Eight federal agencies now have teams that can respond to a terrorist attack involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons. Each team varies in size, structure, geographical scope, and task. The teams do not duplicate one another. They have unique capabilities and functions, and many have experience dealing with different types of agents and weapons. The type of terrorist incident would determine which team would be most appropriate to respond. GAO found that federal agencies lack a coherent framework to develop and evaluate budget requirements for their response teams because there is no national strategy with clearly defined outcomes. To improve interagency cooperation, federal agencies have participated in several group activities. For example, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Interagency Steering Group, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is identifying federal response teams that could respond to different terrorist scenarios. Federal, state, and local agencies have also participated in major field exercises that simulated urban terrorist acts. These efforts could go a long way toward improving the operational coordination of federal response teams.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Justice||To guide resource investments for combating terrorism, the Attorney General should modify the Department of Justice's interagency plan on counterterrorism to cite desired outcomes that could be used to develop budget requirements for agencies and their respective response teams. This process should be coordinated as an interagency effort.|
|Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response||To provide a sound analytical basis for developing appropriate federal consequence management responses, the Director, FEMA, should take steps to require that the Weapons of Mass Destruction Interagency Steering Group develop realistic scenarios involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents and weapons with experts in the scientific and intelligence communities.|
|Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response||To build upon the experience and lessons learned by the federal response teams from the May 2000 exercise, the Director, FEMA, should sponsor periodic national-level consequence management field exercises involving federal, state, and local governments. Such exercises should be conducted together with national-level crisis management field exercises.|