Chemical Security

CFATS Update: Over the past year, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program has come under intense fire. In December 2011, a leaked internal DHS Report stated that the program was “beset by a series of deep-seated problems, including wasteful spending and a largely unqualified workforce that lacks ‘professionalism.’” The report stated that the problems within CFATS were so severe, that they posed a “measurable risk to the program.” In March 2012, a DHS whistleblower contacted the office of Ranking Senate Judiciary Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) and provided further details of CFATS mismanagement. The whistleblower alleged that CFATS assigned employees to non-existent field offices, that employees purchased un-related and unnecessary equipment through the program, and that DHS Undersecretary Rand Beers refused to report these abuses to the DHS inspector general. In August 2012, Senator Grassley sent a letter to DHS demanding answers on these issues, and also reminding DHS that it had promised Congress a full accounting for the nearly $500 million spent on the CFATS program since its inception.

DHS also came under congressional scrutiny in July 2012 for its announcement that it will not (as previously planned) screen workers at chemical facilities for links to terrorism as part of the CFATS program.   The plan would have required companies to submit personal information of employees with access to high-risk facilities to the agency to be screened against an FBI database.

In July 2012, the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) of DHS testified before Congress that the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) had, to date, received more than 41,000 "Top-Screens" (initial consequence-based screening tools submitted by chemical facilities possessing a chemical of interest). NPPD also said that ISCD had completed its initial review of all Tier 1 site security plans (SSPs) and had begun to review Tier 2 SSPs.  CFATS covers 4,425 facilities determined to be high-risk across the country, of which 3,662 are currently subject to final high-risk determinations and submission of an SSP or alternative security program (ASP).

NPPD also warned that the House of Representatives’ proposed 50% cut to the Infrastructure Security Compliance Program’s budget for 2013 would drastically curtail DHS’s ability to: (1) implement the statutory and regulatory requirements for the security of high-risk chemical facilities as specified in CFATS; (2) continue development of the proposed Ammonium Nitrate Security Program; and (3) fully implement the program improvements identified in the ISCD Action Plan. DHS would be forced to cease virtually all activities under CFATS other than those directly related to reviewing SSPs and performing facility inspections.