Seaports are a critical vulnerability in the nation's defense against terrorism. They are potential entry points for bombs or other devices smuggled into cargo ships and ports' often-sprawling nature presents many potential targets for attack. To assess the response procedures that would be implemented in an attack or security incident, officials conduct port-specific exercises. Many federal, state, and local agencies may potentially be involved. The Coast Guard has primary responsibility for coordinating these exercises and analyzing the results. GAO examined (1) the emerging framework for coordinating entities involved in security responses, (2) legal and operational issues emerging from exercises conducted to date, and (3) Coast Guard management of reports analyzing exercises. GAO reviewed reports on 82 exercises from fiscal year 2004 and observed 4 exercises as they were being conducted.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|United States Coast Guard||To help ensure that reports on terrorism-related exercises are submitted in a timely manner that complies with all Coast Guard requirements, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should review the Coast Guard's actions for ensuring timeliness and determine if further actions are needed.|