The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Personnel Surety Program has a new proposed structure that would allow companies to directly submit employee background information for screening to DHS; to submit information to verify an employee was enrolled in another terrorism screening program; or to verify information using a Transportation Worker Identification Credential program reader.

DHS estimates the program would affect 192,000 individuals and cost $4.7 million to operate and maintain. A previous personnel surety proposal was withdrawn by DHS in July after industry groups raised concerns the program would impose significant burdens on facilities with limited security benefit.

DHS has met several times with the Agricultural Retailers Association and other members in crafting the new proposal that “reflects input from all sides,” a senior DHS official told a congressional subcommittee March 14.

The proposal, in the form of an information collection request, is open for public comment through May 21.

Michael Kennedy, ARA's public policy counsel, was interviewed recently by BNA, and explained that the personnel surety program as drafted would apply one standard across the board, which would be overly burdensome for small facilities. Kennedy said Tier 3 and Tier 4 facilities, considered lower risk on the CFATS tiering scale of 1 through 4, should have an exemption from the more stringent requirements.

“The department should not require every tier, facility and personnel under the PSP definition to be electronically verified,” Kennedy said. “This requirement is impractical at most agricultural retail facilities operating in rural areas.”

Under Section 550 of the 2007 DHS appropriations bill, which authorized CFATS, chemical facilities must conduct background checks on personnel by examining and verifying their criminal history, identity, and work status and by running them through federal terrorist databases. 

Although industry groups commended DHS for working with industry in crafting the proposal and called it “well-drafted,” they maintained the proposal still calls for overly burdensome and duplicative actions from facilities.