Chemical Sector Security Summit Kicks Off in Baltimore

I’m excited to report that the 2011 Chemical Sector Security Summit, co-funded by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and SOCMA (Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates), got kicked off in Baltimore this morning with the highest attendance in the event’s 5-year history. Our team has joined the nearly 700 stakeholders from the chemical sector, academia, federal government, and the security industry for two full days of speakers and panels covering important issues related to chemical security, terrorist threats, and regulatory updates.

In their welcoming remarks, Larry Sloan, President/CEO of SOCMA, and Todd Keil, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, DHS, expressed a shared sense of optimism that long-term CFATS authorization is on the horizon. The overarching message driven home by all of the opening speakers was clear: Effective chemical security is dependent on public/private partnerships where all key stakeholders collaborate by sharing resources and information.

In her keynote address, Jane Holl Lute, Deputy Secretary of DHS, stressed cooperation, emphasizing the importance of chemical organizations developing relationships with their regional and district DHS commanders. As she began, Lute reflected back on nearly a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which made the term Homeland Security a universal part of American vocabulary. Drawing on her prior experience at the United Nations and on the National Security Council, Lute distinguished Homeland Security from National Security, saying the difference is that everyone has a say in protecting our homeland. She explained that DHS defines the term in one simple and clear goal statement: “Homeland Security is building a safe, secure and resilient place where the American way of life can thrive”. Ms. Lute continued by laying out a few core priorities by which DHS measures their success towards this goal, which are preventing another terrorist attack, securing our borders, cybersecurity, and  national resilience, including rapidly responding to disasters.
 
Next, we heard from Fernando Keller of DHS/Intelligence and Analysis, who provided insight into recent and current threat developments. Though DHS sees that overall we are safer since the death of Osama bin Laden, Keller maintained, as we referenced in a previous blog posting, we still need to be very vigilant and to make sure we are taking the necessary precautions to mitigate risk. He emphasized that “homegrown” terrorism was of particular concern, highlighting recent high-profile examples including the attack by U.S. Army major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood. He also referenced Najibullah Zazi, the so-called 'Beauty Parlor Bomber,’ who utilized beauty products when conspiring to create a bomb which was set   to explode in the New York City subway system. Additionally, Keller used the example of Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a Saudi college student studying engineering in Texas, whose terrorist plans were thwarted when a chemical company reported his attempts to purchase suspicious chemicals to the FBI. Through these cases, Keller emphasized the importance of community engagement with law enforcement to help thwart terrorist attempts.

The rest of the Day 1 morning sessions included DHS regulatory updates for CFATS and Ammonium Nitrate, and a close look at identifying vulnerabilities for theft and diversion. The afternoon consisted of three different blocks of multiple breakout sessions, on topics ranging from securing the global supply chain to the latest updates on MTSA regulations. I had the unique opportunity to moderate a panel entitled “Potential Threat Actors’ Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures” which analyzed current threats to the chemical sector and the intelligence reporting specific to the industry. I’m looking forward to sharing insights from these and other programs in the coming weeks, so visit the blog regularly for new posts.
More to come soon.

~ Ryan Loughin

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