DHS resumes CFATS inspections, promises program has 'turned corner'

DHS says it will release an RFI in the next 30 days on personnel surety standard
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The Homeland Security Department resumed in July inspections of facilities that store or use hazardous chemicals under its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, said Rand Beers, head of the department's National Protection and Programs Directorate.

Beers spoke Sept. 11 during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment and the economy.

"You will see hundreds of inspections occurring over the course of the next year," added David Wulf, deputy director of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division within NPPD, which runs the CFATS program.

CFATS, once thought to be a successful example of risk mitigation through standards regulation, abruptly became the object of high skepticism following the December 2011 public leaking of an internal review that found the program suffered from lack of trained personnel, inadequate spending controls and other problems.

The program has "turned a corner," Wulf said, adding that he anticipates close to 300 facilities receiving CFATS approval within the coming year.  

So far, only two facilities have received CFATS approval for their site security plans and 72 have received conditional approval, although 4,433 facilities are subject to the high-risk regulatory requirements of CFATS, which include preparation of the security plan and inspection by program personnel. Beers' written testimony (.pdf) states that 3,660 facilities have developed security plans requiring government review.

All approved or conditionally approved facilities must still undergo review for the CFATS standard pertaining to personnel surety, which requires facilities to conduct background checks and implement measures to validate identities.

That standard has yet to be codified, however, although Beers said DHS anticipates releasing a request for information pertaining to it within the next 30 days. Existing government-issued credentials such as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential will be accepted under CFATS, Beers said. In addition, companies with multiple facilities will be able to apply for identity credentials that cover all those facilities at once, he added.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimonies and webcast available)
- download the CFATS standards (.pdf)

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