Homeland Defense:

Planning, Resourcing, and Training Issues Challenge DOD's Response to Domestic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosive Incidents

GAO-10-123: Published: Oct 7, 2009. Publicly Released: Oct 7, 2009.

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DOD plays a support role in managing Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) incidents, including providing capabilities to save lives, alleviate hardship or suffering, and minimize property damage. This report addresses the extent to which (1) DOD's CBRNE consequence management plans and capabilities are integrated with other federal plans; (2) DOD has planned for and structured its force to provide CBRNE consequence management assistance; (3) DOD's CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces (CCMRF) are prepared for their mission; and (4) DOD has CCMRF funding plans that are linked to requirements for specialized CBRNE capabilities. GAO reviewed DOD's plans for CBRNE consequence management and documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA. GAO also met with officials from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, U.S Northern Command, the military services, the National Guard Bureau, and some CCMRF units.

DOD has its own CBRNE consequence management plans but has not integrated them with other federal plans because those federal entities have not completed all elements of the Integrated Planning System mandated by Presidential directive in December 2007. The system is to develop and link planning documents at the federal, state, and local levels. While the system's framework is established, the CBRNE concept and strategic plans that provide further guidance are incomplete. DOD has had operational plans in place and revises these plans regularly. However, until the Integrated Planning System and its associated plans are complete, DOD's plans and those of other federal and state entities will not be integrated, and it will remain unclear whether DOD's CCMRF will address potential gaps in capabilities. We previously recommended and DHS agreed that FEMA should develop a program management plan and schedule to complete the planning system. With a goal to respond to multiple, near-simultaneous, catastrophic CBRNE incidents, DOD has plans to provide needed capabilities, but its response times may not meet incident requirements, it may lack sufficient capacity in some capabilities, and it faces challenges to its strategy for sourcing all three CCMRFs with available units. Without assigned units and plans that integrate the active and reserve portions of CCMRF, and agreements between DOD and the states on availability of National Guard units and the duty status in which they would respond to an incident requiring federal forces, DOD's ability to train and deploy forces in a timely manner is at risk. DOD has taken a number of actions in the past year to improve the readiness of units assigned to the first CCMRF, increasing both individual and collective training focused on the mission and identifying the mission as high priority. However, the CCMRF has not conducted realistic full force field training to confirm units' readiness to assume the mission or to deploy rapidly. Competing demands of overseas missions may distract from a unit's focus on the domestic mission, and some CCMRF units rotate more frequently than stated goals. These training and force rotation problems have prevented DOD from providing the kind of stability to the force that would allow units to build cohesiveness. DOD is making progress in identifying and providing funding and equipment to meet CCMRF mission requirements; however, its efforts to identify all requirements have not been completed, and funding responsibilities are spread across the department and are not subject to central oversight. When the CCMRF mission priority increased in the spring of 2008, more funding was provided. However, units did not have dedicated funding and thus purchased equipment with funding also used for other missions. DOD lacks visibility over total funding requirements. Without an overarching approach to requirements and funding and a centralized focal point to ensure that all requirements have been identified and funded, DOD's ability to ensure that its forces are prepared to carry out this high-priority mission remains challenged.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. Between 2010 and 2012, DOD continued to design and implement a new construct for CBRNE consequence management response forces structure. The new construct merges the three CCMRFs to a single Defense CBRNE Response Force (DCRF); establishment of two Consequence Management C2 Response Forces; and establishment of ten regionally focused National Guard-sourced Homeland Response Forces (HRFs), which will normally be employed under the control of the state governors. With respect to interagency planning aspects, DOD stated that in addition to its routine planning activities, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas? Security Affairs emphasizes the need for the kind of planning we discuss in the report and our recommendation. DOD stated that it recently convened an advisory panel to evaluate and, as appropriate, make recommendations on modifying DOD authorities, capabilities, plans and programs, and policies to assist civil authorities in preventing or responding to CBRNE incidents. DOD stressed that this panel was authorized to coordinate directly with any department or agency the panel considers necessary to carry out its duties. We believe the panel DOD described is a suitable mechanism for coordinating with DHS, FEMA, or any other relevant federal agency and addresses the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In the absence of completed plans under the Integrated Planning System or other specific guidance on DOD's expected contribution to the federal response to a domestic CBRNE-related incident, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs to work with DHS, FEMA, and other interagency partners to agree on interim goals, objectives, and planning assumptions for DOD's role in responding to one or more simultaneously occurring CBRNE incidents in the United States.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD reiterated that the panel discussed above will assist in addressing the recommendation. Additionally, DOD highlighted a number of ongoing efforts within the department (such as the Quadrennial Defense Review), and efforts being coordinated with DHS, FEMA, and other interagency partners (such as the Task Force for Emergency Readiness) to more fully understand the capabilities that may be required of DOD in the event of a CBRNE incident. DOD stressed, and we agree, that realistic, detailed, and coordinated planning at the federal, state, and local levels is essential to resolving the uncertainty over just what specific CBRNE consequence management capabilities DOD should be preparing to provide in the event of an incident. In addition, DOD and its interagency partners must continue to consistently pursue coordination efforts. Taken together, the efforts DOD has made address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In the absence of completed plans under the Integrated Planning System or other specific guidance on DOD's expected contribution to the federal response to a domestic CBRNE-related incident, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs to work with DHS, FEMA, and other interagency partners to agree on the specific types and quantities of capabilities that DOD is expected to contribute and the time frames in which those capabilities are to be provided.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD stated that it would continue to evaluate changes to the CCMRF's roles, missions, and requirements and make the necessary adjustments to the units? missions and goals. Between 2010 and 2012, DOD designed and implemented a new construct for CBRNE consequence management response forces structure. The new construct merges the three CCMRFs to a single Defense CBRNE Response Force (DCRF); establishment of two Consequence Management C2 Response Forces; and establishment of ten regionally focused National Guard-sourced Homeland Response Forces (HRFs), which will normally be employed under the control of the state governors. As part of the redesign of the Defense CBRN Enterprise, DOD included the appropriate roles, missions, and requirements to address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that DOD's plans are consistent with stated program goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of NORTHCOM and the military services to align plans for all parts of CCMRF, including specialized and general-purpose units, with stated objectives for CCMRF, and include in their planning efforts the extent to which existing CCMRF capabilities contribute to identified response requirements and stated CCMRF mission goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD stated that the Secretary of Defense subsequently directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a long-term total force sourcing plan for the CCMRFs and to ensure that as they are fielded, the CCMRFs would remain appropriately sourced. Between 2010 and 2012, DOD designed and implemented a new construct for CBRNE consequence management response forces structure. The new construct merged the three CCMRFs to a single Defense CBRNE Response Force (DCRF); established two Consequence Management Command and Control Response Forces; and established ten regionally focused National Guard-sourced Homeland Response Forces (HRFs), which are normally employed under the control of the state governors. During this time DOD has worked?and continues to work?with the Departments of the Army and the Air Force, the National Guard Bureau, and the Adjutants General of the States to address resourcing and readiness matters. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that DOD's plans are consistent with stated program goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of NORTHCOM and the military services to work with the state governors through the states' Adjutants General and the National Guard Bureau to create a long-term plan for sourcing CCMRF and ensure that the agreements being established between DOD and state governors include specific terms on National Guard force availability and duty and response status.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) subsequently included a field training exercise requirement in its CCMRF training plan. DOD stated that the command is working with the services and U.S. Transportation Command to determine the transportation requirements associated with a no-notice exercise for CCMRF and for newly-designated CBRNE response forces. These efforts should help NORTHCOM and DOD continue to develop the overall CBRNE response force exercise plan and address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to increase the assurance that CCMRF can effectively provide CBRNE consequence management in support of civil authorities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of NORTHCOM--in coordination with the military services--to include in the CCMRF training program requirements that the entire CCMRF conduct a joint field training exercise as part of its mission validation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD cautioned that a cost estimate for deploying a partial CCMRF for a field training exercise exceeded $30 million and that exercises for each of the three CCMRFs would be expensive due to the requirement to bring together forces from multiple locations in the United States. DOD further indicated that such exercises would be conducted subject to availability of funds. We agree that such exercises can be costly and that DOD?s effort to balance the need to properly exercise its CBRNE response forces with the need to due so in a cost effective manner addresses the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to increase the assurance that CCMRF can effectively provide CBRNE consequence management in support of civil authorities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of NORTHCOM--in coordination with the military services--to include in the CCMRF training program requirements that the entire CCMRF conduct at least one no-notice deployment readiness exercise annually.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and developed guidance directing force providers to facilitate NORTHCOM access to allocated CCMRF units 180 days prior to mission assumption to synchronize and coordinate participation in CBNRE training exercises, command post exercises, and confirmation field training exercises. DOD reiterated that the National Guard Bureau will contribute to these determinations. These actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense direct the Commander of NORTHCOM, the Joint Staff, the Joint Forces Command and the Service Secretaries to determine the time needed by units to perform the necessary pre-mission CCMRF training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation. DOD stated that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has responsibility for sourcing the CCMRFs and that US Northern Command, the military services and the National Guard Bureau support the Joint Staff in this responsibility. DOD prepared guidance in 2010 that tasked components to allocate properly equipped, manned, and trained forces to NORTHCOM to accomplish the CCMRF mission. This addresses the intent of the recommendation; and we believe that if consistently implemented such guidance will help DOD components and commands better plan for and conduct the necessary training for DOD?s CBRNE response forces.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense direct the Commander of NORTHCOM, the Joint Staff, the Joint Forces Command and the Service Secretaries to examine sourcing options that would ensure that units had adequate time to train prior to mission assumption once they had all required personnel and equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation. DOD stated that NORTHCOM and the services were developing a Joint Mission-Essential Equipment List that defined CCMRF equipment requirements and that NORTHCOM worked with the Army on procurement, storage, and management of personal protective equipment for the new units that will supersede the CCMRFs as part of DOD's revised CBRN Response Enterprise (Defense CBRNE Response Force--DCRF). This should help DOD provide more stable equipment planning and reduce the uncertainty of unit commanders about what equipment is needed but not clearly identified in existing equipment lists. In total, these efforts address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to provide a departmentwide understanding of requirements, priorities, and resource shortfalls and to identify potential redundancies and gaps in CCMRF resourcing, the Secretary of Defense should, in coordination with the Commander of NORTHCOM, the Secretaries of the military services, the National Guard Bureau, and the heads of participating defense agencies, determine the total requirements for CCMRF, including unique, nonstandard equipment requirements for each type of unit that comprises CCMRF, and develop a plan on how those requirements will be filled.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation. DOD stated that it has developed a CCMRF funding strategy and that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas? Security Affairs is the appropriate focal point for coordinating the funding strategy for DOD assistance to civil authorities in response to a CBRNE incident. DOD stated that the assistant secretary will examine, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretaries of the military services, and appropriate defense agencies, what additional steps should be taken to streamline coordination of the funding strategy for the units that replace the CCMRF (Defense CBRNE Response Force?DCRF). DOD added that as the employer of these units during an actual incident, NORTHCOM also plays a significant role. In light of ongoing efforts to fully identify CBRNE response requirements and in a time of particular fiscal constraint, we continue to believe that funding strategies for such constructs as the DOD CBRN Response Enterprise are critical to balancing effectiveness with efficiency and that the steps DOD described in further developing or refining its funding strategy address the intent of the recommendation and better assist DOD to plan for and oversee CBRNE preparedness.

    Recommendation: In order to provide a departmentwide understanding of requirements, priorities, and resource shortfalls and to identify potential redundancies and gaps in CCMRF resourcing, the Secretary of Defense should, in coordination with the Commander of NORTHCOM, the Secretaries of the military services, the National Guard Bureau, and the heads of participating defense agencies, develop an overall funding strategy for establishing, fielding, and exercising CCMRF and designate a single focal point for coordinating this strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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