, then it will work. If that's not the direction the director takes, then it will be a matter of a "not on my watch" oversight mentality which will cause industry great concern and create the same general atmoshpere of mistrust and mutual disdain that we have now with many CG inspectors.

Here's the problem with utilizing young CG inspectors and why the same system isn't preferable for the Chem regulations. Once the young man or woman figures out how to run the program, they move on and then people like me, who've been overseeing the regulatory compliance programs for major companies is left dealing with a new guy that doesn't know his arse from a hole in the ground. He interprets everything differently in an effort to disdinguish himself from his predecessor and you find yourself revisiting ridiculous issues that were laid to rest years ago and that not only goes with the young E3, but for the officers as well. We recently had a LtCmdr openly state that "I reserve the right to be more intelligent that my predecessor." Upon hearing that, I could only shake my head.

So to say that because CG MTSA inspectors are already doing the job and should be prefect to make that transition to the chem program is rather presumptuous. I want a pragmatic inspector, not a kid that is going to act like a seagull and routinely fly over and leave his negative mark on the facility. I want someone that can disdinquish between the letter of the law and the intent of the law and after running the program since it's inception, I've seen level of pragmatism in very few CG inspectors.

Give me someone that clearly understands risks and doesn't worry about things that don't matter and I will show you someone that will run a successful program. The CG has a few of those guys out there but not enough to populate the Chem Sec Inspector pool.

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