New US security chief orders report on chemicals sector

22 January 2009 17:52  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The new US chief security official on Thursday ordered a quick report on the status of antiterrorism protective measures in the nation’s chemicals industry and 17 other critical infrastructure sectors.

Janet Napolitano, newly confirmed by the US Senate to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the Obama administration, immediately issued five orders for update reports on key industrial and communications industries.

Napolitano, who previously served as a two-term governor of Arizona, said she wanted the reports on the status of critical infrastructure protection delivered to her by Wednesday next week, 28 January.

In addition to a status report on security measures in the chemicals sector, Napolitano ordered updates on other critical infrastructures such as information technology, telecommunications, transportation, emergency response services, shipping and postal operations.

There are 18 industries on the critical infrastructure list drawn up by the department soon after it was created in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

Napolitano asked: “What is the current status of the critical infrastructure list, relations with the 18 sector security councils and other departments that have critical infrastructure protection roles?”

“What are the plans to enhance protection?” she asked.  “How do we enhance private sector participation?”

The manner in which the new secretary goes about ensuring protection for the chemicals sector and other critical industries is of particular interest because this is the first time that the massive Department of Homeland Security has undergone a transition from one presidential administration to another - posing a period of vulnerability.

The department combines 22 once independent federal agencies, has more than 200,000 personnel and operates out of 70 different buildings in the greater Washington, DC, area.

The principal law governing antiterrorism security at US chemical facilities - the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) - is due to expire at the end of this year. 

Congress must renew or rewrite that statute within the next few months.  Legislation to extend and change the federal mandate over security at high-risk chemical plants is already pending and has drawn criticism from the industry.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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