Combating Terrorism:

Action Taken but Considerable Risks Remain for Forces Overseas

NSIAD-00-181: Published: Jul 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to protect U.S. forces stationed overseas from terrorist attacks, focusing on: (1) the extent to which DOD has made improvements to its antiterrorism/force protection program overseas; (2) changes in DOD's process for assessing and reporting vulnerability at overseas installations; and (3) the adequacy of antiterrorism/force protection funding and staff.

GAO noted that: (1) overall, military forces stationed overseas are better protected today than they were 3 years ago; (2) the Joint Chiefs of Staff has developed DOD-wide construction standards to ensure that antiterrorism/force protection measures are included in new construction; (3) in addition, DOD has signed agreements with the Department of State and U.S. ambassadors or chiefs of mission to protect DOD personnel not under the jurisdiction of commanders; (4) geographic combatant commands have created permanent antiterrorism/force protection offices, hired permanent antiterrorism/force protection staff, and developed systems to monitor progress to correct vulnerabilities; (5) installation commanders are more aware of their responsibility to protect their forces from terrorist attack, and, despite funding constraints, have addressed many security vulnerabilities; (6) however, significant security and procedural antiterrorism/force protection problems continue at many installations; (7) for example, some installations have not developed plans to deal with terrorist attacks, others have no effective means of stopping unauthorized vehicles from entering the installation, and some lack secure access to important intelligence information; (8) commanders are better able to determine their vulnerability to terrorist attacks than when GAO last reported; (9) vulnerability assessments are now being conducted more routinely and are based on a defined set of criteria; (10) however, vulnerability assessment reports do not provide specific actions to rectify problems mentioned in the reports; additionally, there is no comprehensive method in place to share solutions to common problems among different installations; (11) limited antiterrorist funding and trained staff have affected the ability of commanders to correct known vulnerabilities; (12) funding for antiterrorism protection has been, and will likely continue to be, less than what installation and geographic combatant commanders have determined they require, although senior DOD leaders have designated antiterrorism/force protection as a high priority item; (13) some overseas service commands have repeatedly received less than 50 percent of the money the commands believe they require to correct or mitigate vulnerabilities; (14) without information on the types of projects that need funding, Congress does not have an accurate picture of the extent of the risk that U.S. forces face from terrorism; and (15) installations GAO visited did not have adequately trained personnel dedicated to managing and implementing antiterrorism solutions.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of September 2001, Congress has not required DOD to provide information on unfunded requirements in its budget submissions for Combating Terrorism. As of September 2004, Congress has not required DOD to provide information on its unfunded requirements in its Combating Terrorism budget submissions.

    Matter: To improve congressional oversight of the risks that U.S. forces overseas are facing from terrorism, Congress may wish to consider requiring DOD to provide, as part of its Combating Terrorism Budget Justification documentation, information on the number and type of antiterrorism/force protection projects that have not been addressed by the budget request and the estimated cost to complete these projects. Information on the backlog of projects should be presented by geographic combatant command.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense did not concur with this recommendation. They believe there is no need to provide the additional information to Congress.

    Recommendation: To provide Congress with the most complete information on the risks that U.S. forces overseas are facing from terrorism, the Secretary of Defense should direct the services to include in their next consolidated combating terrorism budget submission information on the number and types of antiterrorism/force protection projects that have not been addressed by the budget request and the estimated cost to complete these projects. Information on the backlog of projects should be presented by geographic combatant command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: JCS has undertaken a number of lessons learned programs, but not all of the programs which would address this recommendation are operational. September 2004 The Joint Staff has established a lessons learned program and shares lessons by a number of methods. First, lessons learned continue to be shared in the in the AT/FP newsletter. Second, the Joint Staff has established the Antiterrorism Enterprise Portal which allows registered webusers to access AT/FP lessons learned, access Army, Navy and Joint lessons learned programs and post item on a AT/FP best practices discussion board. In addition, the portal allows users to access vulnerability assessment trends as well as vulnerability assessment reports which document actions taken to fix vulnerabilities.

    Recommendation: The Joint Chiefs of Staff should develop an antiterrorism/force protection best practices or lessons learned program that would share recommendations for both physical and process-oriented improvements. The program would assist installations to find answers to common problems--particularly those installations that do not receive Joint Staff Integrated Vulnerability Assessment reports or others who have found vulnerabilities through their own vulnerability assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Joint Chiefs of Staff

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD believes that the changes in process at the time of GAO's report address the recommendations. DOD has not completed these actions as of September 2001. September 2004 at this time DOD has not changed the format of its vulnerability reports to include specific solutions for indentified vulnerabilities as GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness and increase the impact of the vulnerability assessments and the vulnerability assessment reports, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to improve the vulnerability assessment reports provided to installations. Although the Joint Staff is planning to take some action to improve the value of these reports, GAO believes the vulnerability assessment reports should recommend specific actions to overcome identified vulnerabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The services developed and implemented the training programs required by DODI 2000.16. Known as Level II training, the training prepares individuals to perform their duties at AT program managers and advisors to the commander.

    Recommendation: To assure that antiterrorism/force protection managers have the knowledge and skills needed to develop and implement effective antiterrorism/force protection programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict to expeditiously implement the Joint Staff's draft antiterrorism/force protection manager training standard and formulate a timetable for the services to develop and implement a new course that meets the revised standards. Additionally, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict should review the course content to ensure that the course has consistency of emphasis across the services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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