DHS to Roll Out CFATS Personnel Surety Program Implementation

Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Information Collection Request, which authorizes CISA to implement the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism (CFATS) program’s Personnel Surety Program (PSP) for all covered chemical facilities, to include Tier 3 and Tier 4 facilities.

Within the next few weeks, CISA will publish a notice in the Federal Register formally notifying the public of the CFATS Personnel Surety Program implementation at all high-risk chemical facilities. PSP will be rolled out in a phased manner in order to allow CISA to assist facilities submitting information, and to not overburden any one company during this process.

CFATS currently covers approximately 3,400 chemical facilities, which have been assessed to present a risk of terrorist attack or exploitation. Under CFATS, chemical facilities possessing more than a threshold amount of specific explosive, toxic, or other “chemicals of interest” determined by DHS, are required to complete a “top-screen,” notifying DHS that they possess such chemicals on site. Once a facility submits its top-screen, DHS can direct the facility to submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA). The SVA provides the basis for DHS to assign the facility to one of four tiers: Tiers 1 and 2 being the highest risk, and Tiers 3 and 4 being the lowest. Tier assignment triggers a requirement to submit a Site Security Plan (SSP) or an Alternative Security Plan (ASP) to DHS for authorization and approval.

According to DHS, thousands of high-risk facilities with approved security plans already have measures in place to perform checks on affected individuals’ identity, criminal history, and legal authorization to work in the United States. Comprehensive background checks that screen for terrorist ties are critical to chemical facilities at risk of an attack and have been implemented at CFATS Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities since 2015. The recent approval of the CFATS Personnel Surety Program Information Collection Request ensures the implementation of screening for terrorist ties at all CFATS-tiered facilities, enhancing Tier 3 and Tier 4 facility background checks to include screening for terrorist ties.

In keeping with its focus on compliance assistance and the promotion of a chemical security culture, CISA will roll-out the program in a phased manner. Once CISA publishes the Federal Register notice, notification letters will be sent to affected facilities to revise their approved security plans to describe the measures that will be used to vet affected individuals for terrorist ties. In order to facilitate this process, CISA is providing resources to assist facilities with selecting appropriate security measures, updating their security plans, and—once the revised plan is approved—submitting names for vetting, if applicable.

Notably, many ACA member companies, who own and operate paint, coatings, resin, or chemical manufacturing facilities are subject to CFATS, with a clear majority being classified as Tier 4 facilities, while just a few are Tier 3.

Contact ACA’s Rhett Cash for more information.

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