U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Tuesday that he has sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano seeking answers regarding allegations of mismanagement and spending abuse by the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program.
In the letter, Grassley says that following news reports late last year that the program was suffering from a number of issues, an internal whistleblower has since contacted his office and provided further details of CFATS mismanagement.
Among the allegations from the whistleblower were that CFATS assigned employees to non-existent field offices, which subsequently led to employees working from home while claiming to be located at phantom offices. A byproduct of this, according to the letter, was that some employees lived in low locality pay areas while claiming duty stations in high locality pay areas and thus received improper locality pay. In addition, equipment was allegedly purchased through the program that the agency had no use for, such as HAZMAT suits and hundreds of notebook computers.
The whistleblower also alleged that DHS Undersecretary Rand Beers refused to report these abuses to the inspector general when he was made aware of them in a memo.
"The whistleblower’s accusations, if true, show a systemic failure of the CFATS program that has placed Americans in danger and wasted close to $500 million in taxpayer dollars," Grassley wrote in the letter.
Grassley has asked Napolitano to respond to his inquiry by Aug. 13.
In addition to these allegations, CFATS has also come under fire recently for its decision to drop the screening of workers at chemical facilities against the FBI’s terror database. Suzanne Spaulding, deputy undersecretary for the DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate, made the announcement during testimony before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee last month. She did not say why the plan was shelved or if it would be replaced.