Combating Terrorism:

Use of National Guard Response Teams Is Unclear

T-NSIAD-99-184: Published: Jun 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the use of National Guard Response Teams in combating terrorism, focusing on: (1) the role of the National Guard Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection (RAID) teams in response plans as understood by local, state, and federal officials; (2) other response assets that can perform similar functions to the RAID teams; and (3) the RAID teams' responsibilities and how they plan to meet these responsibilities.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO found that there are differing views among federal and state officials on the role and use of RAID teams and how they will fit into state and federal plans to respond to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents; (2) among the principal federal agencies involved, Army officials believe the teams can be valuable assets to federal authorities, if needed, as part of the federal response plan; (3) they also believe that the teams will be a critical and integral part of the state and local response to such weapons; (4) officials with the two agencies responsible for managing the federal response to terrorist incidents--the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency--do not see a role for the RAID teams in the federal response; (5) instead, they see the National Guard responding with personnel and equipment as it does for natural disasters and other emergencies; (6) differing views also exist at the state level; (7) officials in some states without a RAID team question the teams' utility primarily because of their response time; however, officials from a state with a RAID team are very enthusiastic about the concept and are making plans to use their team; (8) there are numerous local, state, and federal organizations that can perform similar functions to the RAID teams; (9) there are over 600 local and state hazardous materials teams in the U.S. that assess and take appropriate actions in incidents almost daily involving highly toxic industrial chemicals and other hazardous materials; (10) there are numerous military and federal civilian organizations that can help local incident commanders deal with WMD incidents by providing advice, technical experts, and equipment; (11) local, state, and federal officials expressed a number of concerns about the teams' abilities to meet their mission and responsibilities; (12) the most significant and frequently mentioned is the time it would take the RAID teams to respond to calls for assistance; (13) other concerns centered on recruiting and retention, training, and operational issues; (14) the Department of Defense believes that no "show-stopping" training or operational issues have been identified to date; and (15) because of the significant number of exercises conducted by federal, state, and local authorities, they believe there will be ample opportunities for the teams to exercise their skills.

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