Chemical Weapons Stockpile

Changes Needed in the Management of the Emergency Preparedness Program Gao ID: NSIAD-97-91 June 11, 1997

GAO reported last year that communities near the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama were not fully prepared to respond to a chemical stockpile emergency. (See the chemical emergency preparedness program has been in place nine years and received more than $430 million in funding, states and local communities adjacent to chemical stockpile storage facilities still lack critical equipment, such as protective gear and siren systems, necessary to respond to a stockpile emergency. The program's slow progress has been due largely to long-standing management weaknesses, including disagreement between the Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over their roles and responsibilities. The Army and FEMA have taken steps in response to criticism from Congress about this situation, but opportunities still exist to strengthen program management.

GAO noted that: (1) although it has taken longer than it should, CSEPP officials expect that most critical items will be in place by the end of 1998; (2) after 9 years and funding of $431.4 million, states and local communities surrounding the chemical stockpile storage sites still lack some items critical to responding to a chemical stockpile emergency; (3) as GAO has reported since 1992, CSEPP's slow progress has been due largely to long-standing management weaknesses, including disagreement between the Army and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over their respective roles and responsibilities; (4) the FEMA Inspector General, members of Congress, and state and local officials have also expressed concern about these management weaknesses; (5) moreover, the Congress has expressed concern that states and communities lack critical CSEPP items and that program costs continue to increase; (6) although the Army and FEMA have taken actions in response to this criticism, opportunities still exist to improve program management; (7) specifically, disagreements between Army and FEMA officials on their respective roles and responsibilities continue to hamper program effectiveness; (8) for example, the Army is still working to respond to the requirement of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act to report on the integrated process teams because FEMA questions the efficiency of the Army's involvement; (9) as a result of this and other differences, the Army and FEMA have not reached agreement on a long-term management structure for the program; (10) in his March 1997 letter to the Chairman of the House Committee on National Security, the Assistant Secretary of the Army said that, if the Army and FEMA were unsuccessful in reaching an agreement on the long-term management structure for CSEPP and integrated process teams, the Army would assume full control and responsibility for the program; and (11) until the Army and FEMA leadership take steps to delineate their agencies' roles and responsibilities and reach agreement on a long-term management structure for CSEPP, the future effectiveness for CSEPP is at risk.


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