CISA Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security Brian Harrell speaks at the Chemical Sector Security Summit in New Orleans on July 17, 2019. (CISA photo)

CISA Chemical Security Summit Focuses on Sector Threats, Resilience and Response

Faced with a challenging and evolving threat environment, hundreds of government and industry stakeholders convened in New Orleans this week for a three-day meeting on chemical security best practices.

The 12th annual Chemical Sector Security Summit, co-hosted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Chemical Sector Security Council, was held in the French Quarter on the heels of Hurricane Barry, underscoring natural as well as manmade and intentional threats to this high-risk sector. On the agenda: discussions about regulatory updates, industrial control systems vulnerabilities, cybersecurity supply chain risk management, unmanned aerial systems, and more.

Brian Harrell, CISA’s assistant director for infrastructure security, told HSToday that the summit was “an opportunity for CISA to engage chemical sector stakeholders, discuss security best practices and the evolving threat landscape, but also hear from industry on program successes and opportunities for improvement.”

“Securing our nation’s chemical infrastructure is crucial to our economy, security, and public health. Chemical facilities throughout the United States, ranging from petrochemical manufacturers to chemical distributors, use, manufacture, store, and transport chemicals along a complex global supply chain,” Harrell said. “The chemical industry is responsible for more than a quarter of the U.S. GDP, they support the production of almost all commercial and household goods, and this industry is essential to our economic growth. Despite the many benefits of key chemicals, they do not come without security risks.”

Attendees at the Chemical Sector Security Summit in New Orleans on July 17, 2019. (CISA photo)

DHS’ Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, or CFATS, was made permanent by Congress in 2014 and was extended for two years in January.

Since the program’s inception and as of June, 4,023 high-risk facilities have undergone CFATS authorization inspections, 4,990 have undergone compliance inspections, and 5,539 have had compliance assistance visits.

“Designed to help secure the nation from chemical facility terrorism, the regulation has existed since 2006 and has arguably kept Americans safe, and chemicals out of the hands of terrorists,” Harrell said.

He stressed that “the threat environment from man-made disasters is very real, as adversaries seek ways to attack U.S. critical infrastructure not only to cause mass casualties, but also to cut off essential services from our national critical functions.”

With stakeholders keeping the summit date despite the storm, “much of the conversation was focused on resilience, emergency response, and how the CFATS program ensures that key relationships with first responders exist,” Harrell added.

Barry forced some chemical plants in Louisiana to temporarily halt production while the supply chain was also impacted by port closures.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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