Combating Terrorism:

Need to Eliminate Duplicate Federal Weapons of Mass Destruction Training

NSIAD-00-64: Published: Mar 21, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the potential for duplicative weapons of mass destruction training, focusing on: (1) the principal federal organizations that provide weapons of mass destruction training to first responders; (2) whether the training is well coordinated among federal organizations; and (3) actions being taken to improve the federal government's role in weapons of mass destruction training.

GAO noted that: (1) the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are the principal federal organizations that provide weapons of mass destruction training to first responders; (2) DOD provides this training through its Domestic Preparedness Program; (3) DOJ provides training primarily through its Metropolitan Firefighters and Emergency Medical Services Program; (4) both programs were authorized and funded by Congress and specifically developed to provide training in cities and counties primarily to individuals who would train others in their communities; (5) DOJ also provides training through the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium; (6) in 1998 Congress directed that DOJ use to the fullest extent possible the capabilities of the Consortium to achieve cost-effective weapons of mass destruction training; (7) FEMA provides weapons of mass destruction courses at its National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute in Maryland, and also provides related course materials to local and state organizations for their use in training first responders; (8) federal training programs on weapons of mass destruction are not well coordinated, resulting in inefficiencies in the federal effort and concerns in the first responder communities; (9) DOD, DOJ, and FEMA are providing similar awareness courses as part of their train-the-trainer programs; (10) DOD and DOJ plan to deliver their programs to individuals in the same 120 cities; (11) state and local officials and representatives of various responder organizations express concerns about duplication and overlap among the two federal training programs, courses offered by the Consortium, and other courses such as hazardous materials and other specialized training that first responders are required to complete; (12) officials were concerned that DOD and DOJ programs offered to cities and counties had bypassed the states' emergency management and training structures and that DOD and DOJ programs will not train responders in smaller communities; (13) the responders' concerns are consistent with the conclusions reached by a forum of over 200 state and local responders in August 1998 and a June 1999 Justice report; (14) more actions are needed to eliminate duplicative training and improve the efficiency of DOD and DOJ programs; and (15) in response to requests from the first responder community, DOJ has established the interagency National Domestic Preparedness Office, which will provide an interagency forum for coordinating federal weapons of mass destruction assistance to state and local emergency responders.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Executive Branch, in an effort to reduce WMD preparedness training duplication across federal agencies, transferred the Domestic Preparedness Program from DOD to DOJ, effective October 1, 2000.

    Recommendation: To improve the efficiency of federal training programs on weapons of mass destruction, the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General should eliminate duplicative training to the same metropolitan areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD transferred the Domestic Preparedness Program to the Department of Justice on October 1, 2000.

    Recommendation: To improve the efficiency of federal training programs on weapons of mass destruction, the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General should eliminate duplicative training to the same metropolitan areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice integrated the Domestic Preparedness Program into its existing training courses through analysis of course content, learning objectives, instructional methods. GAO made similar recommendations to further consolidate these programs in a more recent report, Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations (GAO-01-822).

    Recommendation: If the Department of Justice extends the Domestic Preparedness Program to more than the currently planned 120 cities, it should integrate the program with the Metropolitan Firefighters Program to capitalize on the strengths of each program and eliminate duplication and overlap.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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