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.
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TITLE: Combating Terrorism: Comments on Bill H.R. 4210 to Manage
Selected Counterterrorist Programs
SUBJECT: Proposed legislation
Federal aid to states
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May 4, 2000
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
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
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
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
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
Source: GAO analysis of counterdrug and counterterrorist programs.
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