Combating Terrorism:

Efforts to Protect U.S. Forces in Turkey and the Middle East

T-NSIAD-98-44: Published: Oct 28, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1997.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to protect overseas forces from terrorist attack, focusing on Turkey and the Middle East and on: (1) the environment U.S. forces overseas are facing , including the terrorist threat and the relationship with the host nation governments; (2) the measures DOD has taken to enhance the security of personnel in the countries GAO visited; and (3) DOD initiatives to improve its overall force protection program.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD has a large presence in many countries around the world, offering a plethora of potential targets; (2) predictive intelligence on terrorist attacks is difficult to obtain, and commanders may not be in a position to prevent an attack from occurring and can only prepare to minimize the consequences from an attack; (3) DOD installations are often located on host nation installations and, as a result, there are limitations on the security measures DOD can undertake; (4) the U.S. Central Command and its service component commands had taken a number of steps to improve the protection of U.S. forces from terrorist attacks, including: (a) determining the range of specific terrorist threats it needed to counteract in its area of responsibility, including a 20,000-pound truck bomb, the estimated approximate size of the bomb that struck Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; (b) devising threat-based standards, such as stand-off, to guide the design and construction of new facilities and modifications to existing structures; (c) establishing an office that coordinates antiterrorist activities in the region and reports directly to the Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command; and (d) identifying a need for and filling hundreds of additional security positions; (5) DOD had initiated a number of changes in its overall antiterrorism program in response to the Khobar Towers bombing, including: (a) the assignment of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be the Secretary of Defense's principal advisor on antiterrorism; (b) the direction of the five geographic combatant commanders to take on increased antiterrorism responsibilities; (c) vulnerability assessments at installations by the Defense Special Weapons Agency; (d) mandated, more robust antiterrorism training for personnel deployed to medium- and high-threat countries; (e) the establishment of a centrally controlled fund to support emergency high-priority antiterrorism requirements not funded by the services; and (f) changes in the services' approach to antiterrorism; and (6) despite these changes, GAO's work raised concerns that DOD's initiatives were falling short of establishing a comprehensive and consistent approach to antiterrorism.

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