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Focusing on Chemical Sector Security

Caitlin A. Durkovich, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection
Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection

This week, the Department of Homeland Security co-hosted the 8th Annual Chemical Sector Security Summit in Baltimore, Md., focused on strengthening chemical security and resilience across the country. We were joined by the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council and more than 500 government and industry stakeholders. This annual summit brings together industry experts, owners, operators, and government to share best practices andlessons learned, and to identify ways to make our nation’s chemical infrastructure safer, more secure, and more resilient.

Highlights from this year’s summit included a keynote address from National Protection and Programs Directorate Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding, who discussed the importance of having both a strong cyber and physical security plan in place. In addition, we heard from panels and presenters regarding the status report on Executive on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, a review of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, the importance of voluntary programs and resources, and congressional perspective on current and future legislation related to the chemical sector.

This year’s summit came at an important time when we are beginning the transition to implementing the recommendations brought forward under the President’s executive order.  We discussed areas where we have taken critical steps in bringing together regulatory representatives and stakeholders with a vested interest in reducing the risks associated with the handling and storage of chemicals. The status report summarizes progress, focusing on actions to date, findings and lessons learned, challenges, and short and long-term priority actions, and focus on five specific thematic areas: Strengthen Community Planning and Preparedness; Enhance Federal Operational Coordination; Improve Data Management; Modernize Policies and Regulation; and Incorporate Stakeholder Feedback and Develop Best Practices.

At this year’s summit, we also highlighted the great strides that have been made in the CFATS program. The CFATS program is an important part of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts as we work with our industry stakeholders to keep dangerous chemicals out of the hands of those who wish to do us harm. Since the CFATS program was created, DHS has actively engaged with industry to identify and work with high-risk chemical facilities to ensure they have security measures in place to reduce the risks associated with the possession of chemicals of interest. While there is still work to be done, DHS to date has approved nearly 1,000 facility site security plans and the pace to approve and inspect facilities continues to improve.

Much of the important work ahead requires continued engagement with Congress to enact legislation providing multi-year authorization so that the program can continue its current path to success with stability. The Department is committed to continuing to work with industry, all levels of government, and Congress on a path forward to ensure the CFATS program continues to build on the progress it has made.

This year’s Summit once again brought people together in a way that I believe will lead to further progress and a safer nation. When it comes to the chemical sector, we are making great progress together and I want to thank all involved for a successful and productive Summit.

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