CFATS reauthorization, at long last

Four-year extension will benefit industry
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Monday, December 22, 2014

WASHINGTON—After a long wait for those in the industry, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) measure has been reauthorized for four more years.

The House of Representatives in December approved a Senate-tweaked, four-year reauthorization of the program, a move that SIA is “very excited” about, said Jake Parker, SIA director of government relations. President Obama signed the bill Dec. 18.

SIA for years has been advocating for permanent authorization of CFATS, a set of performance-based guidelines introduced in 2009 as part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.

CFATS is considered a market definer for integrators involved in securing critical infrastructure. The set of 18 DHS-enforced regulations that facilities housing hazardous materials must comply with includes self-certification rules, auditing procedures and employee vetting.

Getting the reauthorization bill signed into law is a step in the right direction, Parker told Security Systems News.

The recent reauthorization includes Senate tweaks to the original bill. Those revisions include a speedier security plan approval process, he said.

Among SIA’s chief concerns during the lengthy CFATS debate was how long it took facilities to get DHS approval for their site security plans. The process was slow and time management was an issue, Parker said.

“In October of this year, DHS had only gotten 32 percent [of the site security plans] to the last stage. There were concerns among many about the future of the program, and members of Congress were concerned that [DHS] wasn’t further along in the process,” he said.

Other modifications to the bill include limits to facility worker involvement in the development of site plans, protections for whistleblowers and the authority for DHS to order an emergency shutdowns if there is an imminent threat from terrorists.

The American Chemistry Council, in a prepared statement, said: “We applaud Congress for coming together to pass a long-term solution for regulating security that will help create a stronger foundation for CFATS. In addition to providing a more solid footing for [DHS] to implement CFATS, the bill will help the department improve its outreach to chemical facilities and the process for vetting personnel.”

SIA members initially thought the chemical facilities market would be “a huge, fast developing market,” Parker said, but then there was the slow rollout.

It will still take several years, he said, but perimeter security and access control suppliers will benefit from the reauthorization.

Parker specifically lauded Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., sponsor of the House legislation, for his work in getting the bill passed.

“There was significant effort to reach out and get stakeholder input. SIA was involved in that process,” which was robust and unique, Parker said.

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