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Pipelines throughout the United States remain unsecured and a possible target for terrorist attack.
It’s no secret that vital pipelines and distribution nodes are vulnerable to terrorist attack and remain unsecured, as do a variety of critical oil and gas infrastructure, Homeland Security Today reported.
If you really look at it, a successful terrorist attack on key pipeline arteries for the transportation and storage of crude oil, natural gas and fuel could cause disruptions of these vital energy supplies.
The issue of hardening and protecting this infrastructure – here and abroad – was the subject of a petroleum security conference earlier this year.
A new report is now out talking about the risk and prioritize efforts to help strengthen pipeline security nationwide, according to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Pipeline Security Division (PSD).
Knowing there is a problem is part of the battle, but digging deeper and finding a way to resolve the issues is quite another.
The problem is the PSD identified the 100 most critical pipeline systems and developed a pipeline risk assessment model based on threat, vulnerability and consequence, it nevertheless “could improve the model’s consequence component and better prioritize its [security risk assessment] efforts,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in the report of its audit of PSD’s pipeline infrastructure security efforts.
GAO stated in the report, “Pipeline Security: TSA Has Taken Actions to Help Strengthen Security, but Could Improve Priority-Setting and Assessment Processes,” that “the consequence component takes into account the economic impact of a possible pipeline attack, but not other possible impacts such as public health and safety, as called for in (the Department of Homeland Security’s) risk management guidance. PSD plans to improve its model by adding more vulnerability and consequence data, but has no time frames for doing so.”
“Establishing a plan with time frames, as called for by standard management practices, could help PSD enhance the data in, and use of, its risk assessment model,” according to the GAO.
“Also, PSD procedures call for scheduling Corporate Security Reviews (CSR) – assessments of pipeline operators’ security planning – based primarily on a pipeline system’s risk, but [its] analysis of CSR data suggests a system’s risk was not the primary consideration,” according to the GAO report.
“Documenting a methodology for scheduling CSRs that includes how to balance risk with other factors could help PSD ensure it prioritizes its oversight of systems at the highest risk,” according to the GAO.
In addition to assessing risk and prioritizing efforts to strengthen pipeline security, PSD is responsible for implementing agency guidance and requirements of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Commission Act) regarding pipeline security and measuring its performance in strengthening pipeline security.
“PSD has taken actions to implement agency guidance that outlines voluntary actions for pipeline operators and 9/11 Commission Act requirements for pipeline security, but lacks a system for following up on its security recommendations to pipeline operators,” according to GAO.
“PSD has taken steps to gauge its progress in strengthening pipeline security, but its ability to measure improvements is limited,” according to the GAO. “In its pipeline security strategy, PSD does not include performance measures or link them to objectives, which GAO previously identified as desirable in security strategies. In addition, PSD developed performance measures, including one outcome measure to gauge its efforts to help operators reduce vulnerabilities identified in CSRs. However, the outcome measure does not link to all three of PSD’s objectives and provides limited information on improvements in areas such as physical security.”
According to DHS risk management guidance, GAO said “outcome measures should link to objectives,” noting “including measures linked to objectives in its strategy and developing more outcome measures directly linked to all of its objectives could help PSD improve accountability and assess improvements.”
GAO recommended TSA, among other things, establish time frames for improving risk model data, document its method for scheduling reviews, develop a plan for transmitting recommendations to operators, follow up on its recommendations, include performance measures linked to objectives in its pipeline strategy, and to develop more outcome measures.

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