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Domestic Preparedness: U.S. Responses Need Tuning
Prepared statement of H. Allen Holmes, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, Senate Armed Services Committee, Thursday, March 26, 1998

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the Department of Defense role in the federal response to domestic terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. My comments will focus on actions taken to date by DoD to provide the domestic emergency preparedness training mandated in Public Law 104-201, better known as the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, or Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation.

As the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, I serve as the principal staff assistant and civilian adviser to the secretary of defense for policy oversight related to combating terrorism. In that capacity, I am responsible for overseeing DoD's activities in the Domestic Preparedness Program.

I have organized my remarks in the following manner:

First, I will address the overarching policy towards terrorism and WMD.

Second, I will provide a short overview of DoD's combating terrorism program and how we support the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the crisis management phase of a domestic terrorist incident and how we support the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the consequence management phase.

And third, I will discuss the general DoD policy for domestic preparedness training for first responders.

Several years ago, we saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and hoped for a safer world. [Then] Sen. [Sam] Nunn and Sen. [Richard G.] Lugar saw the breakup of the Soviet Union as precipitating a new and perhaps more dangerous threat -- that Soviet WMD would flood the global black market and land in the wrong hands. So they drafted, and Congress enacted, the Nunn-Lugar legislation under which we participated with Russia destroying nuclear missiles, warheads and bombers, and are on the verge of destroying tons of chemical munitions.

But as long as there are chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the world, proliferation is likely to occur. So the second line of defense must be to protect ourselves through deterrence and through defense.

We've made it very clear to Iraq and to the rest of the world that if WMD are ever used against our forces, we will deliver a response that is overwhelming and decisive. But we also deter adversaries by making sure that our forces are ready to fight and win on any battlefield, even one that's been contaminated.

We are protecting our troops by providing them with state-of-the-art protective gear against chemical or biological agents, by researching new vaccines against biological agents, and by developing longer range, improved detection equipment to give our troops more advanced warning of any danger.

But the front lines are no longer overseas. They are also right here at home. Some believe that a deadly chemical or biological terrorist attack in this country is inevitable. I believe that we have to prepare for the possibility that WMD could be used on American soil.

So we are now building a third line of defense that is grounded in domestic preparedness. But before getting into the details of the Domestic Preparedness Program, there are three critical points I want to make.

First, DoD's combating terrorism program is part of a coordinated United States government interagency team response. No single agency possesses the authorities, response mechanisms and capabilities to effectively deter or resolve terrorist incidents. Certainly, DoD brings a wealth of resources to the effort, unique and highly sophisticated in many instances, but in the United States we support the law enforcement authority of the DOJ and the FBI. For consequence management, there is specific technical expertise within the Public Health Service, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI and others which FEMA must bring together in a team effort in response to a domestic WMD release. Simply put, DoD cannot perform either phase of this mission alone.

Secondly, DoD has been looking at how to mitigate the effects of a WMD incident for several years, well before it became a subject of public discussion following the demise of the Soviet Union and the 1995 sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway. The combating-terrorism community inherited a solid foundation and a well-functioning interagency combating terrorism process from previous administrations. However, our review of WMD terrorism dramatically illustrated new tactical, technical and policy challenges posed by terrorist use of such weapons, particularly in the domestic arena.

The USG is working hard to deter or prevent, and should that fail, to minimize the effects of a WMD terrorist incident. Nevertheless, there are no silver bullets. We have an excellent response capability, probably the finest in the world, but we cannot say with absolute certainty that we can prevent the eventual use of a WMD device or that our current procedures could negate the mass casualties and damage associated with such an attack.

Finally, the process we discuss today to help solve these challenges will take time -- several years at a minimum; significant resources, including adequate funding, public education; and a committed partnership by the nation's leadership at all levels -- local, state and federal -- to create a system in the United States in which a WMD incident can be successfully managed with a minimum loss of life and physical damage.

I will now describe our policy, systems and programs to respond to a domestic WMD terrorist event.

Overarching Policy Towards Terrorism and WMD:

The administration's counterterrorism policy is detailed in Presidential Decision Directive 39. PDD-39 seeks to integrate the roles of all pertinent federal agencies into a comprehensive, proactive program to prevent and punish terrorist acts.

 

  • We will do everything possible to deter and prevent terrorist attacks.
  • When acts of terrorism do occur, we will respond quickly and decisively.
  • We will work with friendly governments throughout the world to apprehend terrorists and ensure they are punished.
  • The USG does not make concessions to terrorists.
  • The USG will give the highest priority to developing effective capabilities to detect, prevent, defeat and manage the consequences of nuclear, biological or chemical materials weapons used by terrorists.

The USG combating terrorism program is based on a "lead agency" concept with the Department of State exercising lead agency responsibility overseas and the DOJ exercising lead agency responsibility for domestic incidents. The DoD plays a significant supporting role to each of the lead federal agencies.

The interagency effort to support the lead federal agency is coordinated through a standing interagency body headed by the National Security Council. This coordinating body meets on an almost weekly basis to discuss terrorist initiatives. During a terrorist incident it ensures a comprehensive and coordinated federal response is used. The body has been in existence since the mid-1980s.

Department of Defense Combating Terrorism Program:

Within DoD, we accomplish these policy objectives through our Combating Terrorism Program. We divide combating terrorism into three components: anti-terrorism, counterterrorism and domestic preparedness.

Anti-terrorism means the defensive measures employed to protect personnel and facilities against a terrorist incident. Conversely, counterterrorism refers to our offensive response measures to deter, resolve and mitigate a terrorist act.

Domestic preparedness includes a range of consequence management activities required to provide emergency assistance to alleviate damage, loss, hardship or suffering caused by WMD terrorism attacks and to protect the public health and safety and restore essential government services.

It is DoD policy to protect its personnel, their families, facilities and equipment from terrorism. Toward that end, DoD specifically budgets for security at military installations and DoD dependent schools, a widespread training and awareness program and upgraded anti-terrorism/force protection measures for military commands.

When looking at counterterrorism efforts, DoD has a number of rapid response elements for responding to specific terrorist events including WMD incidents. These elements are broken down into crisis management (attempts to resolve an incident) and consequence management (efforts to mitigate the effects of an incident).

For crisis management, we have several expert capabilities which have been well developed over a number of years, intensely exercised with our interagency partners and used on several occasions to assist our FBI counterparts, primarily in a technical role to date. These capabilities include a 24-hour command center watch every day of the year to respond to any terrorist incident, a number of specialized military units on alert ready to respond within a few hours, and command and control element well versed in all terrorist scenarios.

For consequence management, DoD possesses a broad array of response assets which can also be functionally task organized to provide support that is suitable to consequence management -- for example, decontamination, medical support units, mortuary affairs and transportation.

DoD teams support FEMA in consequence management through technical chemical-biological reconnaissance and assessments, providing equipment, technical expertise and links to other interagency organizations with identified capabilities. DoD assets can also provide depth to first responder efforts both by making additional assets available as local capabilities are exhausted, and by providing other assets to secure the area, evacuate areas at risk of becoming contaminated, provide extended decontamination, medical evaluation and address other related requirements.

Two response task force headquarters elements have been organized, validated and exercised within the United States Atlantic Command. They are drawn from elements of the First and Fifth Army staffs. Based on the nature and scope of the consequence management mission, these joint elements may be deployed under the authority of the secretary of defense or his executive agent.

Other military units, including chemical and medical units (to include National Guard and other reserve components), could also be attached to the RTF based on their capabilities and proximity to the incident site. The Chemical Biological Incident Response Force of the Marine Corps is an example of a consequence response capability.

DoD also has a limited stockpile of vaccines, medical supplies and protective gear which can be used in a WMD incident, upon approval of the secretary of defense. We are also conducting research and development through the Counterterror Technical Support Program and the Technical Support Working Group to develop personnel protection, mitigation and decontamination equipment for use by first responders.

This completes the broad policy overview and general description of the DoD combating terrorism program. I will now discuss DoD's actions to implement the domestic emergency preparedness program mandated under the NLD [Nunn-Lugar-Domenici] legislation.

The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996:

The statute mandates that the United States enhance its capability to respond to domestic terrorist incidents involving nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons. The legislation designated DoD as the interagency lead. The Fiscal Year (FY) 1997 Defense Appropriations Act added funding for DoD to improve the capability of the federal, state and local emergency response agencies.

From the beginning, DoD has sought the active participation of the other federal agencies. This interagency approach has allowed a comprehensive and integrated interagency federal approach to meet the needs of local communities.

The Senior Interagency Coordination Group (SICG) was established to facilitate the interagency coordination of federal policy issues and program activities in support of federal consequence management training initiatives concerning terrorist incidents involving WMD. The SICG is composed of senior members from FEMA, FBI, DOE, EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and DoD. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Justice Assistance, General Services Administration (GSA) and the National Communications System also attend SICG meetings.

The SICG serves as the interagency policy forum for identification, discussion and resolution of issues involving the federal strategy to provide guidance and training support to federal, state and local first responders who may be called upon to respond to a terrorist WMD event. The SICG focuses on programs to develop and deliver emergency response training, including DoD Domestic Preparedness activities under the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996.

Since October 1996, the SICG has met at least monthly with member agencies providing valuable input on the overall direction and focus of the training effort. The SICG will continue to provide interagency coordination and assistance to DoD in implementing program activities as long as required.

The United States Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM) leads interagency training development and city visits. Interagency teams coordinate with fire, police, emergency medical and hazardous material officials and tailor training to city requirements. Additionally, FEMA has developed a terrorism annex to the Federal Response Plan (FRP) to ensure coordination across all agencies at all levels.

In FY 1997, DoD spent $30.5 million on the training and civil response aspects of the program. An additional $10 million was dedicated to improving the United States Marine Corps Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force. In FY 1998, Congress appropriated $50 million for the Domestic Preparedness Program. However, the amount available for obligation was reduced to $43.2 million because of undistributed reductions that were allocated to operation and maintenance, defensewide programs. The president's FY 1999 budget proposes $49.9 million for the program.

Funding appropriated pursuant to the Domestic Preparedness Program may be used for training purposes only. There is no direct provision for acquiring WMD response equipment for state and local agencies. However, DoD can loan equipment to state and local agencies for training purposes.

From NLD legislation funding, DoD is providing a long-term loan of up to $300,000 in training equipment to each of the 120 cities trained in order to augment existing state and local equipment inventories. Training equipment provided by DoD under NLD legislation must be drawn from the following categories: personal protection equipment, detection equipment, decontamination/containment equipment and training aids. There is no requirement for states or local agencies to commit matching funds to be eligible for this training equipment loan.

National Guard and Reserve Components:

The National Guard, who may be the first military responders on the scene, and other reserve components will play a prominent role in supporting local and state governments in consequence management. The president's FY 1999 budget includes $49.2 million in FY 1999 for the National Guard and Reserve components to begin addressing increased support requirements associated with terrorist use of WMD in American cities.

Based on this increased funding in FY 1999, the following efforts will get under way:

 

  • The National Guard will stand up 10 Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection WMD teams in selected cities across the nation using 220 full-time Active Guard and Reserve billets.
  • WMD patient decontamination teams will be established from existing Guard and Reserve chemical companies and medical decontamination teams.
  • Members of Army Guard and Reserve chemical companies will be trained and equipped to conduct WMD search, survey, surveillance and sampling activities.
  • Two additional iterations of the Army's Medical Management of Chem-Bio Casualties Course will be offered to meet the increased reserve components' training demand.
  • Current Reserve emergency planning liaison officers will be provided five extra training days to improve coordination and interagency emergency planning.
  • Existing Army Reserve simulation systems will be upgraded to include WMD effects capabilities and a proof-of-concept exercise will be designed and conducted.
  • A Consequence Management Program Integration Office will be established under DOMS [Director of Military Support] to oversee WMD response activities, to centrally administer equipment and training programs and to finance increased participation of the reserve component in NLD preparedness programs.
  • Further incorporate NG/RC [National Guard/Reserve components} into first responder training, long-term sustainment training and expand the use of distance learning capabilities.

Accomplishments:

 

  • Strategic Plan

SO/LIC, with interagency input, developed the "Strategic Plan for Developing a Weapons of Mass Destruction Domestic Terrorism Preparedness and Response Capability." The strategic plan provides the vision, framework and road map necessary to understand city needs and develop appropriate training packages to address the individual requirements of each city.

 

  • Training

Training of first responders is viewed as the single most critical area for enhancing the nation's capability to respond to domestic terrorism. The domestic preparedness training program is based upon a "train-the-trainer" concept, wherein a small number of local responders become the trainers for the remainder of the city's responders.

Training is focused only on the "nuclear, biological, chemical delta"; that is, only those aspects of response which are different from how each responder would react in a non-NBC event.

Training course development was based on 26 performance objectives resulting from focus group sessions with over 100 first responders from across the U.S. Focus groups were used to identify emergency responder requirements for domestic preparedness training. The training program is modular, consisting of medical and nonmedical courses, each with text and supporting audio-visual materials to include a video of a simulated terrorist incident. The modular training program allows for tailoring to accommodate each city's requirements.

The Medical Research and Materiel Command completed the development of the medical portion of the domestic preparedness training program. MRMC utilized focus groups to develop course requirements. Input was received from hospital providers, emergency medical service personnel, DHHS and MRMC research institutes. Efforts resulted in two medical courses.

The overall training program includes two medical and six nonmedical courses. Four nonmedical courses are interwoven with a segmented video presentation to provide course continuity. The medical courses also utilize videos and this medium has proven to be a very effective tool by raising student awareness regarding recognition, coordination and response issues.

The domestic preparedness training courses include: Emergency Responder Awareness, Emergency Responder Operations, Technician/Hazardous Materials, Technician/Emergency Medical Services, Hospital Provider, Incident Command, [and] Senior Officials' Workshop.

The goal of the Domestic Preparedness Program is to train 120 cities by FY 2001 and to provide mechanisms for every community in the nation to leverage federal expertise. Initial city visits are conducted to inform the cities about the Domestic Preparedness Program, assist city personnel in starting to better define their training requirements and allow for a better understanding of the cities' unique requirements.

To date, we, the interagency team, have trained over 5,500 first responder trainers in 18 cities. These trainers are drawn from the firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical communities and 911 operators/dispatchers. Based on city and interagency feedback, we continually evaluate our initial city visit and training approaches to improve them with each iteration.

We understand the Department of Justice has received funding to establish domestic preparedness centers. DoD is carefully considering domestic preparedness center and consortium proposals, and similar proposals from other training facilities.

 

  • Helpline

On Aug. 1, 1997, a helpline to provide access to chemical and biological experts on a routine, nonemergency basis was activated. The helpline furnishes nonemergency expert advice to state and local emergency responders, planners and other need-to-know customers. Operators will have the capability to access and retrieve information quickly, and distribute it by a variety of means including fax and e-mail. The helpline is staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.

The helpline operators require all callers to undergo a one-time verification procedure. The first time a caller contacts the Helpline, operators will request information on the caller's organization and supervisor. Prior to releasing information, the operator will confirm the caller's eligibility to this information. All subsequent calls from that specific individual will not require this procedure.

 

  • Hotline

DoD has established a 24-hour hotline to provide access to expert assistance in the event of a chemical or biological emergency. DoD signed a memorandum of agreement with the National Response Center, which provides for the transfer of emergency calls concerning chemical and biological WMD to the CBDCOM/MRMC emergency operations center and to the FBI simultaneously.

DoD has established a network of specialized chem-bio defense experts for the purpose of providing technical advice and data to answer specialized helpline and hotline inquiries. Access to nuclear expertise in DOE continues to be available through the DOE 24-hour emergency operations center.

 

  • Web Site

The domestic preparedness web site (www.nbc-prepare.org) provides accurate, helpful information to officials, emergency responders and the general public. It can link requests for domestic preparedness training or catalogs directly to the helpline, web page created for emergency first responders, additional relevant information sites, and can provide direct linkage of media inquiries to the CBDCOM public affairs office.

 

  • Rapid Response Information System

FEMA has compiled a master inventory containing information on the resources and capabilities owned by each of the FRP agencies that would be made available for use to aid state and local officials in emergency situations involving WMD. The master inventory includes assets associated with search and rescue, detection and analysis, personnel protection, medical treatment, monitoring and decontamination.

Access to FRP departments' and agencies' inventory listings is available through the FEMA internet using an Internet web server that is part of the National Emergency Management Information System. Access is limited to authorized federal and state emergency planners. Authorized users include FRP agency representatives, the FEMA regional offices and the state emergency management offices. Access to the system that contains the inventory listings requires a user identification and password.

FEMA, with the support of DoD and other agencies, has prepared a database which provides a source of information on chemical and biological agents, munitions characteristics and safety precautions for civilian use. DoD has supported FEMA in the development of the database by providing technical expertise needed to prepare the database. FEMA will update the database annually.

Access to this database is available through FEMA's Internet site (www.fema.gov/rris). It is currently available on the Internet system. Also available is a database on radiological materials. These two databases work on a keyword search system.

Access to supplemental technical information is also available through FEMA's Internet site. This information includes a descriptive listing of current NBC-unique equipment used by federal agencies, information on improvised explosive devices, an Internet reference library of NBC-related resources, background information on the agencies that were involved in the development of the RRIS, and a comment page for user feedback and recommendations.

Information requests concerning excess and/or surplus property are accessed through an Internet connection to the GSA-maintained State Agency for Surplus Property web page. State and local government agencies should coordinate their efforts for acquiring excess and surplus property and equipment through their designated SASP.

Conclusion:

DoD has made tremendous progress in developing and providing comprehensive and integrated WMD consequence management response and training for cities. We still have some distance to go, but know we are on the right track.

We estimate the program to complete the initial training of the first 120 cities can be completed in five years. At that juncture, we expect that city and state first responder training programs will have incorporated these concepts (the NBC delta) into their own courses so that all new first responders will routinely be trained on WMD terrorism considerations.

We look forward to increased participation by the National Guard and other reserve components and believe this will significantly improve our program delivery and provide a sustainable training and response mechanism well into the future.

 

Published by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission.