Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Article on CFATS Inspection Delays

A bit of a controversy has brewed up after Monica Hatcher of the Houston Chronicle reported this last weekend on the delays in the CFATS inspection process. Ms Hatcher reported that only 12 facilities have been inspected to date. While this should not be news to readers of this blog, it apparently caught Rep. Gene Green (D, TX), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, completely by surprise; so much so that he is now reconsidering his previous support for the House passed HR 2868. Sue Armstrong, the acting deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at DHS, explained the inspection situation to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Operations Committee at its CFATS status hearing back on March 3rd. A large part of the problem is due to the fact that DHS must negotiate changes in each facility’s Site Security Plan (SSP) submission to get it up to where the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) believes that it meets the requirements of the Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPS). The negotiations are necessary since Congress prohibited DHS from requiring any specific security measures as a pre-requisite for SSP approval. According to a subsequent article by Ms Hatcher, Rep. Shirley Jackson-Lee (D, TX), is planning on holding hearings in the Sub-Committee she chairs, the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, on the reasons for the delay. As a co-sponsor of HR 2868, she is concerned that these delays will further justify delays in considering and ultimately passing HR 2868 in the Senate. Inspection Delay’s Were Inevitable Actually, these delays could easily have been foreseen by anyone that has done any sort of compliance inspections. The complexity of the RBPS, the wide variety of the facilities that are covered under CFATS, and the restrictions that have been placed upon DHS by the Congress (including late funding of inspection personnel in the early part of the program) have all worked to make this a much more complex process than most people apparently expected. At this point the only thing that is going to make this go any faster will be a drastic scaling up of the number of facility inspectors. With 6,000 facilities to inspect, 50 weeks per year available for inspections, that means that there will have to be 120 inspections per week to get to every facility within a year. If you have a three person team conducting each inspection (a small number for the largest facilities, but probably too many for the smallest facilities) you would need at least 360 trained inspectors. That is assuming that they were able to complete one inspection per week Given the need to preview the negotiated SSP in detail before the inspection, and to compile and prepare the post inspection report; a week is probably too little time. Add to this the need for re-inspections, compliance assistance visits, and the inevitable other requirements that crop up in a government organization; and you probably really need 500 trained inspectors along with a substantial support staff. Oh, by-the-way, Ms Armstrong has mentioned a number of times the difficulties that the Department has been having getting qualified personnel through the lengthy and bureaucratic Federal hiring process. Oh yes, did I mention that each inspector must go through a 14 week training program since there is no pool of chemical facility security inspectors to hire from? In short, everyone is just going to have to accept that the facility inspection process is going to take at least two years to complete. And DHS intends to re-inspect Tier 1 facilities every year and Tier 2 facilities every two years. Secretary Napolitano needs to go back to Congress for more head count. ISCD is going to need it. Or, you could have DHS opperate like OSHA and EPA, do an inspection only after there is a terrorist attack. Then you can fine the facility while you’re counting the dead bodies.

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