Combating Terrorism

Observations on the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program Gao ID: T-NSIAD-99-16 October 2, 1998

The Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program, led by the Defense Department (DOD), provides training and equipment to help U.S. cities respond to possible terrorist attacks that involve weapons of mass destruction. This testimony discusses the program's objectives and costs, the training that DOD is providing to local emergency response personnel, how the program is structured and designed, the equipment segment of DOD's program, and the interagency coordination of this and related programs. GAO also provides observations on the congressional committee structure for oversight of counterterrorism and other crosscutting issues.

GAO noted that: (1) the Domestic Preparedness Program is aimed at enhancing domestic preparedness to respond and manage the consequences of potential terrorist weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents; (2) the authorizing legislation designated DOD as lead agency, and participating agencies include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Public Health Service, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency; (3) DOD received $36 million in fiscal year (FY) 1997 to implement its part of the program, and the Public Health Service received an additional $6.6 million; (4) DOD's FY 1998 and 1999 budgets estimate that $43 million and $50 million will be needed to continue the program; (5) Domestic Preparedness Program training gives first responders a greater awareness of how to deal with WMD terrorist incidents; (6) by December 31, 1998, DOD expects to have trained about one-third of the 120 cities it selected for the program; (7) all training is to be complete in 2001; (8) DOD decided to select cities based on core city population, and it did not take into account a city's level of preparedness or financial need; (9) in implementing the Domestic Preparedness Program, DOD could leverage state emergency management structures, mutual aid agreements among local jurisdictions, or other collaborative arrangements for emergency response; (10) the legislation authorizes DOD to lend rather than give or grant training equipment to each city; (11) some cities GAO visited viewed the acceptance of the equipment as tantamount to an unfunded federal mandate because DOD is providing no funds to sustain the equipment; (12) in developing the program, some member agency officials stated that DOD did not always take advantage of the experience of agencies that were more accustomed to dealing with state and local officials and more knowledgeable of domestic emergency response structures; (13) the many and increasing number of participants, programs, and activities in the counterterrorism area across the federal departments, agencies, and offices pose a difficult management and coordination challenge to avoid program duplication, fragmentation, and gaps; and (14) GAO believes that the National Security Council's National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-Terrorism, established in May 1998 by Presidential Decision Directive 62, should review and guide the growing federal training, equipment, and response programs and activities.

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