Combating Terrorism:

Opportunities to Improve Domestic Preparedness Program Focus and Efficiency

NSIAD-99-3: Published: Nov 12, 1998. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 1998.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the status and other aspects of the Domestic Preparedness Program, focusing on: (1) the training and other benefits offered to cities under the program; and (2) the methodology for designing and implementing the program, including the way in which cities were selected to participate, how cities' capabilities and needs were assessed, and the effectiveness of interagency coordination on this and other similar consequence management training and equipment programs.

GAO noted that: (1) the training and equipment that the Department of Defense (DOD) is providing to cities through the Domestic Preparedness Program have clearly increased cities' awareness of and should better prepare them to deal with a potential chemical or biological terrorist incident; (2) local officials in the seven cities GAO visited praised the training program's content, instructors, and materials as well as DOD's willingness to modify the program based on suggestions from local officials; (3) they also credited the program with bringing local, state, and federal regional emergency response agencies together into a closer working relationship; (4) in designing the training and equipment program, DOD selected 120 cities based solely on city population; (5) this decision resulted in 14 clusters of 44 cities within 30 miles of at least one other city selected; (6) by dealing with cities, DOD did not build upon the states' existing emergency management and training structures; (7) had it used existing structures that reflect how emergency response is actually organized, DOD could have consolidated training and equipment purchases to cover more jurisdictions in fewer locations than presently planned, at less cost; (8) DOD's loan of equipment in support of the training program has caused frustration and confusion among local officials; (9) the legislation authorized DOD to lend equipment to local jurisdictions, and DOD established a 5-year renewable loan agreement to govern the provision of about $300,000 worth of equipment to each city; (10) this agreement restricts the use of the equipment to training rather than operational purposes and requires the cities to repair, maintain, and replace the equipment; (11) cities were concerned about the lack of federal sustainment money to maintain, repair, and replace the equipment; (12) the program has raised expectations among some local officials that the federal government may provide additional funding for operational equipment; (13) the interagency coordination process provided a valuable information-sharing forum but was of limited success in helping steer the design and development of the program; (14) federal agencies' individual efforts to enhance consequence management of possible incidents involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism are not guided by an overarching strategy for achieving a defined end state; and (15) local officials in most of the cities raised the issue that the many WMD training, equipment, and consequence management programs are evidence of a fragmented and wasteful federal approach toward combating terrorism.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action has been taken.

    Matter: Congress may wish to amend the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation to provide DOD or any subsequent lead agency greater flexibility in the conditions under which it provides the $300,000 worth of equipment to local jurisdictions. That is, the legislation could be amended to allow DOD or any subsequent lead agency to provide equipment to local jurisdictions on such terms and under conditions that it deems appropriate.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it planned to transfer program responsibilities to the Department of Justice on or before 1 October 2000. In the interim, DOD did not agree to refocus the program as discussed in the report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense--or the head of any subsequent lead agency--in consultation with the other five cooperating agencies in the Domestic Preparedness Program, should refocus the program to more efficiently and economically deliver training to local communities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it planned to transfer program responsibilities to the Department of Justice on or before 1 October 2000. In the interim, DOD did not agree to leverage existing emergency management structures or training venues.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, or the head of any subsequent lead agency, should use existing state and local emergency management response systems or arrangements to select locations and training structures to deliver courses and consider the geographical proximity of program cities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NSC declined to discuss the issue with GAO.

    Recommendation: The National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism should actively review and guide the growing number of WMD consequence management training and equipment programs and response elements to ensure that agencies' separate efforts leverage existing state and local emergency management systems and are coordinated, unduplicated, and focused toward achieving a clearly defined end state.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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