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Homeland Security

Combating Terrorism: Comments on Bill H.R. 4210 to Manage Selected
Counterterrorist Programs (Statement/Record, 05/04/2000,
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Terrorism
Preparedness Act of 2000 (H.R. 4210), focusing on the new office it
created to manage selected counterterrorist programs.
GAO noted that: (1) overall, GAO believes that H.R. 4210 would address
some of the problems of fragmentation and duplication that GAO and
others have found in programs to combat terrorism; (2) specifically, the
bill would create a new Office of Terrorism Preparedness to centralize
leadership and coordination of federal programs to help state and local
governments prepare for terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass
destruction; (3) however, the duties of the new office, as described in
the bill, may overlap with some functions of the recently created
National Domestic Preparedness Office; (4) GAO's work on the Office of
National Drug Control Policy, on which the Office of Terrorism
Preparedness is patterned, suggests that success in achieving the bill's
goals depends on the Office head's ability to build consensus among the
involved agencies; (5) in addition, the new office may take some time to
accomplish its objectives as laid out in the bill; and (6) the limited
scope of the new statutory office would not address some of the larger
problems with fragmented leadership and coordination in federal programs
to combat terrorism.
--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------
     TITLE:  Combating Terrorism: Comments on Bill H.R. 4210 to Manage
	     Selected Counterterrorist Programs
      DATE:  05/04/2000
   SUBJECT:  Proposed legislation
	     Federal/state relations
	     Interagency relations
	     Federal aid to states
	     Strategic planning
	     Emergency preparedness
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May 4, 2000
Combating Terrorism
Comments on Bill
H.R. 4210 to Manage Selected Counterterrorist Programs
        Statement for the Record of Norman J. Rabkin, Director
National Security Preparedness Issues
National Security and International Affairs Division
Before the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Emergency
Management, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of
United States General Accounting Office
Madam Chairman:
We are pleased to submit this statement for the record to comment on a bill
introduced before this subcommittee at your April 6, 2000 hearing-the
Terrorism Preparedness Act of 2000 (H.R. 4210). The bill creates a new
Office of Terrorism Preparedness to coordinate and make more effective
federal efforts to assist state and local emergency and response personnel
in preparation for domestic terrorist attacks.
H.R. 4210 Would Address Some Fragmentation Issues
To eliminate these types of problems, the bill would create a new Office of
Terrorism Preparedness within the Executive Office of the President. The new
Office would have, among others, the following specific duties.
   * Establish, coordinate and oversee policies, objectives and priorities
     of the Federal government for enhancing the capabilities of state and
     local emergency preparedness and response personnel.
   * Publish a Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and an annual strategy
     for carrying out the plan.
   * Review terrorist attack preparedness programs of state and local
     governments, and establish voluntary minimum standards for such
As currently proposed in the bill, the Office may overlap with some
functions to be performed by the existing National Domestic Preparedness
Office. The Attorney General established this office within the Department
of Justice to be responsible for interagency leadership and coordination of
federal efforts to provide assistance for state and local governments to
prepare for terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. As an
example of potential duplication, the National Domestic Preparedness Office
recently issued a "blueprint" for federal assistance, which is analogous to
the new Office of Terrorism Preparedness function to prepare a national plan
and strategy.
In addition, the bill would limit the scope of the new Office of Terrorism
Preparedness to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. According
to intelligence and law enforcement officials, terrorists are least likely
to use these types of weapons. The Subcommittee may want to consider
authorizing the Office of Terrorism Preparedness to assist state and local
governments to prepare for both weapons of mass destruction and the more
likely threat of conventional explosives.
Lessons to Be Learned From ONDCP
   * Develop a national drug control strategy with short and long term
     objectives and annually revise and issue a new strategy.
   * Develop an annual consolidated drug control budget providing funding
     estimates for implementing the strategy.
   * Oversee and coordinate implementation of the strategy by the various
     federal agencies.
We believe that many of the experiences of ONDCP may be useful for the
Subcommittee in refining this bill and, if enacted, overseeing the
operations of the Office of Terrorism Preparedness. We have issued several
reports on ONDCP's efforts to develop and implement a national strategy and
to assess the adequacy of federal budgets and programs to carry out that
strategy. There are several important lessons to be learned.
   * Fragmentation had hampered federal efforts to control drugs, therefore
     strong central leadership was needed to overcome longstanding problems
     with agencies not sharing information and not coordinating programs.
   * As established in the Executive Office of the President, ONDCP was
     positioned to rise above the particular interests of any one federal
   * Getting consensus among federal agencies with diverse missions, for
     whom drug control was a minor role, was difficult and time-consuming.
   * After its creation, it took ONDCP almost ten years (from 1988 to 1997)
     to develop the current national strategy.
   * Although called for in its 1988 legislation, ONDCP did not develop
     performance indicators until 1998.
   * Despite these problems, we supported the reauthorization of the ONDCP
     due to the continuing need for a central agency to provide leadership,
     planning, and coordination for the nation's drug control efforts.
Although there are some similarities, the ONDCP's broad scope of activities
sets it apart from the proposed Office of Terrorism Preparedness. ONDCP is
responsible for overseeing and coordinating the drug control efforts for
over 50 agencies and programs, with an annual budget of almost $20 billion.
The ONDCP is involved in the entire range of drug control efforts-both
supply reduction (interdiction, international, and law enforcement efforts)
and demand reduction (education and treatment efforts). There is no
equivalent of the ONDCP for the broader management of counterterrorism
H.R. 4210 Would Not Address Larger Fragmentation of Federal Counterterrorism
H.R. 4210 would not resolve some of the overall fragmentation problems in
federal programs to combat terrorism. In May 1998, the President appointed a
National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and
Counterterrorism within the National Security Council, who is tasked to
oversee a broad variety of relevant policies and programs related to
counterterrorism, produce an annual Security Preparedness Report, provide
advice regarding budgets for counterterrorism programs and coordinate
guidelines for managing crises. Despite the creation of this position,
overall federal efforts remain fragmented because key interagency management
functions are conducted by different departments and agencies. We believe
that this is one cause for the following problems in federal efforts to
combat terrorism that we have reported.
   * There is a lack of linkage between the terrorist threat, a national
     strategy, and agency resources.
   * Federal efforts to combat terrorism have been based on worst case
     scenarios which are out of balance with the threat.
   * Without coordination, agencies could develop their own programs in
     isolation, creating the potential for gaps and/or duplication.
   * Federal agencies have not completed interagency guidance and resolved
     some command and control issues.
   * Efforts to develop a national strategy continue, but to date they have
     not included a clear desired outcome to be achieved.
   * Efforts to track federal spending across agencies have started, but
     they have only begun efforts to prioritize programs.
Because the proposed Office of Terrorism Preparedness is limited to the
function of providing assistance to state and local governments, it will not
address these larger issues of fragmentation in interagency leadership and
management. As stated earlier, there is no equivalent of the ONDCP for the
broader management of counterterrorism programs. As shown in Table 1, ONDCP
centralizes key interagency management functions for drug control that are
not centralized for combating terrorism.
Table 1. Organizations Currently Responsible for Key Interagency Management
Functions for Counterdrug and Counterterrorism Programs
 Function                Counterdrug          Counterterrorism
                                              National Security Council
 Act As Top Official                          (National Coordinator For
 Accountable To          ONDCP                Security, Infrastructure
 President                                    Protection And
                                              Numerous officials
 Act as Top Official                          (including the Attorney
 Accountable to Congress ONDCP                General, Director of the
                                              Federal Bureau of
                                              Investigation, Secretary of
                                              State, Secretary of Defense)
 Develop a National
 Interagency Strategy    ONDCP                Attorney General
 Set Priorities within                        Office of Management and
                         ONDCP                Budget in theory, but
 National Strategy                            actually done by individual
 Develop and Monitor                          Secretary of State (via
 International Programs  ONDCP                Coordinator for
                                              Department of Justice
 Provide Liaison and                          (National Domestic
 Assistance to State and ONCDP                Preparedness Office) and
 Local Governments                            Federal Emergency Management
 Monitor Budgets Across                       Office of Management and
 Federal Agencies        ONDCP                Budget
 Develop and Monitor
                                              No agency assigned to do this
 Overall Performance     ONDCP                overall task.
 Manage Research and                          National Security Council
 Development             ONDCP                (via the Technical Support
                                              Working Group)
Source: GAO analysis of counterdrug and counterterrorist programs.
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