Sunday, August 7, 2011

CFATS Knowledge Center Update – NTAS Info

On Friday the folks at DHS ISCD updated the CFATS Knowledge Center to provide information for the CFATS implications of the implementation of the DHS National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) that went into effect in May. The most obvious change was a new note under the “Latest News” heading, but it also included two new Frequently Asked Questions and a new article.

The ‘Latest News’ entry (which incidentally was placed out of date order behind ANSP NPRM notice provides a link to the following brief note about the NTAS:

“DHS has replaced the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) with the new National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS. Further information on NTAS available at: This new system will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector. This transition may require covered facilities to make minor adjustments to comply with applicable CFATS requirements regarding elevated threats. Generally speaking, however, a facility will not need to make a change to its submitted SSP unless it explicitly references HSAS in facility-provided explanatory text. In such a case, the facility will need to revise that text by either making a technical edit through the CSAT SSP Edit function or requesting DHS to unlock the SSP to allow the facility to make the edit. (See CSAT SSP Edit Process Users Guide).”

NTAS Article

This brief news note is good background information but, as one would expect from its brevity and identification as ‘news’, it provides little in the way of guidance. The folks at ISCD have provided that guidance in the new article provided on the page. Article 1723 (there are no permanent links to items on the CFATS Knowledge Center, go to the page and enter ‘1723’ into the search bar at the top of the page to get the current link to the article) provides a detailed discussion about the NTAS, including:

• How it relates to the old Homeland Security Advisory System;

• Related changes in the CSAT SSP questions (included in the June 2011 version of the SSP Questions manual);

• The relationship to RBPS 13 (Elevated Threats) and RBPS 14 (Specific Threats, Vulnerabilities or Risks) responses by covered facilities; and

• The requirements for changing the facility SSP submission

This is a very well done article and it should be read by anyone involved in a facility CFATS program. In fact, I would recommend printing out the .PDF version of the article and placing it in the same binder that contains the facility copy of the Risk Based Performance Standards Guidance document.


The CFATS Knowledge Center also added two frequently asked questions (FAQ) that address specific topics about the NTAS. The information included in the two FAQs is also found within the NTAS article. The two new questions are:

• 1724: How will a CFATS facility know if it is subject to a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Alert?

• 1725: How does the change from the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) to the new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) impact a CFATS-covered facility’s regulatory requirements?

CFATS Specific NTAS Advisories

There are two important points that DHS makes in this new information in regards to NTAS advisories that specifically affect CFATS covered facilities. First DHS notes that “if an NTAS Alert is issued that impacts all or a portion of the CFATS-regulated community, DHS will notify CFATS facilities subject to the Alert” (FAQ 1724). DHS has contact information for each CFATS facility and will use the most appropriate method of communicating the information to the facility.

Second, DHS notes that if an NTAS alert rises to the level that the Secretary identifies a specific threat as outlined in RBPS 14, “DHS will contact the impacted facility and work with the facility to identify appropriate measures, procedures, or other activities that the facility could use to address the identified threat” (FAQ 1725).

CFATS Knowledge Center Suggestion

Once again the folks at ISCD are to be commended for using the CFATS Knowledge Center web site to communicate information to the CFATS community even if the information is a little late. In particular the new article is particularly well done. The only slight problem is that a cursory examination of the page does not obviously provide access to the information. This could be easily rectified by including the relevant Article and FAQ numbers (particularly when they are new numbers) in the ‘Latest News’ item announcing the change.

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