UNIFIED STRATEGY NEEDED TO FIGHT TERRORISM -- HON. IKE SKELTON (Extension of Remarks - September 28, 1998)
HON. IKE SKELTON
in the House of Representatives
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 1998
- Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, the August 7 bombings outside U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, were the latest crimes to be added to a growing list of terrorists attacks where Americans died brutally, without warning, and unnecessarily. These bombings join a list which includes the World Trade Center in New York City, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
- Our Nation did respond to the killing of 12 Americans and nearly 300 Kenyans and Tanzanians. Based on evidence that further attacks were planned, United States armed forces struck terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan, targeting one of the most active terrorist bases in the world and a factory involved in the production of materials for chemical weapons. Two suspects have been arrested and others are being pursued. But in this tragedy's aftermath, the U.S. must also learn from the incidents and take steps to ensure that our citizens and installations are protected in the future.
- Since June of 1997, I have released four reports prepared by the General Accounting Office (GAO) detailing U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. The first report, entitled, `Combating Terrorism: Status of DOD Efforts to Protect its Forces Overseas,' dealt with anti-terrorism. It concluded that uniform security standards were necessary to ensure the safety of Americans around the world.
- In September of 1997, GAO released a second report entitled, `Combating Terrorism: Federal Agencies' Efforts to Implement National Security Policy and Strategy.' This report focused on counter terrorism--those offensive measures for deterring, resolving, and managing terrorist acts. It outlined specific roles and responsibilities of the 40 Federal departments, agencies, and bureaus involved in counter terrorism, as well as their respective capabilities.
- `Combating Terrorism: Spending on Governmentwide Programs Requires Better Management and Coordination' was released in December of 1997. This third GAO report focused on total government-wide spending levels to combat terrorism. While it revealed that a significant amount of resources--more than $7 billion a year--were committed annually to combat terrorism, there were some deficiencies, including the absence of regular government-wide priorities, and the lack of an assessment process to coordinate and focus government efforts. Moreover, the report found that no government office or entity maintained the authority to enforce coordination.
- In its fourth report, `Combating Terrorism: Threat and Risk Assessments Can Help Prioritize and Target Program Investments,' GAO reviewed the implementation of the 1996 Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, popularly known as the
- Defense Department's Nunn-Lugar-Domenici program. It recommended the adoption of a formal threat and risk assessment process to enhance state and local capabilities and suggested that the FBI lead this effort.
- These GAO reports marked the first attempt by any government agency to take a comprehensive look at federal activities to fight terrorism. While we learned a great deal from these reports, we still have a long way to go. As the work of the GAO has helped us discover, our approach may be fundamentally flawed: Too many different federal agencies and local governments possess existing or emerging capabilities for responding to a terrorist attack; there are uneven and nearly incompatible levels of expertise; and our efforts are complicated by duplication and poor communication. To put it simply, with so many agencies involved, the left hand may not know what the right hand is doing. We must have a unified strategy to fight terrorism--we cannot have agencies fighting turf battles.
- There has been some movement in the right direction to respond to the threat of terrorism. In May, the Administration announced the formation of ten regional rapid assessment teams. These teams are part of the Defense Department's overall effort to support local, state, and federal civil authorities in the event of an incident involving the use of weapons of mass destruction. Congress has included money in the Fiscal Year 1999 DOD Authorized bill for this program, which is coordinated through the National Guard. The Missouri National Guard will play a leading role as host to one of the ten regional terrorism response teams.
- The recent bombings are a terrible reminder that we must take the threat of terrorism seriously. We must realize that the struggle against terrorism will be protracted, and moreover, we must resist complacency--we must not too quickly forget the death and destruction that can be wreaked by fanatical extremists committed to waging war on the United States.
- America has battled terrorism for many years. We have acted to bring terrorists to justice, to penetrate their organizations, to disrupt their plans, and to isolate their sponsors. Nevertheless, it is a virtual certainty that American citizens and American facilities will be attacked again, and not just in the traditional terrorist ways. To a distressing extent, the information and components necessary to build nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons of mass destruction are increasingly and readily accessible. In addition, the dependence of our military services and critical civilian infrastructures on information technology has made us vulnerable to information warfare. This vulnerability requires vigilance and the development of protective and redundant systems so that we can maintain our decisive technological edge.
- If Congress and the Administration are willing to develop a unified strategy and commit adequate resources, we can prepare an effective defense against terrorism. First, we must give careful scrutiny to the United States counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism programs and policies. In addition, we must insist that our military, law enforcement, intelligence, and diplomatic forces are effectively arrayed, equipped, and trained, and that they are given the authority to take action against terrorists. Finally, we must ensure that both anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism efforts are comprehensive and efficient.