Preparedness For Terrorism Response
Statement for the Record of
Mrs. Barbara Y. Martinez
Deputy Director, National Domestic Preparedness Office
United States House of Representatives
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,
Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Emergency Management
June 9, 1999
Good morning, Madam Chairman and thank you for this opportunity to speak before distinguished members of Congress and my colleagues regarding the proposed role of the National Domestic Preparedness Office in combating terrorism within the United States.
My intent is to highlight the importance of achieving coordination across the federal government of the various individual agency efforts that provide valuable assistance to states and local communities in preparing them to face the challenge that terrorism presents. As over 40 federal agencies would have a role in the response to a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction, so too are many of these agencies in a logical position to provide various forms of expert assistance to their state and local counterparts -- the men and women of this country whose job it is to save lives and protect the security of our communities if such an event occurs. The mission of the proposed National Domestic Preparedness Office, consistent with the recommendation to the Attorney General by state and local authorities, will be to serve as the central coordinating body for federal programs that can help emergency responders prepare for terrorist incidents, particularly those involving weapons of mass destruction.
Potential Threat of a Terrorist Attack involving Weapons of Mass Destruction
Terrorist events such as the World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, and the pipe bomb at the Olympic Games in Atlanta revealed the United States' increased susceptibility to terrorist assaults. These attacks, coupled with the March 1995 Tokyo subway attack, where the weapon was the chemical nerve agent sarin, exposed the threat of use of WMD within the United States. The threat of WMD use in the United States is real, however, we must not inflate nor understate the actual threat. The United States is experiencing an increased number of hoaxes involving the use of chemical or biological agents perpetrated by individuals wishing to instill fear and disrupt communities. Yesterday's bomb threat has been replaced with a more exotic biological or chemical threat. While the FBI continues to investigate these hoaxes, other on-going investigations reveal that domestic extremists, as well as international terrorists with open anti-U.S. sentiments, are becoming more interested in the potential use of chemical and biological agents.
Examining the increased number of WMD criminal cases, the FBI has opened over the past several years highlights the potential threat of use we face. WMD criminal cases are those cases primarily dealing with the use, threatened use, or procurement of chemical and biological materials with intent to harm within the United States. These criminal cases have shown a steady increase since 1995, rising from 37 in 1996 to 74 in 1997, 181 in 1998, and 114 to date for 1999, with three-quarters of these cases threatening a biological release. The biological agent most often cited in 1998 and 1999 was anthrax. Despite the increase in fabricated threats, the WMD threat remains. Since the early 1990s, the FBI has investigated a number of domestic extremist groups and associated individuals interested in procuring or ready to employ chemical or biological agents against innocent civilians. In February 1999, members of a right-wing splinter group were sentenced to 292 months (over 24 years) in prison for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal officials. These individuals intended to modify a cigarette lighter in order to shoot cactus quills tainted with HIV-blood or rabies.
It is impossible to eliminate all vulnerabilities in an open society without taking draconian measures that impinge on civil liberties. However, it is possible to reduce susceptibility to WMD terrorist attacks by taking security precautions, remaining vigilant in pursuing WMD terrorist activity, and improving preventive measures, as well as civil preparedness. The FBI is currently undertaking all of these steps. The United States is preparing itself for unconventional threats like WMD terrorism by coordinating federal, state, and local law enforcement and emergency responders in their ability to ferret the fabricated threats and meet the challenges posed by a potential chemical or biological terrorist attack.
As you know, in the past few years, the President of the United States and Congress have taken significant steps to increase our national security and to promote interagency cooperation. Most recently, cooperative efforts against terrorism have been extended to include state and local agencies and professional and private sector associations as well.
For example, in the preparation of the Administration's Five-Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan, the Attorney General directed the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, to host a meeting of individuals who represent the various emergency response disciplines that would most likely be involved in the response to a terrorist event. More than 200 stakeholders representing local and state disciplines of fire services and HAZMAT personnel; law enforcement and public safety personnel; emergency medical and public health professionals; emergency management and government officials; and various professional associations and organizations attended the two-day session.
Collectively, they made recommendations to the Attorney General; James Lee Witt, Director of FEMA; Dr. Hamre, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and other federal officials on ways to improve assistance for state and local communities. These recommendations have been incorporated in the Administration's Five-Year Plan mentioned above.
The most critical issue identified by stakeholders was the need for a central federal point of coordination. Due to the size and complexity of both the problem of terrorism and of the federal government itself, it was no surprise that the many different avenues through which aid may be acquired, by state and local officials, and the potential inconsistency of those programs was deemed to be simply overwhelming. In essence, the federal government, though well intentioned, was not operating in an optimal manner nor was it effectively serving its constituents with regard to domestic preparedness programs and issues in an optimal manner.
State and local emergency response officials made a strong recommendation to the Attorney General for the coordination and integration of all federal assistance programs that reach state and local agencies for terrorism preparedness. In heeding that recommendation and seeking to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of federal support programs that provide grants for equipment, training, exercises, and information sharing, the Attorney General proposed the establishment of the National Domestic Preparedness Office.
In proposing the establishment of the NDPO, the Attorney General consulted the National Security Council, Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, and other relevant agencies regarding the creation of a single coordination point within the federal government to better meet the needs of the Nation.
Mission of the NDPO
The NDPO, if approved, will provide a forum for the coordination of all federal programs that offer WMD terrorism preparedness assistance for state and local officials. Through such coordination, it is believed that the vital efforts of the Office of Justice Programs' Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), the National Guard Bureau (NGB), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other agencies will better serve the states and local communities of this country.
It is intended that the NDPO will serve as a much needed clearinghouse to provide information to local and state officials who must determine the preparedness strategy for their community. In keeping with Stakeholders' requests, the NDPO will also provide a forum for the establishment of agreed-upon standards to guide the execution of federal programs.
Federal participants that will serve in a full-time capacity at the NDPO, once approved, will include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Guard Bureau, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Justice Programs, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We have also received commitments from other agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to provide personnel in the future.
Stakeholders also cited the need for formal representation of state and local officials with the federal agencies in the form of an Advisory Board to guide the development and delivery of more effective federal programs. Federal agencies agree that their participation is critical to the whole process of domestic preparedness. Therefore, in addition to the Advisory Board, it is anticipated that when fully staffed, approximately one-third of the NDPO will be comprised of state and local experts from various disciplines.
Stakeholders identified six broad issue areas in need of coordination and assistance. These areas are: Planning; Training; Exercise; Equipment Research and Development; Information Sharing; and Public Health and Medical Services. I would like to highlight how the proposed NDPO would address each of these areas.
In the area of Planning, the NDPO would facilitate the distribution of the United States Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan and other Planning guidance for state and local communities. The benefit of such guidance is to explain to state and local planners the logistics of how federal assets may be included in their local emergency response plans.
In the area of Training, the NDPO would continue the DoD initiative to establish and maintain a compendium of existing federal training courses available to emergency responders. It would also establish a mechanism to ensure federal training programs comply with national standards such as those issued by the National Fire Protection Association and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Finally, it would develop a national strategy to make sustained training opportunities and assistance available to all communities and states. For example, the Office of Justice Programs Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support will incorporate into the training programs that it supports standards that have been coordinated through the NDPO process.
In connection with the Information Sharing program area, the NDPO can implement a mechanism to facilitate access by personnel outside law enforcement to information that may be important for preparedness and consequence management. Internet web-sites, both public and secure have been proposed for the sharing of public safety information. Links to several existing web-sites may also be built.
In the Exercise program area, the NDPO will formally adapt a military software application for civilian use to track the lessons learned during exercises and actual events. The NDPO will provide this tool to participating communities and will maintain an After-Action Tracking database for the repository and review of all lessons that might assist other communities.
In the Equipment/Research and Development program area, the NDPO has established a Standardized Equipment List which has been incorporated into the grant application kits used by the Office of Justice Programs. The NDPO would, again, serve as a clearinghouse for product information provided by private vendors and testing data provided by approved testing facilities to promote synergy and avoid costly duplication in the area of federal research and development.
In the Health and Medical program area, the NDPO, under the guidance of the Public Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services would coordinate efforts to support Metropolitan Medical Response Systems, pharmaceutical stockpiling, the establishment of a nationwide surveillance system to improve the identification of infectious diseases and the integration of the public and mental health care community into WMD response plans.
Thus far, two conferences have been held and have been attended by representatives from federal, state and local agencies to promote interaction. Each time, the Attorney General was presented with an overview by several communities of their cooperative efforts, which illustrated the growing cooperation between all levels of government to address the preparedness needs of this Nation to deal with a major terrorist event, including those that involve WMD.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. As the Attorney
General has recently said, "The actions of the first people on the scene
will make the difference between life and death. The key is to work together
in a partnership among federal, state and local communities to prepare
a coordinated response that saves lives and provides for the safety for
all involved." I stand ready to respond to any questions you may have.