Monday, March 11, 2013

CSSS Schedule, Or not

We are almost half-way through March and there has been no announcement about the date for the 2013 Chemical Sector Security Summit. This annual meeting in/near Washington, D.C. has been running since the inception of the CFATS program, usually during the end of June, first part of July. While not run by ISCD (actually it is run by the Chemical Sector office in NPPD) it has been a gathering event for those interested in the CFATS program.

In recent years the schedule date has been published earlier and earlier, but this year is a major exception. NPPD has been pretty quiet about the program. I have sent queries to the email poc listed on the CSSS web page, but have received no replies. So I decided to contact SOCMA, the co-host for each of the CSSS to-date.

My contacts at SOCMA indicate that there is a tentative date for CSSS this year of July 9-11 at the Baltimore Hilton (Inner Harbor). What’s holding up the announcement is that the funding for the CSSS has not yet been approved. I’m afraid that sequestration may be the reason for the delay in that approval.

In some ways it would be understandable if CSSS were not held in this budget strained year. The attendance at last year’s Summit was off significantly, only about 400 people attended out of the 600 available slots. In fact, last year was the first year that CSSS organizers did not have to limit registrations to just two people per organization. Bean counters look at things like that.

Having said that, I think that not holding CSSS would be a major mistake. This is a valuable exercise in that it allows for contact between the regulated community and the people running the show. Normally, the only contact facility management has with CFATS personnel is with the Chemical Security Inspectors. It also gives the ISCD management team a chance for face-to-face contact with the people that their regulations directly impact. Both sides of that communication are a valuable part of the public-private partnership that is necessary for success of the CFATS program.

The other major purpose of the CSSS is to provide DHS with an avenue to update the regulated community about what is going on with the CFATS program. A valuable part of this has been accomplished via some of the discussion groups where industry representatives can share their experiences with the execution of the various CFATS processes.

I have long maintained that the CSSS organizers have missed a major opportunity by not making many of their presentations available live (or even time delayed) over the internet. There are a lot more than 600 people, or even 600 organizations impacted by the CFATS program. Opening more of the presentations to those organizations that cannot afford a trip to Washington would go a long way to increase participation in the program.

If there was some concern about the possible compromise of sensitive information by making the presentations available, ISCD could set up a tool within CSAT so that only registered users of the program could access the presentations. I wouldn’t like it personally because I would be excluded, but it would get the information to the regulated community which is more important than keeping gadflies like me informed.

I hope that the folks at SOCMA are correct and that we will see an announcement of the July 9th-11th dates in the near future. The CSSS is a valuable part of the CFATS process.

BTW: Chairman Shimkus, you may want to ask Under Secretary Beers about this on Thursday.

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