DHS seeks comments on screening ag retailer employees

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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 A previous personnel surety proposal was withdrawn by DHS in July after industry groups raised concerns the program would impose significant burdens on facilities with limited security benefit.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.

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Patrick Coyle    
Tyler, TX  |  April, 04, 2013 at 06:26 AM

The current ICR only applies to Tier 1 and Tier 2 CFATS facilities, the highest risk facilities. And agricultural producers are still exempted from registering with the CFATS program.

Michael Kennedy    
Washington DC  |  April, 04, 2013 at 08:58 AM

Patrick, You are right depending on how you define Ag producers. On Dec. 21, 2007, DHS issued a letter granting an indefinite extension for farmers and other agricultural facilities from being required to complete a Top-Screen using the agency's Chemical Security Assessment Tool (CSAT) Web site. The extension was intended to allow DHS time to gather more information regarding the storage and use of COI materials at these agricultural production facilities. However, agricultural retailers are not exempt and comprise a large portion of CFATS regulated tiers 3 and 4.

Roy E Dixon    
Garden City Kansas  |  April, 04, 2013 at 08:21 AM

This isn't good! We are all but a "Police State" in this country. Our very heritage that built this country has been tossed into the trash. We are falling into the type of past regimes of Stalin, Castro, Hitler. Common Sense needs to prevail. The freedoms this country was founded upon need to be restored.

Brad Forkner    
Cherry, IL  |  April, 04, 2013 at 08:45 AM

Another non-necessary group trying to justify their existance at the government trough. Why not get a producing job that contributes to the GDP?

North Dakota  |  April, 04, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Is there a problem that needs to be addressed here?? I don't remember hearing of a big problem with terrorists trying to get their hands on ag products.

DC  |  April, 04, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Anhydrous Ammonia is a release threat, and of course fertilizers like Ammomium Nitrate are minipulated and used as IEDs.

April, 04, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Sometimes common sense is not so common...

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