- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

Following the horrors of last September, Americans united behind efforts to prevent future terrorist assaults. With firm resolve, we've moved swiftly to strengthen security measures throughout our nation to better protect ourselves against those who would harm us.
Nowhere has this effort been more forceful than in America's chemical industry. In fact, the steps we've taken since September 11 are a logical extension of the culture of safety that has long guided our industry.
In more ways than one, chemical makers are on the front lines in the war on terrorism. Our products help produce radar-evading skins on military aircraft, gas mask filters, and night-vision goggles. Chemistry is behind the flame-resistant fibers that protect firefighters and the new antibiotics that defend against bioterrorism.
We recognize that protecting chemical facilities is a top priority in defending our nation's infrastructure and that we have an obligation to work closely with our government. It hasn't been front-page news, but for the past 10 months American chemical companies have been working closely with the FBI, EPA, Defense Department and other federal and state agencies to identify vulnerabilities and to make our plants and our communities as safe as humanly possible.
Based on advice from security experts, we've adopted comprehensive procedures to evaluate the highest-priority sites, analyze and fill security gaps and then have independent third parties (such as firefighters, law-enforcement agencies, and state and federal officials) verify the soundness of our security enhancements. Adherence to these aggressive new security efforts is mandatory for all of our approximately 180 member companies.
The American Chemistry Council has also partnered with the EPA, FBI and others to organize regional security briefings around the nation. And this past April, we signed an agreement with the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center to create the Chemical Sector Information Sharing and Analysis Center an important public/private-sector partnership that shares vital security-related information between the FBI and the companies that make and use chemical products.
All of these important steps are consistent with the stated goals of legislation now moving forward in Congress known as the Chemical Security Act (S. 1602). The intent of this bill is understandable Americans want to make certain that every company is doing its best to make our nation safer and more secure. But this is one of those instances in which much of the private sector is well ahead of government. Under the timeline of our security program, all "top tier" (or most vulnerable) facilities must implement enhanced security measures no later than December 2003. Under the Chemical Security Act, those same facilities wouldn't even have to submit let alone implement security improvement plans until March 2005. That is simply too long to wait to protect these critical facilities.
An early-compliance program for companies that commit to a nationally accepted security program will deliver faster and more effective results. This is not wishful thinking our industry has a long history of meeting tough deadlines and delivering results years ahead of government mandates.
We don't expect praise for our efforts. We're Americans and we're all in this war on terrorism together. In our judgment, improving security is something we owe to each other, to our neighbors and to our country. We do believe, however, that Congress should acknowledge those companies that are doing the right thing and provide incentives to others to do the same. As we work together to protect America, responsible companies should not be punished for progress.

Fred Webber is president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council.

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