Combating Terrorism

Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations Gao ID: GAO-01-822 September 20, 2001

As concerns about terrorism have grown, Executive Branch responsibilities and authorities have received greater attention, which led to the 1998 appointment of a national coordinator in the National Security Council. Both Congress and the President have recognized the need to review and clarify the structure for overall leadership and coordination. The President recently requested that the Vice President oversee a coordinated national effort to improve national preparedness, including efforts to combat terrorism. Federal efforts to develop a national strategy to combat terrorism and related guidance have progressed, but key efforts remain incomplete. The first step toward developing a national strategy is to conduct a national threat and risk assessment. The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have collaborated on such an assessment, but they have not formally coordinated with other departments and agencies on this task. Under current policy, the federal government also has improved its capabilities to respond to a domestic terrorist incident. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are tasked with leading federal efforts in their respective roles for managing a terrorist crisis and the consequences of an incident. Several other federal agencies with response capabilities would support these two agencies. Federal assistance to state and local governments to prepare for terrorist incidents has resulted in training for thousands of first responders--those state and local officials who would first respond at the scene of an incident. To improve this training effort, state and local officials have called for a single federal liaison for state and local preparedness programs. To protect computer systems and the critical operations and infrastructures they support, various efforts have been undertaken to implement a national strategy outlined in Presidential Decision Directive 63. However, progress in some areas has been slow. Specifically, federal agencies have taken initial steps to develop critical infrastructure protection plans, but independent audits continue to identify persistent, significant information security weaknesses that place federal operations at high risk of tampering and disruption.


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.

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