GAO Report Assesses DHS Chemical Security Program

Sen. Carper highlights progress made, challenges that remain in DHS chemical security program

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, highlighted a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that examined the Department of Homeland Security Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program following its 2014 reauthorization. Last year, Sen. Carper and Dr. Tom Coburn co-authored P.L. 113-254, the Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act, to improve upon and reauthorize the CFATS program.

According to the GAO report, the Department of Homeland Security has made substantial progress in approving chemical facilities site security plans. In 2013, the Department estimated that it was take as long as 9 years to review 900 facilities. Today, the Department reports the backlog will take between 9 and 12 months to review. But while progress has been made, some challenges remain. According to GAO, the Department lacks documented procedures for managing noncompliant facilities, and instead continues to handle procedures on a case by case basis. Finally, GAO reports that the Department used unverified, self-reported data to calculate the risk level of some facilities. Accordingly, GAO estimates that about 44 percent of the facilities at higher risk for toxic release may have misreported the scope of the area surrounding the facility that could be at risk if a release occurred. This report is the first of a series of periodic assessments mandated as part of the 2014 law.

“Last Congress, Dr. Tom Coburn and I worked tirelessly with our colleagues in the House, the Department of Homeland Security, and stakeholders to make needed reforms to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program at the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Carper said. “Today’s report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) assesses the Department’s progress in implementing that law. The report shows that DHS has made real progress and has significantly accelerated its pace for reviewing security plans and chemical facilities since the law went into effect. However, GAO also noted that numerous challenges remain: the Department needs to shore up its processes for addressing noncompliant facilities, and verify key information in order to accurately assess risk. The Department should take GAO’s recommendations to heart. My staff and I plan to engage the Department early and often in order continue to make the program better. If Congress, the Administration, and industry work together, as we’ve done before, we can continue to make progress and shape a program that keeps these vital facilities and the jobs they provide secure, protects our communities and the environment, and allows our businesses to thrive.”