Shutdown of DHS Chemical-Security Program Prompts Strong Words

Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
Oct. 4, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON – The Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment’s chem­ic­al-se­cur­ity pro­gram ceased most op­er­a­tions this week as a res­ult of the fed­er­al shut­down, prompt­ing con­cerns about how the gov­ern­ment will im­prove se­cur­ity in the wake of this year’s fatal ex­plo­sion in Texas.

Rep. Ben­nie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a state­ment to Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire Fri­day that the in­cid­ent at a fer­til­izer plant in West, Texas, “brought in­to fo­cus the need to se­cure dan­ger­ous chem­ic­als against ac­ci­dent­al or ma­li­cious re­lease or det­on­a­tion.” He noted that Pres­id­ent Obama in Au­gust is­sued an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der call­ing on the DHS Chem­ic­al Fa­cil­ity Anti-Ter­ror­ism pro­gram — along with the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency and oth­er fed­er­al en­tit­ies — to do more work on the is­sue.

“It is un­con­scion­able that today, as a res­ult of Re­pub­lic­an games­man­ship, CFATS as a pro­gram is ef­fect­ively dead — it has no fund­ing or au­thor­iz­a­tion,” said Thompson, the top Demo­crat on the House Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee. “The speak­er needs to stand up for what is right and let the House vote on a clean [con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion] that funds the en­tire gov­ern­ment and re­news au­thor­iz­a­tion for CFATS.”

House Re­pub­lic­ans — who have ma­jor­ity con­trol of the cham­ber — have been par­tic­u­larly crit­ic­al of the Chem­ic­al Fa­cil­it­ies Anti-Ter­ror­ism Stand­ards pro­gram since an in­tern­al memo re­port­ing nu­mer­ous prob­lems with the ini­ti­at­ive was leaked to the press in late 2011. GOP law­makers re­peatedly have sought to re­duce fund­ing for the pro­gram, cit­ing the pro­gram’s struggles to com­plete site in­spec­tions and se­cur­ity plan re­views.

In­dustry of­fi­cials who sup­port the pro­gram ar­gue that as a res­ult of the gov­ern­ment shut­down, Con­gress it­self will be to blame for fur­ther delays.

“Every day that Con­gress keeps the gov­ern­ment closed, it is go­ing to make it harder for Con­gress to then blame DHS on its lack of pro­gress on CFATS,” Bill All­mond, vice pres­id­ent for gov­ern­ment re­la­tions at the So­ci­ety of Chem­ic­al Man­u­fac­tures and Af­fil­i­ates told GSN. “The next time Con­gress calls DHS up to testi­fy on why it hasn’t been quick­er to im­ple­ment the CFATS pro­cess, Con­gress is go­ing to have to turn it back on it­self and say, ‘Did we think about the im­plic­a­tions of clos­ing the gov­ern­ment on the pro­gress of im­ple­ment­ing CFATS?’”

A Re­pub­lic­an aide for the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee — which has been con­sist­ently crit­ic­al of the pro­gram — said the pan­el at­temp­ted to ad­dress the is­sue by ini­tially fil­ing a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that ex­pli­citly ex­ten­ded fund­ing and leg­al au­thor­ity to run the CFATS pro­gram. The ini­ti­at­ive needs to be reau­thor­ized an­nu­ally due to a lack of a per­man­ent Con­gres­sion­al au­thor­iz­a­tion.

Oth­er House Re­pub­lic­ans later ad­ded amend­ments to the bill that would have pre­ven­ted fund­ing for health-care re­form, prompt­ing the Demo­crat-con­trolled Sen­ate to re­ject it, however. As a res­ult, most gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions shut down Tues­day, the first day of fisc­al 2014.

The Re­pub­lic­an com­mit­tee aide, who asked not to be named due to not be­ing au­thor­ized to dis­cuss the is­sue, said DHS of­fi­cials were look­ing for ways to work around the shut­down.

Ac­cord­ing to All­mond, however, chem­ic­al com­pan­ies that had DHS in­spec­tions sched­uled for this week re­ceived no­tice that the site vis­its would be post­poned in­def­in­itely. Re­view of se­cur­ity plan doc­u­ments is also ex­pec­ted to be frozen, as DHS em­ploy­ees who nor­mally do this work have been fur­loughed.

In­dustry of­fi­cials were sched­uled to meet with DHS, EPA and Oc­cu­pa­tion­al Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials this week re­gard­ing how those en­tit­ies might re­spond the pres­id­ent’s ex­ec­ut­ive or­der, ac­cord­ing to All­mond. The meet­ing was can­celed as a res­ult of the gov­ern­ment shut­down, which All­mond says cre­ates pro­longed un­cer­tainty for in­dustry re­gard­ing what new reg­u­la­tions they might have to com­ply with and wheth­er com­pan­ies will have an­oth­er op­por­tun­ity to weigh in on pos­sible changes.

A key is­sue the ex­ec­ut­ive or­der is meant to ad­dress is why CFATS of­fi­cials were not aware of the West, Texas, fa­cil­ity’s ex­ist­ence at the time it ex­ploded and how to pre­vent such lapses in the fu­ture.

A Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate aid con­firmed CFATS em­ploy­ees are not ex­empt from the shut­down and are fur­loughed. The Sen­ate aid, who asked to be un­named due to not be­ing au­thor­ized to dis­cuss the is­sue, said that em­ploy­ees could be re­called in the event of a chem­ic­al in­cid­ent.

Com­pan­ies are be­ing en­cour­aged to still com­ply with CFATS reg­u­la­tions be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ter­prets that it is not the in­tent of Con­gress to ter­min­ate the pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the Sen­ate aid. Con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tions passed by both the House and Sen­ate, along with fisc­al 2014 ap­pro­pri­ations bills au­thored by both cham­bers, would have ex­ten­ded au­thor­iz­a­tion for the pro­gram, the aide noted.

DHS of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment by press time. An email to Dav­id Wulf, who heads the CFATS pro­gram in his ca­pa­city as DHS In­fra­struc­ture Se­cur­ity Com­pli­ance Di­vi­sion dir­ect­or, re­ceived an auto­mat­ic reply stat­ing he would be out of the of­fice as of Tues­day and would not be able to re­turn emails or tele­phone calls un­til he re­turns to duty “upon con­clu­sion of the fed­er­al fund­ing hi­atus.”

What We're Following See More »
THROUGH AN INTERMEDIARY
Manafort Offered Russian Billionaire Briefings During Campaign
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions. Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said. 'If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,' Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email.

Source:
RAISE LATER THIS YEAR POSSIBLE
Interest Rates Don’t Change
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged and said Wednesday that it would begin to withdraw some of the trillions of dollars that it invested in the American economy after the 2008 financial crisis. The widely expected announcement reflected the Fed’s confidence in continued economic growth...most Fed officials predicted in a new round of economic forecasts that the Fed would increase rates later this year."

Source:
INCLUDES COMEY FIRING
Mueller Looking For White House Docs
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Special Counsel Robert Mueller "has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director...Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the F.B.I. director had relieved 'great pressure' on him."

Source:
BUT WILL MCCAIN VOTE YES?
Graham-Cassidy to Get a Floor Vote Next Week
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
3.5M PEOPLE
All of Puerto Rico Without Power
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Hurricane Maria has knocked out power to the entire island of Puerto Rico, home to 3.5m residents, emergency officials have said."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login