Combating TerrorismNeed to Eliminate Duplicate Federal Weapons of Mass Destruction Training Gao ID: NSIAD-00-64 March 21, 2000
The bombings of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 and the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, along with the release of a nerve agent in the Tokyo subway in 1995, have heightened concerns about terrorism in the United States. Local emergency responders, such as firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel, will be the first to respond to a terrorist incident. The Departments of Defense and Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are the principal federal organizations that provide weapons of mass destruction training to these first responders. Federal training programs on weapons of mass destruction are poorly coordinated, resulting in inefficiencies in the federal effort and concerns in the first responder communities. Efforts are under way to improve the federal government's role in weapons of mass destruction training, but actions are needed to eliminate duplicative training and improve the efficiency of programs offered by the Departments of Defense and Justice.
GAO noted that: (1) the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are the principal federal organizations that provide weapons of mass destruction training to first responders; (2) DOD provides this training through its Domestic Preparedness Program; (3) DOJ provides training primarily through its Metropolitan Firefighters and Emergency Medical Services Program; (4) both programs were authorized and funded by Congress and specifically developed to provide training in cities and counties primarily to individuals who would train others in their communities; (5) DOJ also provides training through the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium; (6) in 1998 Congress directed that DOJ use to the fullest extent possible the capabilities of the Consortium to achieve cost-effective weapons of mass destruction training; (7) FEMA provides weapons of mass destruction courses at its National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute in Maryland, and also provides related course materials to local and state organizations for their use in training first responders; (8) federal training programs on weapons of mass destruction are not well coordinated, resulting in inefficiencies in the federal effort and concerns in the first responder communities; (9) DOD, DOJ, and FEMA are providing similar awareness courses as part of their train-the-trainer programs; (10) DOD and DOJ plan to deliver their programs to individuals in the same 120 cities; (11) state and local officials and representatives of various responder organizations express concerns about duplication and overlap among the two federal training programs, courses offered by the Consortium, and other courses such as hazardous materials and other specialized training that first responders are required to complete; (12) officials were concerned that DOD and DOJ programs offered to cities and counties had bypassed the states' emergency management and training structures and that DOD and DOJ programs will not train responders in smaller communities; (13) the responders' concerns are consistent with the conclusions reached by a forum of over 200 state and local responders in August 1998 and a June 1999 Justice report; (14) more actions are needed to eliminate duplicative training and improve the efficiency of DOD and DOJ programs; and (15) in response to requests from the first responder community, DOJ has established the interagency National Domestic Preparedness Office, which will provide an interagency forum for coordinating federal weapons of mass destruction assistance to state and local emergency responders.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: