Wednesday, January 8, 2020

CFATS in 2020

As most people that are interested in the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program are well aware, the current congressional authorization for the program ends on April 17th, 2020. Last year Congress passed HR 251 which at the last minute extended the 2014 authorization of the program until that date.

Currently there is has only been one bill introduced that would continue the CFATS program beyond April, HR 3256. The House Homeland Security Committee has marked up that bill and printed their Report in December. It did not actually take 6 months to write up that report. It took that long for Chairman Thompson (D,MS) to admit that there was not going to be an agreement with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to allow the Homeland Security Committee’s new version of the bill to move to the floor of the House.

The Energy and Commerce Committee has not yet held their markup hearing on the bill. This is probably due to internal wrangling between the Democrats and Republicans about what measures should or should not be in the bill. What is at stake here in these internal discussions, is not whether or not the bill would make it through a House vote; the Democrats have a strong enough majority to make that inevitable. The question becomes would the resulting bill be acceptable in the Senate. The version in the current report certainly would not be approvable in the Senate as the party-line Committee vote clearly showed.

It increasingly looks like the House and Senate are not going to be able to come up with any realistic compromise on the CFATS program that makes substantive changes to the program. I suspect that we will see a new version of HR 251 introduced to provide another short-term extension of the CFATS program. These short-term extensions are politically achievable, but they do little good for the program. It is hard to convince corporate boards that long-term spending programs are reasonable for a security program that might not last out the year. Nor does it provide any help to the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division in managing its workforce when personnel cannot be sure that they will have a job after April.

NOTE: I did a series of blog posts (ending here) almost two years ago showing what I think would make useful additions to the program.

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