CFATS and MTSA Harmonization

Last month at the 2010 Chemical Sector Security Summit in Baltimore, Sue Armstrong, acting deputy assistant secretary of homeland security for infrastructure protection, announced that the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard had reached an agreement that some facilities falling under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 should conduct a Top-Screen for DHS under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) mandate.

Currently MTSA facilities are specifically exempt under CFATS. A little more than a year after 9/11 in 2002, MTSA was signed into law. It required certain vessels and facilities on the coastline to conduct security vulnerability assessments and then develop facility security plans or FSPs. The U.S. Coast Guard runs the program and is responsible for approving these FSPs. So far, the program has run fairly smoothly with most facilities having approved and renewed plans for more than five years.

The thought behind requiring some MTSA facilities to submit a CFATS Top-Screen is that DHS needs to know what chemicals are where. It also allows DHS and the Coast Guard to optimize efforts and training and it seems logical to bring chemical security efforts together rather than spreading them between the two organizations.

Armstrong seemed to indicate that the MTSA Top-Screen requirement will be listed in the Federal Register. It wasn't clear if that would be the only means of notification. Considering DHS past outreach on CFATS, it is reasonable to expect the department will use additional means of contact for these facilities.

The whole process of bringing MTSA and CFATS together isn't new. The MTSA/CFATS Harmonization Working Group was formed in 2007 and efforts to bring the two laws together have been ongoing. Going forward I think we can expect the working group to continue to work more closely and to even conduct joint site visits. Working together DHS and the Coast Guard should be able to develop a cohesive plan, without gaps, increased facility security and maximize resources.


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