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Safety

Chemical Plant Security Critique

Homeland Security Department inspector general says the agency’s program has yet to fly

by Glenn Hess
April 11, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 15

Efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to safeguard the nation’s chemical facilities against terrorist threats have been hampered by revolving leadership and an overreliance on contractors, according to a recent report by the department’s inspector general. DHS has been under fire since late 2011 when a leaked internal memo revealed that the chemical security program, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), was beset by a series of management and personnel problems.

But the senior DHS official currently in charge of CFATS, David Wulf, says the “historical issues” identified by the new report have largely been addressed. “While there remains work to be done, we have made significant and tangible progress,” he remarks.

The program, which DHS created six years ago, has “not yet been fully implemented, and concerns remain over whether it can achieve its mission, given the challenges the program continues to face,” the report says.

DHS’s Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, which manages the chemical security program, has had eight directors since 2006. The result, the report notes, has been “constant changes to CFATS program processes, procedures, oversight, and implementation.”

Because of the limited number of qualified chemical and physical security specialists to administer CFATS within DHS, the report says, the department has had to rely heavily on outside contractors.

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