Combating Terrorism:

Intergovernmental Cooperation in the Development of a National Strategy to Enhance State and Local Preparedness

GAO-02-550T: Published: Apr 2, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 2, 2002.

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Patricia A. Dalton
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Federal, state, and local governments share responsibility for terrorist attacks. However, local government, including police and fire departments, emergency medical personnel, and public health agencies, is typically the first responder to an incident. The federal government historically has provided leadership, training, and funding assistance. In the aftermath of September 11, for instance, one-quarter of the $40 billion Emergency Response Fund was earmarked for homeland security, including enhancing state and local government preparedness. Because the national security threat is diffuse and the challenge is highly intergovernmental, national policymakers must formulate strategies with a firm understanding of the interests, capacity, and challenges facing those governments. The development of a national strategy will improve national preparedness and enhance partnerships between federal, state, and local governments. The creation of the Office of Homeland Security is an important and potentially significant first step. The Office of Homeland Security's strategic plan should (1) define and clarify the appropriate roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local entities; (2) establish goals and performance measures to guide the nation's preparedness efforts; and (3) carefully choose the most appropriate tools of government to implement the national strategy and achieve national goals.

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