FY 2014 DHS Appropriations Bill Reported from House Committee
Today, the House Appropriations Committee reported legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY 2014. The bill is thought to be one of the few that will be enacted under regular order. The report on the bill addresses five issues of importance and concern to IME.
CFATS: The Committee points to the GAO and OIG reports and expresses concern about the marginal progress made to date to implement the program, the number of years that DHS believes it needs to fully implement the program, the flawed methodology for tiering facilities, and lack of internal controls. The Committee finds these outcomes “simply unacceptable.” The Committee directs DHS to report to Congress within 90 days of the enactment of the appropriation on how it will accelerate the review process for facilities, and to detail action DHS will take to address recommendations in the GAO report. Additionally, quarterly reports and an associated timeline will be required to show progress on complying with the recommendations of the OIG report. In the meantime, funding will be held to the same amount provided in FY 2013, $817,000 below the amount requested by the Administration.
PSP: The Committee is determined to see DHS establish a functional and efficient personnel surety program (PSP) but finds the current proposal unsatisfactory. The Committee (1) questions what authority the agency has to mandate the means by which facilities will meet the risk-based performance standard (RBPS) 12 for personnel surety; (2) expresses concern that the agency will not notify facilities if a person has been identified on the terrorist screening database (TSBD), and (3) asks why the agency will not leverage existing vetting programs and meet the standards of RBPS 12. Industry agrees. The Committee directs DHS to engage with stakeholders to the structure of the PSP and to address stakeholder concerns. DHS is required to report to Congress, no later than April 1, 2014, on steps it is taking to leverage existing programs and to ensure that facilities are notified of “hits” against the TSDB. Finally, the report must include an explanation of why DHS intends to mandate how a covered facility satisfies RBPS 12.
Ammonium Nitrate: Pointing to the tragedy in West, TX, the Committee expresses “dismay” that DHS has not implemented a comprehensive Ammonium Nitrate Security Program. The Committee finds it unacceptable that DHS Chemical Security Inspectors were unaware that West Fertilizer Co. was handling tons of “potentially explosive ammonium nitrate.” The Committee criticized DHS for terminating a contract with a vendor and no longer has the ability to access risk or validation data for the thousands of chemical facilities that filed “Top Screens” under CFATS but were not tiered. DHS is directed to assign a unique business identifier to each chemical facility that filed a Top Screen. Further, DHS is directed to review the ANSP and report to Congress within 90 days of the date of enactment of the bill on the status of the proposed rule, the program's implementation, and collaboration and communication with the regulated community. Specifically, the review is to address:
- How DHS will identify “outliers”;
- Where DHS is organized efficiently and effectively to carry out the requirements of the ANSP, and if not, what changes need to be made;
- How should DHS staff itself to ensure effective execution of the ANSP;
- Does the program include appropriate outreach to address stakeholder concerns, and what mechanisms are in place to ensure consistent outreach?
In addition, the Committee expects a “comprehensive update” on corrective measures to ensure that facilities with chemicals of interest are notified when they are required to file Top Screens.
Truck Tracking of SSHM Shipments: Although federal law bars TSA from implementing truck tracking of security-sensitive hazmat shipments without further authorization from Congress, the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), attempts to revive interest in this requirement by noting the TSA is “required … to facilitate” such a tracking program and states that such program must have a “tested and established center dedicated to the continual tracking of [SSHM] load types.” Such a center is in Rogers’ district. The Committee expresses concern that TSA does not yet have a system to track Tier 1 SSHM shipments and directs that funds “be used to continue and complete, without interruption, any ongoing research and development initiatives that may inform and support the development of an eventual operational system for SSHM tracking. Semi-annual updates on the implementation of such a tracking program are required.
TWIC: The Committee, regrettably, stands by the recent GAO report on the TWIC program that found inadequacies in the pilot test of card “readers” and recommended a “halt” to the program. Seizing on this the Committee withholds $30 million from TSA until it completes a security assessment of the program and provides it to Congress with its FY 2015 budget request. The assessment must include a comprehensive comparison of alternative credentialing approaches, including a more decentralized approach, for achieving TWIC program goals. The Committee seems enamored by the decentralized credentialing approach used by airlines under the SIDA program. However, the clearance needs of individuals at seaports and for other users of TWICs do not mirror the relatively closed environment found at airports. The USCG continues to stand by this program as the best vetting and credentialing program available to individuals working in areas requiring security clearance.