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Congress Looks At Facility Security

by Glenn Hess
December 24, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 52

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) program for improving security at the U.S.’s high-risk chemical facilities has been under congressional scrutiny since an internal report detailing a host of problems with the antiterrorism initiative was leaked to the media late last year.

The report indicated that implementation of the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards program has been hindered by management problems that include wasteful spending, untrained personnel, and failure by DHS officials to approve security plans submitted by the more than 4,400 covered facilities. Created in 2007, the program prescribes a regulatory framework for facilities that produce, handle, or store high-risk chemicals in the U.S.

Throughout the year, DHS Undersecretary Rand Beers tried to assure lawmakers that the department is making an effort to get the program on track. DHS is “working as quickly as possible” on an action plan that was devised in response to the internal report, Beers told the House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee at an oversight hearing on Sept. 11.

New procedures, he said, have enabled DHS to begin approving site security plans. Beers noted that DHS has given final approval to two site security plans and has conditionally approved another 73. An estimated 120 inspectors have been fully trained and hundreds of chemical facility inspections are expected to be completed within the next year, he said.

Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) said lawmakers will press for accountability as DHS reforms the chemical security program. The program has received almost $500 million since its creation.


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