DHS: CFATS Doing Better

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 05:02 PM gHale

Progress is occurring in the program overseeing chemical facility safety, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said at hearing.

“Bad news is usually something that we can do something about,” said Rand Beers, head of the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate, while before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment and the economy. Beers oversees at a high level the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. An internal review conducted in late 2011 found the program suffering from lack of trained personnel, inadequate spending controls and other problems.

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Another investigation in summer 2011 also found CFATS program officials in May 2010 had improperly classified the risk levels of some facilities due to faulty computer modeling made with improper inputs. New risk level assessments resulted in 148 facilities downgrading to a lower level and 99 facilities excluded from CFATS regulation altogether.

“This is beyond disappointing. You have totally mismanaged this program,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), during the hearing, who said Beers might have to resign.

In response to questioning from Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) on whether “it might be the right time for you to step aside,” Beers responded that “If I believe I can’t do the job, then I will walk away from it, as I have done before.”

Beers and David Wulf, deputy director of the infrastructure security compliance division within the NPPS office of infrastructure protection, said CFATS has improved its performance over the past few months.

From Nov. 28 through Jan. 28, the program office conditionally authorized site security plans at 43 Tier 1 facilities, Wulf said, whereas in the previous 23 months, it had conditionally authorized ten.

“We have a very aggressive plan to move forward with review of the site security plans and to conduct outreach,” Wulf said.

In prepared testimony, Beer also said the program has likely resulted in more than 1,600 facilities completely removing chemicals of interest, and more than 700 other facilities reducing their holdings.

“There has been a reduction in risk throughout the nation and that the nation has correspondingly been made more secure,” Beers said.

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