Friday, February 3, 2012

Information on Problems with CFATS Program, Care of Chemical Facility Security News

My good friend and fellow blogger Patrick Coyle has been reporting on the problems with the CFATS program in his blog Chemical Facility Security News, As always, his reporting is very objective and thorough. This morning (Feb. 3, 2012) he posted information concerning hearings about CFATS that are being conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This post included a link to a Committee Staff Background Memo that contained a summary of the problems that the CFATS program has experienced. The memo can be found at:, and parts are reproduced below. This information will be of interest to the many MTSA facilities who will be required to submit a Top-Screen and who will be affected by the CFATS-MTSA harmonization.

“On March 31, 2011, DHS Undersecretary of NPPD, Rand Beers, testified before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy that CFATS covered 4,744 high-risk facilities nationwide and that 4,126 facilities had received final high-risk determinations. In addition, Mr. Beers stated that while more than 4,100 facilities have submitted Site Security Plans (or Alternative Security Programs) to date -- and DHS was in the process of reviewing these submissions, DHS was still issuing final tier notifications to facilities across all four risk tiers.

In addition, Mr. Beers testified that more than 39,000 facilities had registered with DHS and completed the top-screen process. Of these facilities, DHS considered more than 8,064 as high risk and required them to submit a site vulnerability assessment. To determine if a facility is to be regulated as high risk and, if so, which tier it falls into, DHS uses a computer system that assesses risk based upon potential worst-case scenarios for a particular facility. On July 21, 2011, DHS officials informed Committee staff that in May 2010, CFATS program officials realized they had used improper inputs and modeling in the computer assessments for the formal tiering process, resulting in improper tiering of 600 facilities between the end of 2009 and spring 2010. In addition, DHS officials made clear that CFATS officials at that time consciously chose to not tell anyone about it. After personnel changes for the CFATS program, an internal investigation in Summer 2011 led to notifications of those facilities that had received a corrected CFATS risk tier as a result of a June 27, 2011, re-tiering process. Specifically, 148 facilities were tiered at a lower risk tier, 99 facilities were found not to need a tier and no longer became subject to CFATS regulation, 41 facilities have either data errors that still need correction or have their redetermination under review, and 175 facilities remain in the same level but will have the risk levels for their chemicals of interest decrease.

Following the “mis-tiering” episode, the new Director of Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, Penny J. Anderson, and her Deputy Director, David M. Wulf, conducted an internal review of the entire CFATS and Ammonium Nitrate programs at DHS, summarizing their findings in a November 10, 2011, memorandum to Undersecretary Rand Beers and Assistant Secretary David Keil. Fox News ran a print story about the contents of the report on December 21, 2011.1

The report identifies five (5) main programmatic challenges for the CFATS program: inadequate training capability, an overreliance on hired consultants for expertise, inappropriate transitions for new hires, uncertainty from extremely short program authorizations, and issues regarding job descriptions and the presence of an employee union. It also lists nine (9) staffing challenges for the CFATS program, including inexperienced managers, personnel placed in jobs for which they are not qualified, inadequate internal staff control, and lack of regulatory compliance expertise. Following the internal memorandum, the Department prepared a list of recommendations for correcting the troubles plaguing the program. It identifies the highest program priorities: speeding up the SSP review process, preparing for compliance inspections, and development and implementation of a personnel surety program for CFATS. The only legislative recommendation made in the report was a long-term extension of the existing program.”

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