'THE FEDERAL RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC TERRORISM INVOLVING
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION'
HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY
MILITARY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
MG EDWARD SORIANO, DIRECTOR OF MILITARY SUPPORT, HQDA
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the committee.
Mr. Chairman, I am Major General Edward Soriano, Director of Military Support, Department of the Army. Sitting to my [right] is Major General George Friel, Commander, United States Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command. Our purpose in testifying here today is to describe the Army's efforts in planning, coordinating, and implementing the Domestic Preparedness Program as mandated by the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996.
The Secretary of Defense has designated the Secretary of the Army as the executive agent for domestic support operations. In my capacity as Director of Military Support, I serve as the Secretary of the Army's action agent for executing the Department of Defense's support mission to civilian authorities within the United States and its territories. Within this area of responsibility, I assist local, state, and other Federal agencies in mitigating the effects of domestic disasters, and I assist the Department of Defense in supporting international sporting events held in the United States.
The Secretary of Defense has also designated the Secretary of the Army as the executive agent for the planning, coordination, and implementation of the Department of Defense's training and assistance to Federal, state, and local officials, and first responders in responding to the use or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction. This training and assistance program is commonly referred to as the Domestic Preparedness Program. In my capacity as the Secretary of the Army's action agent, I am currently responsible for ensuring the implementation of this training and assistance program. To implement the Domestic Preparedness Program, the Secretary of the Army directed the Commander, U.S. Army Material Command, to appoint a program director. The U.S. Army Material Command appointed Major General Friel, the Commander of the U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, to develop and implement the Domestic Preparedness Program.
Law enforcement, public safety, and emergency first responders in the United States are quality professionals who are trained and equipped to handle the events surrounding many natural and technological incidents such as improvised explosive devices, hazardous material spills, or natural disasters. However, we expect that the use of a weapon of mass destruction would quickly overwhelm local and state response capabilities and require Federal assistance. Many Federal agencies, like the Department of Defense, already have systems, planning, procedures and assets in place to respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, and specialized expertise to deal with the consequences of such use. The Department of Defense is currently exploiting its capability in this area to enhance the ability of state and local agencies to prevent and respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction at both the national and local level. It is important to remember that the primary jurisdiction for the resolution of a terrorist or criminal incident involving the use of a weapon of mass destruction rests with the Federal government. Therefore, a Federal government response is essential in addition to an initial local response in the event of such an incident. Chief John Eversole, the Hazardous Materials Coordinator for the City of Chicago, noted that the Domestic Preparedness Program is providing those training basics that emergency responders must have to do their jobs. This is the foundation of our training and assistance program.
Mr. Chairman, this morning I would like to discuss four areas that the Department of Defense has focused on to plan and implement its portion of the Domestic Preparedness Program. We firmly believe that the entire Federal interagency team is effectively supporting state and local communities in each of these areas. These areas are training, city exercises, expert assistance, and the enhancement of our chemical-biological emergency response capability. The interagency team has a strategic plan that serves as a guide for implementing the program. While the Department of Defense has the lead for implementing the training program, we conduct city visits and other aspects of this program as an interagency team. Each member of the Federal partnership team brings a particular expertise to training city first responders.
The first areas I would like to cover this morning are first responder training and training exercises. The Department of Defense leads an interagency team in providing training assistance to Federal, state, and local officials, and first responders. To date, under the Domestic Preparedness Program training initiative, 27 initial city visits have been completed and 6 cities have received their first responder training. The cities which received the training to date are Denver, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and New York City. To achieve the widest dissemination of course material and empower cities with the ability to train themselves, we have implemented a training concept called "train-the-trainer." Our training teams consist of subject matter experts in law enforcement, chemical, biological and nuclear matters, and medical matters, as well as seasoned first responders from various cities around the country. The training team trains city first responder trainers through targeted emergency response courses. To date, we have trained over 3800 first responder trainers, and, this week, we are training first responder trainers in Los Angeles. Following the training, table top exercises are conducted to reinforce the training objectives, to emphasize coordination between local, state, and Federal response agencies, and to identify areas where improvements can be made.
During this past month, we completed an in depth review of the first responder training program and made changes and improvements based on the experience gained from training the cities and recommendations offered by subject matter experts and first responders. In Fiscal Year 1998, 22 cities are scheduled to be visited and 30 cities are scheduled to be trained and conduct table top exercises. Furthermore, we have begun scheduling cities to participate in more extensive exercises called functional exercises.
Functional exercises are designed to assess a city's response capabilities during a practical, on site, or 'muddy boots', type exercise. This provides first responders with the opportunity to test their response plans and gain hands-on experience with equipment. This weekend we will be supporting a functional and table top exercise New York City's and we will conduct table top exercises in both Los Angeles and San Antonio during the first part of Fiscal Year 98.
The third type of exercise conducted is an annual exercise, as mandated in the legislation, to test local, state and Federal response capabilities. This annual exercise program assists the planning and coordination of interagency response elements at the local, state, and Federal levels. Our first annual exercise, Measured Response 97-2 was conducted on June 18, 1997 at Camp George West in Golden, Colorado. The exercise's objective was to demonstrate that Department of Defense elements could function together under a single command in support of first responders, state and local officials, and other Federal agencies.. This command was required to coordinate all aspects of accident site mitigation. This included conducting a hazard and risk assessment for nuclear, biological and chemical agents, performing decontamination, managing a mass casualty incident, providing triage and primary care, and providing patient extraction and evacuation. The exercise was very important to assess the integration of Federal functional capabilities to support the city's local responders and their response structure. Furthermore, the exercise assessed shortcomings and strengths through a comprehensive after action review process. This process enabled the local first responder trainers to learn from experience and gave the Federal agencies first-hand experience and training in responding to a weapons of mass destruction incident. After the exercise, the Federal team used a building-block approach to learning through short focused drills with opportunities to assess local responder training and response capabilities. The participants included all players from the emergency planning stage to include the Denver and Colorado Office of Emergency Management, Colorado county organizations, the U.S. Army Forces Command Response Task Force, the U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, the U.S. Army Medical Command, the U.S. Marine Corps Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Another annual exercise to assess Federal, state and local capabilities will be conducted during Fiscal Year 98 and annually thereafter.
The next area I would like to discuss is expert assistance. To increase the expert assistance available to local communities, the Department of Defense, with the support of the interagency team, has established a helpline, a hotline, and a website so that emergency planners and responders are able to better respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction situations. The helpline is operated by the U.S. Army Chemical Biological Defense Command and connects directly to Federal government agencies that have expertise in nuclear, medical, chemical and biological related matters. With information at their fingertips, emergency planners can make educated choices while planning for crisis situations and increase their level of knowledge. To enhance information response time in an emergency situation, a 24-hour hotline is planned to be fully activated by the end of calendar year 1997. The hotline's purpose is to field emergency calls from first responders, and provide them with the needed weapons of mass destruction expert assistance. The hotline is being established in cooperation with the National Response Center. An emergency call involving a weapons of mass destruction incident will alert both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense, thereby shortening their response time and improving the response capability of various Federal agencies. Our website is another source of weapons of mass destruction information for responders. Currently online, we will continue to add additional information links to enhance first responders capabilities to deal with weapons of mass destruction incidents.
Another form of expert assistance lies in our ability to evaluate other equipment that can be used in the event of a WMD incident. Although some chemical or biological military equipment could be used to protect and aid first responders, loaning military personal protective equipment, such as masks or protective suits, to local first responders would require National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health approval or National Fire Protection Association approval and certification. An initiative is underway by the U.S. Army Chemical Biological Defense Command to evaluate and test commercial protective equipment in a chemical environment. The results will be made available for use by local, state, and Federal agencies, thus aiding cities' first responders in selecting particular equipment items for their use.
The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 called for the Secretary of Defense to develop and maintain at least one domestic terrorism rapid response team. We have had a rapid response structure for weapons of mass destruction crisis response for several years. The Department of Defense is currently refining a crisis management chemical and biological response team capable of assisting Federal, state, and local officials in the detection, neutralization, containment, and disposal of weapons of mass destruction containing chemical, biological, or related materials. Within the Department of Defense, several organizations currently exist, that will be integrated into our Chemical Biological Rapid Response Team (CBRRT). The Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, U.S. Atlantic Command, the Department of the Army, and the U.S. Army Chemical Biological Defense Command are currently working on the concept and proposed structure for the CBRRT, which will likely include: the Army's Technical Escort Unit, the Army's 52nd Ordnance Group, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Chemical Defense, the U.S. Army Material Command Treaty Lab, the U.S. Navy Medical Research Institute, the U.S. Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit, and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Also available as a chemical biological consequence management response asset is the U.S. Marines Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), from the U.S. Atlantic Command.
Mr. Chairman, I would also like to mention efforts to more fully integrate the Reserve Components into the Domestic Preparedness Program. As the military's first responders, the National Guard is routinely used to respond to disasters and emergencies as part of their state mission under the governor's authority. Guard members could respond to WMD incidents under either state active duty status or immediate response authority. Currently underway is an effort to use Reserve Component personnel to augment instructors for the city training program and to increase Reserve Components active participation in consequence response exercises. We also anticipate that the Reserve Components will be crucial to sustaining the skills that responders have gained from our domestic preparedness program.
As you can see Mr. Chairman, the Domestic Preparedness Program is still evolving. However, we established a plan, have been following it, and, by making periodic assessments, have adjusted it to better accomplish this mission. In conjunction with the FBI, FEMA, PHS, DOE, and EPA we are determined to get it right and a lot has been accomplished in a relatively short time period. After our training and exercise visits, we conduct after-action reviews and surveys to identify lessons learned and to gauge the effectiveness and appropriateness of the sessions. The effort is also making a positive impact. After the training in Boston in September, Chief John Hasson, the Chief of Boston's Emergency Management Agency, stated that he had nothing but praise for the training courses. "I was very pleased with the professionalism, knowledge, [and] expertise of the trainers and each of the programs were packaged well." Mr. Rich Serino, the Superintendent of Boston Emergency Management Services, noted that the program "helped to demystify weapons of mass destruction." Chief Hasson then added that the city's first responders understand that, "NBC weapons are basically more hazardous materials, but they could be handled." After the training visit to Philadelphia in August, Mr. Michael Nucci, Philadelphia Director of Emergency Management, stated, "My expectations of the training courses were high as the result of our preliminary meetings with your staff. I am pleased to report that my expectations were exceeded by a wide margin. The material was professionally presented by instructors who, clearly, are experts on the subject matter."
This past year I personally participated in visits to several cities, as well as the train-the-trainer training in Philadelphia and New York City. I am convinced that we are on the right course. Additionally, the interagency team is committed to providing responsive and suitable training to local first responders, and senior members of the interagency community have also been actively engaged in the city visits and training.
We recognize that this program is only a portion of a much larger Federal initiative. Senator Lugar, appearing before this Committee not long ago, testified that "there are three main lines of defense against these emerging WMD threats." We believe the Domestic Preparedness Program is fulfilling the goals of the legislation and supports his lines of defense concept. We are dedicated to ensuring that America is prepared to preclude, and, if necessary, meet and defeat any threat involving a weapon of mass destruction.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Major General Friel and I would be pleased to answer any questions from the committee.