17 June 2003 15:37 [Source: ICIS news]
PHILADELPHIA (CNI)--The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take the lead in managing vulnerability assessments of US chemical facilities, a top-ranking DHS official said here Tuesday.
But DHS Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Sally Canfield told the first annual Chemical Security Summit (CSS) here today that involvement in site vulnerability assessment by other federal agencies cannot be ruled out. She declined to say that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have no role.
The DHS "will lead in making vulnerability assessments," Canfield told some 350 chemical industry executives attending the CSS, "but we will be working with other federal agencies as well in this role." She said involvement by EPA in assessing the vulnerability of plant sites to terrorist attack cannot be ruled out.
Vulnerability assessments will in large part determine what additional anti-terrorism security measures a given chemical plant or other facility might need to make it a less tempting target for attack. Chemical industry officials have expressed preference for a DHS role in vulnerability assessments, arguing that EPA has little or no security role.
Canfield also revealed that DHS is undertaking a review of the national terrorism threat alert system, the colour-coded warning that federal officials adjust to reflect potential threat to US domestic interests based on day-to-day intelligence estimates.
There have been complaints that some local security and safety officials are reluctant to raise their level of activity every time the alert system is raised from, for example, yellow to orange. The occasional threat level increases cause a corresponding increase in operational costs for local fire and police departments.
Canfield noted that the colour-coded alert system is less than one year old and said DHS Secretary Tom Ridge "wants to take a look at it."
"With a system like this," Canfield said, "there is, as with any new program, a maturation process and it may be that this system needs refinement."
She said: "We recognise that there has been some frustration with the alert system and we are going to take a look at it, see how people react to it, how it is used."
Sponsored by the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the three-day CSS meeting runs through Thursday.
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