Combating Terrorism:

Issues in Managing Counterterrorist Programs

T-NSIAD-00-145: Published: Apr 6, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed federal efforts to combat terrorism, focusing on the: (1) need to link threats to strategies and resources in federal efforts to combat terrorism; (2) need to improve federal and state intergovernmental coordination and program issues; and (3) findings of a report from the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction--better known as the Gilmore Panel.

GAO noted that: (1) one of the major deficiencies in federal efforts to combat terrorism is the lack of linkage between the terrorist threat, a national strategy, and agency resources; (2) much of the federal efforts to combat terrorism have been based upon vulnerabilities rather than an analysis of credible threats; (3) while there has been a major effort to develop a national strategy, to date the strategy does not include a clear desired outcome to be achieved; (4) resources to combat terrorism have increased in terms of both budgets and programs; (5) these increased resources have not been clearly linked to a threat analysis, and GAO found cases where some agency initiatives appear at odds with the judgments of the intelligence community; (6) this situation also creates the potential for agencies to develop their own programs without adequate coordination, leaving the potential for gaps or duplication; (7) efforts to track and coordinate federal spending across agencies have started, but they have only begun to tackle the important task of prioritizing programs; (8) the federal government cannot prepare for terrorist incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials on its own; (9) several improvements are also warranted in intergovernmental relations between federal, state, and local governments; (10) the multitude of federal assistance programs has led to confusion on the part of state and local officials; (11) one step to improve coordination and reduce confusion has been the creation of the National Domestic Preparedness Office within the Department of Justice to provide "one stop shopping" to state and local officials in need of assistance; (12) this office has recently prepared a draft plan on how it will provide assistance; (13) another intergovernmental issue requiring resolution is the matter of command and control at the site of a terrorist incident; (14) roles of the federal government versus state and local governments need to be further clarified to prevent confusion; (15) the federal government is making some progress in addressing these command and control issues through exercises; (16) federal exercises, in contrast to earlier years, are now practicing crisis and consequence management simultaneously and including state and local participation; and (17) the Gilmore Panel report found many of the same problems that GAO has been reporting on, such as the need for: (a) more rigorous analyses of the threat; (b) better management of federal programs; (c) improvements in coordination with state and local officials; and (d) a national strategy to combat terrorism.

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