Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ISCD Hearing – Part Two

Yesterday the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies of the House Homeland Security Committee held their first oversight hearing looking at the problems in the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) that deal with the implementation of the CFATS program. Neither the general public nor the regulated community has yet seen the internal ISCD report on the challenges ISCD is facing in completing the final stages of the CFATS program, but it was evident that this subcommittee was better read into the nuances of the report than was the previous panel that looked at this problem.

Management Questions

It is evident that the Anderson-Wulf report (Penny Anderson, the current ISCD Director and David Wulf, her Deputy Director) has not identified any actual criminal malfeasance involved in the problems identified in the program; that is the good news (though one would like to assume that a DHS IG investigation would be in order to assure that that is the case). So it would seem that the problems identified in the report (and I would like to suggest that at least a summary of the problems and proposed solutions should be made available to the public) were mismanagement issues which, unfortunately the DHS witnesses yesterday were unable to really address.

To be fair to Anderson and Wulf, they came into their current jobs and identified the problems existing within the program. Whether or not they have done anything of substance to clean up the problems remains to be seen (publicly at least), but they can hardly be held to account for the problems of their predecessors. As Ms. Anderson noted she wasn’t there when the problems started and thus couldn’t comment on why they occurred, suggesting in passing that the appropriate people should be questioned directly.

Under Secretary Beers was responsible for ISCD for almost two years before the Anderson-Wulf report was issued, but his consistent response in the two hearings to date was that nobody told him about the problems, with three exceptions that have been pretty well glossed over in both of the hearings to date. He does continue to note that he had commissioned two other reports on the CFATS implementation during his tenure, but they did not turn up any of the problems noted by Anderson and Wulf. It would be interesting to know if Congress has been given copies of those reports.

There continue to be suggestions that Beers had mislead Congress in his various hearing appearances over the 2+ years he has been at the helm of NPPD, failing to tell Congress about the delays in implementing the CFATS Site Security Plans. As best I can tell he has accurately reported the number of inspections that had been completed to-date at each hearing and he was never pressed for an explanation as to why the delays were occurring. And he was never held to account, from one hearing to the next, as to why his assurances of future improvement were never actually seen.

And, once again, he received a pass on the same issue at this hearing. His written testimony continues to report 55 authorized or conditionally authorized Tier 1 SSPs, the same number that was reported a month ago. Under the improved and accelerated program touted as resulting from the Anderson-Wulf reports one would have assumed that there should have been at least one or two additional facilities added to that list in that time frame. Otherwise it would seem that completion of the Tier 1 SSP authorizations in this fiscal year will again not be achieved.

Union Activities

As I had noted earlier I would have like to have seen this subcommittee question at least one current or former employee of the Division, but lacking that it was reasonable to include David Wright the President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918 that represents the chemical facility inspection force. Since his union was reportedly included in the Anderson-Wulf report as a contributing cause to the problems at ISCD and as one of the original group of inspectors brought into the program, his input should have been invaluable.

Once again, however, he is one of a long list of people that has never seen the Anderson-Wulf report, so he was unable to tell the Subcommittee much about the problems identified in the report. He did state that he has personally assured Anderson and Beers that he and his union are fully willing and committed to work with ISCD management in helping to resolve the issues involving the chemical inspection force.

Wright did receive a sympathetic hearing of his testimony. By the time he got a chance to testify, the only Republican asking questions was Chairman Lungren (R,CA) while all four Subcommittee Democrats were actively involved in questioning the industry-labor panel.

Industry Comments

Bill Almond from SOCMA and Timothy Scott from Dow Chemical were in the dark about the actual scope of the problems in ISCD as anyone else outside of the Department, not having seen the Anderson-Wulf report either. Both made it clear in their testimony and response to questions that they did not think the management issues apparently outlined in the report reflected any inherent problems with the CFATS program. They both indicated that they thought that an important part of any resolution to the management problems was a long-term re-authorization of the program.

Their written testimony includes a number of other recommendations for moving the program forward. I’ll review those in more detail in a later blog post.

Less Politics

I was impressed by the lack of overt politics involved in the questioning by this Subcommittee. Even Ranking Member Clarke’s (D,NY) questions about reauthorization were phrased to address how the current problems might impact Congress’ decision on how to go about reauthorizing the program; legitimately asking about the role Congress should take in addressing the identified problems.

The rhetoric was not fiery or accusatory in any of the questioning by this panel. It seemed that everyone was interested in getting to the root of the problems and all of questions indicated that these congress critters, at least, had done their homework about the program. Unfortunately, the five minute question-response format of this type hearing does not really lend itself to an investigation.

For Congress to effectively get to the bottom of these problems and adequately review the potential solutions they are going to need and independent report by the GAO or the DHS Inspectors General Office. The sooner that investigation is started the better.

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