As our members recently saw, the association and its industry partners were successful in securing a short-term extension to keep the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program going past January 18, 2019. The extension, which will keep the program operating until April 2020, was in many ways a remarkable achievement considering that in a 48-hour window the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives approved the extension with President Trump signing it into law all while Congress was gridlocked with the partial government shutdown. On top of that, the Senate not considering any major legislative business. While this success was a fantastic effort by industry, the long-term authorization we had all hoped for was not achieved.
With 15 months to secure this long-term reauthorization, we are once again heading back to the drawing board to work with key members of the House and Senate. What we did learn during the process in securing the short-term extension is that CFATS is widely recognized as a strong government-industry partnership by Members of Congress from both parties and on both sides of Capitol Hill including the all-important Senate and House leadership.
The parameters of a solid long-term bill are well-scripted and generally agreed upon across the political spectrum. The question is, can we keep legislation moving forward focused on truly improving the CFATS program and not mired in unnecessary political provisions as we embark upon a presidential election year in 2020?
My sincere hope is that we can in 2019. While time is already tight, it is clear Congress understands the value and importance of the CFATS program with their passage of a short-term extension. Political leaders must build off this momentum in finalizing a long-term measure that reflects the success of the program with some of the proposed changes discussed by Congressional leaders and supported by industry in 2018. Let’s not wait for election year theatrics and get a long-term bill approved in 2019 so the security of this country’s chemical facilities remains strong and certain.