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May 15, 2020

Government Report Shows CFATS Program Must Be Strengthened

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the following statement on a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Department of Homeland Security’s oversight of cybersecurity at high-risk chemical facilities under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. The largely physical security program also includes cybersecurity as one of the standards that regulated facilities must adhere to.

The GAO report found that DHS CFATS inspectors don’t get enough cybersecurity training and the program’s cybersecurity guidance is over 10 years old. The report also found that sophisticated cyber adversaries could “manipulate facilities’ information and control systems to release or steal hazardous chemicals and inflict mass casualties to surrounding populations,” and made six recommendations to improve the way the CFATS program enforces cybersecurity standards for regulated facilities.

“Our nation’s chemical infrastructure is a rich target for cyberattacks, whether from hostile foreign governments, criminals, or even terrorist groups. The DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program is the only Federal regulatory program that governs chemical security – physical and cyber – for thousands of high-risk chemical plants across the U.S. However, if Congress does not act quickly, this vital national security program will sunset in July.

“This report makes clear that Congress must strengthen the CFATS program – not let it expire.  Last year, the Committee approved legislation - H.R. 3256 - to do just that, in part, by improving enforcement of CFATS’ cybersecurity requirements.  GAO makes clear that cybersecurity vulnerabilities at chemical facilities could jeopardize the safety and security of surrounding communities – an unacceptable risk.  Congress needs to act quickly to reauthorize CFATS and empower DHS officials to make long-term improvements to the program that will promote strong cybersecurity in the chemical sector.”

Link to report

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