Nuclear Weapons:

Emergency Preparedness Planning for Accidents Can Be Better Coordinated

NSIAD-87-15: Published: Feb 10, 1987. Publicly Released: Feb 10, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) policies and practices for coordinating emergency planning for nuclear weapon accidents with states and localities.

GAO found that: (1) although the Air Force coordinates its emergency planning for all types of disasters, the Army and Navy generally exclude state and local governments from coordinated planning efforts for national security reasons; (2) some state and local emergency preparedness officials desire more communication with Army and Navy installations in emergency planning; (3) a national nuclear weapon accident exercise showed a need for more coordination because of the complexities involved in responding to such accidents and the hazards of radioactive contamination; (4) the services and civilian authorities coordinate emergency planning for other disasters; and (5) the Army and Navy could achieve emergency planning with states and localities for accidents involving nuclear weapons without violating DOD security policies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DOD study on nuclear weapons accidents affirmed the need for coordinated emergency planning with local officials concerning accident information flow, jurisdiction, and hazards to life. The Air Force coordinates and exercises plans with local officials. The Army is clearing the way for local coordination and participation regarding nuclear accident exercises.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to ensure that officials at its home ports for nuclear-capable ships allow the opportunity for state and local authorities to coordinate emergency plans for nuclear weapon accidents by sharing unclassified planning information regarding such factors as: (1) the potential hazards associated with such accidents; (2) accident notification policies and procedures; (3) DOD response capabilities; and (4) procedures for requesting assistance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DOD study on nuclear weapons accidents affirmed the need for coordinated emergency planning with local officials concerning accident information flow, jurisdiction, and hazards to life. The Air Force coordinates and exercises plans with local officials. The Army is clearing the way for local coordination and participation regarding nuclear accident exercises.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to ensure that officials at its home ports for nuclear-capable ships allow the opportunity for state and local authorities to coordinate emergency plans for nuclear weapon accidents by allowing for state and local participation in installation response exercises.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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