SIA Legislative Update: Funding is Key to Securing Critical Infrastructure

There is no end to the facilities that can be targeted by criminals and terrorists, but there is definitely an end to the resources that can be used to secure them. It is crucial, then, to identify critical infrastructure — those places where the effects of damage or destruction would be most extensive, affecting the lives and well-being of large numbers of Americans.

One of the top priorities of the Security Industry Association (SIA) Government Relations Department is to ensure that appropriate amounts of federal funding are used to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and that the right agencies have the authority to oversee security structures at vulnerable sites. SIA, for example, supports an expansion and extension of the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) rules that are set to expire in October.

Facilities that have high-risk chemicals are obvious targets for any individual or person who seeks to harm Americans, and the fiscal year 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill provided the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the authority to regulate certain facilities that possess such chemicals. Some facilities that possess high-risk chemicals were excluded from CFATS regulatory authority, however, including public water and wastewater treatment facilities. SIA is currently working to convince lawmakers to enact a multi-year extension of DHS’ CFATS authority, and to expand it to include public water and wastewater treatment facilities.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee in May voted 33-16 in favor of a bill that would extend DHS’ CFATS authority through 2018 and authorize $90 million in annual funding for the program. A rival bill approved by a House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee in April would also extend DHS’ authority for seven years, but would do it in a way that would move jurisdiction over the matter from the House Appropriations Committee to the Homeland Security Committee.

The nation’s ports also must be hardened to prevent criminal and terrorist activity that could threaten the safety of countless people and severely disrupt the U.S. economy. The Port Security Grant Program is an important source of funds for ports to use to buy security gates and fencing, remote surveillance, concealed video systems, Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) readers, and “other security-related equipment that contributes to the overall security of passengers, cargo, or crew members.” While the 2006 Security and Accountability for Every Port (SAFE Port) Act authorized $400 million in grants each year from FY2007 to FY 2011, an “authorization” is not the same as an “appropriation,” so the funding battle must be fought each year. SIA supports full funding of the grant program and is working to extend it beyond 2011. In addition, SIA is seeking to eliminate a requirement that grant recipients provide matching funds of 25 percent, since this rule, especially in the current climate of budget austerity, can discourage ports from acquiring grant funds and making badly needed security improvements.

With millions of Americans using mass transportation each day, the country’s subways, trains, buses and other transit systems, if not properly secured, can be vulnerable to terrorists and criminals. The Transit Security Grant Program provides critical funding for public transportation agencies to make security improvements, such as the acquisition of perimeter protection, access control, surveillance equipment and fire suppression equipment, and, as with the port program, SIA works each year to convince lawmakers to fully fund the program.

The need for security is perhaps nowhere more obvious than at airports, and both the Airport Improvement Program and the Aviation Security Capital Fund provide money that can be used for safety enhancements at airports. SIA supports funding for both programs and wants to make physical security projects more of a priority for the use of Aviation Improvement Program funds.

SIA does not focus exclusively on the federal government — the association also works to support full and flexible funding for grant programs in the states that will protect critical infrastructure from crime and terrorist attack. It also seeks to ensure that, when developing grant guidance, state officials do not impose unnecessary restrictions on the use of the funds, significant match requirements or other requirements that would discourage end-users from applying for grants.

Ronald Hawkins (rhawkins@siaonline.org) is communications manager for the Security Industry Association (www.siaonline.org).

Loading