Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Senate Appropriations Committee Addresses CFATS

Yesterday Sen. Landrieu (D,LA) introduced S 3216, the DHS Appropriations Act for FY 2013. While a copy of the actual bill is not yet available via the GPO, a copy of the Committee Report is. Like their House counterparts, the Senate Committee took the opportunity to address the CFATS issues raised in recent reports about problems at the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division.

Funding Reductions

The Senate bill would not make the drastic cuts in ISCD funding that are found in the House bill (still to be introduced). While reducing the appropriations from last year’s budget, the Committee would provide more funds for CFATS than requested by the Administration, noting that (pg 98):

“This budget proposal was developed before a detailed plan to address the implementation problems had been completed. The Committee understands that within the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2012, a detailed manpower and systems review will be completed [emphasis added]. Initial action items show that fiscal year 2013 costs will likely need to be incurred for additional personnel, training, and information technology. The Committee notes it would be shortsighted, in the meantime, to take the full amount of proposed savings when the need for improvement has been documented. Funding will not resolve all of the outstanding issues, but the proposed cuts are too deep to ensure change for the better can be completed.”

It’s extremely interesting that we get to hear about this review from the Appropriations Committee when hearings by two House Committees on the ISCD problem did not mention the review. Of course both of the appropriations committees have more say over the CFATS program than do any of the other three (2 House and 1 Senate) committees that claim some sort of oversight responsibility. Of course, controlling the purse strings certainly helps, but the repeated failure to craft a real chemical security bill that can make it to the White House is the real reason that the other committees have so little influence on ISCD.

Program Success?

Even while complaining about the lack of implementation progress, the Committee Report declares the CFATS program a success noting (pg 99) that:

“These findings emphasize the accomplishments made by government and industry working together and the need to continue the program.”

The ‘these findings’ refers to a ‘recent survey’ by the American Chemistry Council that “found that the risk-based performance standards approach is effective”. The two measures mentioned in this report justifying that finding are the amounts of money spent on security measures ‘as the result of CFATS’ and the fact that “more than 1,670 facilities have completely removed chemicals of interest and more than 700 facilities have reduced the quantity of stored chemicals for better security”.

While ISCD, GreenPeace and the American Chemistry Council all site [cite] these figures as proof that improvements are being made, all of them are ignoring the fact that DHS has done nothing to confirm these reported changes, nor has a study been done to determine how the changes were made. I know for a fact that some of those changes were due to a change in the concentration of a commercial grade of aqueous ammonia from 20% to 19%, hardly a significant change from the point of view of chemical security.

Another Report Required

Appropriations committees have never found an issue that did not justify the mandate of yet another report. This Committee Report is no different. Among other reports to Congress required by this section of the Report the Committee directs NPPD to prepare a semi-annual report on the progress of CFATS implementation; the first one is due 90 days after passage of this bill. The following information will be reported (annotated by Risk Tier):

• Facilities covered;

• Inspectors;

• Completed inspections;

• Inspections completed by region;

• Pending inspections;

• Days inspections are overdue;

• Enforcements resulting from inspections; and

• Enforcements overdue for resolution.

Since this is compiled data, with no facility specific information being required, there is no need for this report to be classified or marked Chemical-Terrorism Vulnerability Information (CVI). That means that Congress could easily share this information with the public; it won’t but it could. After all, the high-and-mighty Senators need to know things that the lowly public doesn’t.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your comment - "While ISCD, GreenPeace and the American Chemistry Council all site (sic) these figures as proof that improvements are being made, all of them are ignoring the fact that DHS has done nothing to confirm these reported changes, nor has a study been done to determine how the changes were made." - is inaccurate. Inspector teams were sent in a significant number of cases to inspect and verify whether the facility had reduced or removed their chemical holdings according to their formal request to be retiered. These teams documented what they found and these analyses were used by DHS HQ in making the final decision on whether to retier the subject facility. While it is true that some facilities reduced the concentration, somtimes to a minor degree and other times significantly - the fact is, DHS established a threshold of concentration that was deemed significant, not one that below which posed zero risk. CFATS was designed to regulate high risk sites, not all sites that pose a risk. Therefore a threshold had to be established and followed.

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