Combating Terrorism:

Analysis of Federal Counterterrorist Exercises

NSIAD-99-157BR: Published: Jun 25, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1999.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on its analysis of federal counterterrorist exercises.

GAO noted that: (1) federal agencies conducted 201 counterterrorism exercises in the 3 years following Presidential Decision Directive 39; (2) the number of exercises per year more than tripled over the 3-year period, with the largest increase in the last year; (3) agencies used a variety of types of exercises and scenarios during this period; (4) more than half of the exercises were field exercises (where command and response personnel actually deployed with their equipment), and the rest were tabletop exercises (where personnel discussed a particular scenario); (5) very few of the exercises included no-notice deployments of personnel and equipment; (6) over one-half of the exercises dealt with managing the immediate crisis resulting from a terrorist incident, including stopping a terrorist attack, while the others dealt with managing the consequences of the incident, such as caring for the injured; (7) until recently, very few exercises dealt with the likely situation of both crisis and consequence management occurring simultaneously; (8) more than two-thirds of the exercises had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) scenarios, while the others had more traditional and more likely terrorist scenarios involving conventional arms and explosives; (9) over half of the WMD exercises used scenarios that used chemical agents; (10) there was a variety of participants in these exercises; (11) more than two-thirds of the exercises included more than one federal agency and almost one-half of them included three or more federal agencies; (12) some exercises also included participants of organizations other than federal agencies; (13) for example, one-third of the exercises included state or local government participants, almost one-tenth of them had nongovernmental participants, and a few had foreign government participants; and (14) federal agencies played various roles in these exercises, depending on their roles and their level of participation.

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