Combating Terrorism: Issues to Be Resolved to Improve Counterterrorism Operations

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-05-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Report to Congressional Requesters

May 1999

                   Issues to Be Resolved
                   to Improve

                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548                                                            Leter

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division                                                    Leter

                   B-282474                                                                 Letter

                   May 13, 1999

                   The Honorable Ike Skelton
                   Ranking Minority Member
                   Committee on Armed Services
                   House of Representatives

                   The Honorable Christopher Shays
                   Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security,
                   Veterans Affairs, and International Relations
                   Committee on Government Reform
                   House of Representatives

                   Terrorist attacks against U.S. personnel and interests domestically and
                   abroad highlight the need for effective U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. As
                   requested, we prepared this unclassified summary of our February 1999
                   classified report to you on interagency counterterrorist operations.
                   Specifically, we examined how agencies worked together in
                   counterterrorist operations and special events; strengths and weaknesses
                   of international and domestic counterterrorist exercises; and agency and
                   interagency processes to capture and share lessons learned.

Results in Brief   In the last 3 years, federal agencies have conducted several successful
                   interagency operations overseas, including some in which suspected
                   terrorists have been returned to the United States to stand trial. In addition,
                   federal agencies have deployed personnel and equipment to prepare for
                   many special events such as the Atlanta Olympic Games. However, federal
                   agencies have not completed interagency guidance and resolved command
                   and control issues. Proposed interagency Domestic Guidelines have not
                   been completed, nor coordinated with all federal agencies with domestic
                   counterterrorism roles. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
                   (FBI) has not coordinated the proposed Domestic Guidelines with the
                   Department of the Treasury even though it could have a significant role in
                   an actual terrorist incident. Furthermore, approval of proposed interagency
                   International Guidelines has been delayed because the Department of
                   State, the Department of Justice, and the FBI have not reached agreement
                   on the level of State participation in highly sensitive missions to arrest
                   suspected terrorists overseas. In addition, some interagency and
                   intergovernmental command and control issues regarding domestic
                   counterterrorist operations have not been fully resolved.

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To improve their preparedness to respond to terrorist incidents, federal
agencies have conducted over 200 exercises, of which about half included
three or more federal agencies and about one third included state and local
participants. However, agencies have not fully achieved the interagency
counterterrorist exercise program directed in a June 1995 Presidential
Directive because an interagency Exercise Subgroup has not prepared and
submitted, and senior agency officials have not approved, an interagency
program. As a result, some complex transfers of command and control
between agencies have not been exercised. International counterterrorism
exercises, sponsored for many years by the Department of Defense (DOD),
are relatively comprehensive in that they include many federal agencies
and test tactical units along with State Department’s leadership role and
DOD’s command and control. In contrast, domestic exercises sponsored by
the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)--the lead
federal agencies for domestic operations—are not as comprehensive. The
FBI exercise program focuses on its regional and field offices’ tactical
capabilities to respond and generally has not included the Bureau’s full
interagency leadership role that is expected to be critical during a domestic
terrorist incident. Recently, the FBI has made significant progress and
taken steps to enhance its program in this regard. The FEMA
counterterrorism exercise program consists of tabletop exercises and does
not include field exercises that would deploy personnel and equipment,
and practice roles and responsibilities in realistic settings.

DOD, the Department of Energy (DOE), and FEMA have requirements and
processes in place to capture lessons learned from counterterrorist
operations and exercises. These agencies, however, did not capture lessons
learned for all the exercises they led or all the field exercises they
participated in. Other federal agencies had less rigorous requirements and
processes for capturing lessons learned. There is also no requirement or
process to capture lessons learned at the interagency level. Establishing a
process to record and share the lessons learned of counterterrorism
operations and exercises would be beneficial and could improve future

In our classified report, we made several recommendations to enhance
interagency guidance, command and control, exercises, and processes to
capture and share lessons learned.

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Background                    The U.S. policy and strategy on combating terrorism have been evolving
                              since the 1970s and are articulated in Presidential Directives and
                              implementing guidance. These guidance documents divide activities to
                              combat terrorism into three elements: preventing and deterring terrorism;
                              responding to a terrorist crisis, and managing the consequences after a
                              terrorist attack. One of the highest priorities in the federal government is to
                              prevent and prepare for terrorist attacks that use weapons of mass
                              destruction (WMD).1 Crisis management includes efforts to stop a terrorist
                              attack, arrest terrorists, and gather evidence for criminal prosecution.
                              Consequence management includes efforts to provide medical treatment
                              and emergency services, evacuate people from dangerous areas, and
                              restore government services. When terrorist attacks occur without
                              adequate threat warning, crisis response and consequence management
                              will be concurrent activities.

U.S. Policy, Lead Agencies,   U.S. policy to combat terrorism was formalized in 1986 with the issuance of
and Guidance                  National Security Decision Directive 207, which primarily focused on
                              terrorist incidents overseas. After the bombing of a federal building in
                              Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the President issued Presidential Decision
                              Directive (PDD) 39 in June 1995, which enumerated responsibilities for
                              federal agencies in combating terrorism, including domestic incidents. In
                              May 1998, the President issued PDD 62 that reaffirmed PDD 39 and further
                              articulated responsibilities for specific agencies. PDD 62 also established a
                              National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and
                              Counterterrorism, within the National Security Council, to coordinate
                              agencies’ programs. These directives, and the guidelines and contingency
                              plans that implement them, call for robust, tailored and rapidly deployable
                              interagency teams to conduct well-coordinated and highly integrated

                              PDDs 39 and 62 assigned or reaffirmed lead and supporting roles to various
                              federal agencies and established interagency support teams. The State
                              Department is the lead agency for international terrorist incidents. An
                              interagency Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) was established to
                              provide advice and support to U.S. ambassadors, Washington decision-
                              makers, and host governments. Similarly, the FBI is the lead federal agency

                                For the purpose of this report, WMD are defined as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons or
                              agents. Within the federal government, there is disagreement as to the precise definition, especially
                              whether large conventional explosives should be included.

                              Page 3                                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

for domestic crisis response. An interagency Domestic Emergency Support
Team (DEST) was established to provide advice and support to FBI on-
scene commanders. Both the FEST and DEST consist of rapidly deployable
interagency teams tailored to the specific terrorist incident. For example,
experts from DOD, DOE, the Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might be part of the
teams if the incident involved WMD. The State Department and the FBI
determine the composition of the FEST and DEST, respectively. The PDDs
also affirmed FEMA as the lead agency for coordinating consequence
management in domestic incidents. Other agencies have important support
roles in combating terrorism. For example, DOD could provide significant
support to other agencies, both for international incidents and for domestic
incidents involving WMD. DOE provides support and technical expertise
related to nuclear devices and radiological events. EPA provides expertise
and support in incidents involving certain hazardous chemicals. The U.S.
Secret Service designs and implements operational security at designated
special events to provide protection against terrorist attacks.2

Lead federal agencies drafted interagency guidance to provide operational
details for implementing PDD 39. The State Department, as the lead federal
agency for international incidents, drafted “Coordinating Subgroup
Guidelines for the Mobilization, Deployment, and Employment of U.S.
Government Elements in Response to an Overseas Terrorist Incident” (also
known as the International Guidelines). The International Guidelines
outline procedures for deploying the FEST and otherwise coordinating
federal operations overseas. The FBI, as lead federal agency for domestic
crisis response, drafted “Guidelines for the Mobilization, Deployment, and
Employment of U.S. Government Agencies in Response to a Domestic
Terrorist Threat or Incidence in Accordance With Presidential Decision
Directive 39” (also known as the Domestic Guidelines) and the “United
States Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations
Plan” (also known as the CONPLAN). The Domestic Guidelines describe
specific procedures and responsibilities of deploying the DEST, particularly
in WMD incidents, while the CONPLAN provides overall guidance to
federal, state, and local officials on how the federal government is
structured to respond to a terrorist threat or incident in the United States.
FEMA, the lead federal agency for domestic consequence management,
coordinated and completed an interagency annex to the Federal Response

  For more detailed information on interagency coordination mechanisms and the roles and
responsibilities of lead and supporting federal agencies, see our report entitled Combating Terrorism:
Federal Agencies’ Efforts to Implement National Policy and Strategy (GAO/NSIAD-97-254, Sept. 26,

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                            Plan that discusses how the federal government would assist state and
                            local authorities in managing the consequences of a terrorist attack in the
                            United States. Support agencies developed their own guidance to be used
                            to support an interagency terrorism response. For example, DOD
                            developed a detailed contingency plan to guide its actions in deploying and
                            responding to a terrorist incident and HHS developed a plan to deal with
                            the health and medical consequences of terrorist attacks.

Issues Identified Through   In 1996, a congressional committee held hearings to provide oversight of
Congressional Oversight     counterterrorism programs, highlighting interagency operational and
                            coordination challenges and issues. In 1996, the Nunn-Lugar hearings
and Legislation
                            focused on the preparedness of the federal government to conduct
                            counterterrorist operations at the agency, interagency, and
                            intergovernmental levels (i.e., with state and local governments).3 Some of
                            the issues highlighted in the hearings were as follows:

                            • Domestic interagency counterterrorism exercises should be more
                              comprehensive and held more often and should go beyond tabletop
                              exercises to field exercises where personnel and equipment rapidly
                              deploy to a location and practice their activities.
                            • The FBI and FEMA needed to exercise their operations together when
                              crisis response and consequence management was concurrent.
                            • Domestic interagency counterterrorism exercises should include the
                              full array of federal, state, and local agencies.
                            • Individual agencies should capture lessons learned from
                              counterterrorism exercises, disseminate such lessons both internally
                              and externally, and track corrective actions.
                            • There should be an interagency process to capture lessons learned and
                              track corrective actions.

                            Following the Nunn-Lugar hearings, Congress passed the Defense Against
                            Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 (commonly known as the Nunn-
                            Lugar-Domenici Act).4 The act designated DOD as the lead agency to
                            enhance domestic preparedness for WMD terrorism by providing federal,

                            3These hearings were sponsored by Senators Nunn and Lugar of the Permanent Subcommittee on
                            Investigations of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in March 1996. See Senate Hearing
                            104-422 part III.

                              See title XIV of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 (P.L. 104-201, Sept. 23,

                            Page 5                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                              state, and local emergency response personnel with, among other things,
                              training and advice. The legislation led to the creation of the Nunn-Lugar-
                              Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program, which was intended to be an
                              interagency and intergovernmental effort among key agencies with
                              responsibilities for crisis and consequence management in the event of a
                              terrorist incident. We reported separately on the implementation of this

Agencies Operate              We found that federal agencies worked together and generally coordinated
                              their counterterrorist activities. For example, federal agencies carried out
Together But Need to          several overseas operations and prepared for domestic special events.
Resolve Key Issues            However, interagency guidance for coordinating federal operations—both
                              overseas and domestically—has not been approved or fully coordinated. In
                              addition, several command and control issues related to domestic
                              operations have not been resolved.

Agencies Successfully         In the 3 years following PDD 39, federal agencies successfully participated
Performed Operations and      in many counterterrorist activities. In actual operations and special events,
                              agencies generally coordinated their activities. For example, we examined
Prepared for Special Events
                              several overseas counterterrorist operations and found that agencies
                              generally followed the draft interagency International Guidelines. DOD, the
                              FBI, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) performed their respective
                              roles in military planning, law enforcement, and intelligence gathering
                              under the oversight of the State Department (e.g., the ambassador). Minor
                              interagency tensions or conflicts during these operations were resolved
                              and did not appear to have posed risk to the missions. Examples of these
                              overseas operations include several overseas arrests to bring suspected
                              terrorists back to the United States for trial outside of normal extradition
                              channels. Interagency teams consisting of the FBI, the State Department,
                              DOD, and CIA conducted these missions. These arrests included those of
                              Ayyad Najim in July 1995, Wahli Khan in December 1995, Tsutomo
                              Shirasaki in September 1996, Matwan Al-Safadi in November 1996, Mir
                              Aimal Kansi in June 1997, and Mohamed Said Rasheed in June 1998.6

                              5See Combating Terrorism: Threat and Risk Assessments Can Help Prioritize and Target Program
                              Investments (GAO/NSIAD-98-74, Apr. 9, 1998) and Combating Terrorism: Opportunities to Improve
                              Domestic Preparedness Program Focus and Efficiency (GAO/NSIAD-99-3, Nov. 12, 1998).

                                Other successful overseas arrests just outside our scope (June 1995 to June 1998) included those of
                              Ramzi Yousef in February 1995 and Mohamed Sadeck Odeh and Mohamed Rasheed Daoud Al Owhali in
                              August 1998.

                              Page 6                                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                           Key agencies have also prepared for and deployed personnel in advance to
                           many special events. Special events are high visibility events in which
                           federal agencies initiate contingency measures. For recent major special
                           events, such as the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, the
                           Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, and the Presidential Inauguration in 1997,
                           federal agencies prepared contingency plans for a possible terrorist attack
                           and provided protection to the President and other dignitaries. For
                           example, federal agencies sending advance or contingency teams to the
                           Atlanta Olympics included Secret Service, the FBI, FEMA, DOD, DOE,
                           HHS, EPA, CIA, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the
                           Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Customs Service,
                           the Internal Revenue Service, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
                           (NRC). Federal agencies also exercised their personnel together in advance
                           of these events against various counterterrorism scenarios. For example,
                           before the Atlanta Olympics, federal agencies conducted eight exercises
                           with scenarios specific to the games. Our review of these special events
                           indicated that most agencies involved gained valuable experience in
                           coordinating their activities. Agency officials cited special events as
                           successful efforts to integrate personnel and assets across federal
                           agencies. In preparing for such events, federal agencies also worked
                           closely with state and local agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
                           These operations and special events enhanced federal agencies’ abilities to
                           coordinate and integrate their activities.

Interagency Guidance Not   With the exception of FEMA, lead federal agencies have not completed
Approved or Fully          interagency guidance on counterterrorist operations more than 3 ½ years
                           after PDD 39 directed them to do so. The FBI, which drafted the Domestic
                           Guidelines and CONPLAN, coordinated drafts of these documents with five
                           other federal agencies (FEMA, DOD, DOE, HHS, and EPA) that could have
                           major operational roles in a domestic terrorist incident. These federal
                           agencies have still not given their final approval to either document.
                           Further, the FBI has not coordinated the Domestic Guidelines or the
                           CONPLAN with other federal agencies that would have counterterrorist
                           roles in certain circumstances, such as Treasury Department, the NRC, and
                           the Departments of Transportation and Agriculture. Of the agencies
                           omitted, the Treasury Department is the most significant, due to its special
                           capabilities that have been called upon and could be needed in a variety of
                           possible terrorist incidents. For example, the Secret Service protects the
                           President and other designated protectees from terrorist attacks and plays

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a key counterterrorist security role at major special events. The U.S.
Customs Service provides aircraft at special events to detect and monitor
aircraft activity and to perform interception if necessary. ATF supports FBI
investigations of terrorist crimes involving explosives. In addition, the
Treasury Department has numerous field personnel who could support FBI
crisis management efforts. The NRC would provide expertise and technical
support in a terrorist incident involving facilities, materials, and activities
that it licenses (e.g., nuclear power plants). The Department of
Transportation includes the Federal Aviation Administration, which has
jurisdiction over aircraft hijackings in certain circumstances, and the Coast
Guard, which has jurisdiction over hazardous materials (e.g., WMD) in U.S.
waterways. The Department of Agriculture is responsible for providing
emergency food assistance. Department of Agriculture officials said they
would monitor and ensure the safety of the food supply where a WMD
agent is released, potentially contaminating crops or livestock or food
processing facilities.

FBI officials said that they coordinated the Domestic Guidelines and
CONPLAN with the five other agencies (FEMA, DOD, DOE, HHS and EPA)
because those agencies were cited most prominently in PDD 39. However,
PDD 39 also cited Treasury as having an important role in
counterterrorism. These officials told us that they plan to coordinate the
Domestic Guidelines and CONPLAN with other agencies once the FBI and
the five other agencies agree on the documents. FBI officials did not have
an estimate on when the five agencies would approve either document or
when these documents would be coordinated with other appropriate
agencies. We believe that the FBI, as lead federal agency for crisis
management in domestic terrorist incidents, would better serve that role by
fully coordinating both documents with all federal agencies that have
counterterrorist roles.

The International Guidelines have also not been approved as final. These
guidelines, which were drafted by the State Department and provide
procedures for overseas incidents and operations, had not been approved
because of differences among agencies about overseas arrests. Specifically,
the Departments of State and Justice have not reached agreement on
specific operational issues related to these missions. Since our classified
report was issued, a State Department official told us the Department
deleted procedures for these arrests from the International Guidelines to
expedite their approval, but the different views on operational matters
continue. He stated that the guidelines are in the final coordination stage.

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Command and Control         The FBI and the Secret Service were not always coordinating their
Issues Require Resolution   command and control structures or contingency plans with each other in
                            the period we reviewed. FBI and Secret Service officials acknowledged
                            that the two agencies had not worked well together, and cited efforts
                            underway to improve coordination and cooperation between the two
                            agencies for special events. Specifically, the Directors of the FBI and Secret
                            Service mutually agreed to a command and control plan and signed the
                            agreement in October 1998. This agreement has been submitted to the
                            Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury for final approval. The
                            two agencies also stated that they recently had conducted a joint tabletop
                            exercise to test their command and control relationship.

                            DOD needs to clarify its internal command and control structure for
                            domestic operations. Although not a lead federal agency, DOD could have a
                            major supporting role in any federal response to terrorist incidents in the
                            United States, particularly those involving WMD. In reviewing DOD’s
                            participation in domestic support operations, special events, and exercises,
                            we found several command and control issues where guidance was either
                            confusing or conflicting. To resolve these issues, DOD is undertaking a
                            high-level review of its support to civilian authorities, generally under the
                            rubric of “homeland defense.” The National Defense Panel recommended
                            that DOD emphasize homeland defense more, and use military assets to
                            assist law enforcement agencies in combating terrorism, and incorporate
                            its forces into all levels of government to manage the consequences of a
                            WMD-type attack.7 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has chartered
                            a study called “UCP 21,” which is reviewing these issues and may
                            recommend changes to the Unified Command Plan—the overall command
                            structure for military forces.8

                            There are also unresolved issues of intergovernmental command and
                            control (i.e., whether the federal, state, or local government is in charge) in
                            certain circumstances. For consequence management, federal guidance—
                            the Federal Response Plan and its Terrorism Incident Annex—indicates

                            7The National Defense Panel was an independent nonpartisan group of private sector experts,
                            established by Congress to review the national security strategy. The panel issued a report,
                            Transforming Defense, National Security in the 21st Century, in December 1997.

                              By statute (10 U.S.C. 161), the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts a biennial review of the
                            Unified Command Plan and recommends revisions as appropriate. For more information on this
                            process, see Unified Command Plan: Atlantic and Southern Command Participation in 1995 Review
                            (GAO/NSIAD-97-41BR, Dec. 5, 1996).

                            Page 9                                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                          that state and local authorities are in overall charge of recovery efforts and
                          that the federal government is in a support role. For crisis management, the
                          overall leadership of the response at the incident site is not as clear. The
                          FBI has recently taken some steps to work with state and local
                          governments to better define their respective lead and support roles in
                          managing a terrorist crisis.

Strengths and             PDD 39 required key federal agencies to ensure that their counterterrorist
                          capabilities were well exercised. We found that federal agencies had
Weaknesses in             conducted a number of counterterrorist exercises following PDD 39.
Counterterrorist          However, while agencies were exercising together, there was no formal
                          interagency program as envisioned in PDD 39. We also found that
Exercises                 international crisis management exercises were more comprehensive than
                          domestic crisis exercises, though neither included scenarios of no-warning
                          terrorist attacks. Consequence management exercises sponsored by FEMA
                          were not comprehensive, but other federal agencies were making progress
                          exercising their capabilities.

Agencies Conducted Many   Federal agencies conducted 201 exercises to improve their preparedness
Exercises Since PDD 39    for counterterrorist operations in the past 3 years. In general, exercises test
                          and validate policies and procedures, test the effectiveness of response
                          capabilities, and increase the confidence and skill level of personnel. In
                          addition, exercises identify strengths and weaknesses before they arise in
                          an actual incident. Exercises further allow agencies to apply operational
                          lessons learned from past exercises and actual deployments. In
                          counterterrorism, where federal operations are inherently interagency
                          matters, exercises also allow the various departments’ and agencies’
                          personnel to become familiar with each others’ missions and procedures
                          and learn to coordinate and operate together. Interagency exercises can
                          help identify aspects of cooperation that work well and problems and
                          conflicts that require interagency resolution. Table 1 shows the number of
                          federal counterterrorism exercises that different agencies participated in
                          and led.

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Table 1: Agency Participation and Leadership in Federal Counterterrorism Exercises
in the 3 Years Following PDD 39 (June 1995 to June 1998)
                                                                             Total exercises
Agency                                                             Participated in                    Led
DOD                                                                              143                    97
FBI                                                                                99                   24
FEMA                                                                               76                   16
HHS                                                                                68                     3
Secret Service                                                                     65                   46
EPA                                                                                47                     1
DOE                                                                                36                     5
State                                                                              24                     1
CIA                                                                                21                     0
Department of Veterans Affairs                                                     12                     4
ATF                                                                                10                     4
Other                                                                              36                     3
Note: When more than one agency sponsored an exercise, all sponsoring agencies were counted as
the lead agency; thus, the column total exceeds 201 exercises. CIA noted that while it does not lead
these types of exercises, it practices its support role through participation in other agencies’ exercises.
Other federal agencies include the Department of Transportation; U.S. Capitol Police; and 13 other
agencies, offices, or bureaus.
Source: Our analysis of agencies’ data.

The agencies conducted a mixture of tabletop exercises in which agency
officials discuss scenarios around a table or other similar setting, and field
exercises where agency leadership and operational units actually deploy to
practice their skills and coordination in a realistic field setting. Of the total
201 exercises, 85 (or 42 percent) were tabletop exercises and 116
(or 58 percent) were field exercises. Counterterrorism exercises included
both conventional and WMD scenarios to prepare federal agencies for a
wide variety of possible situations. In many of the exercises, federal
agencies gained experience working together. Of the 201 federal
counterterrorist exercises, 140 (or 70 percent) were interagency
exercises—involving more than one federal department or independent
agency.9 Of these 140 interagency exercises, 96 were major interagency

  For the purpose of this report, we defined “interagency” as involving more than one federal
department or independent agency. For example, DOD-led exercises that included both Army and Navy
participation, or Justice-led exercises that included the FBI and Bureau of Prisons participation, were
not considered interagency exercises.

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                             exercises and included three or more departments or independent
                             agencies. In some of the exercises, federal agencies also gained experience
                             working with state and/or local authorities, and nongovernmental
                             organizations. Specifically, 69 (or 34 percent) of the 201 exercises were
                             intergovernmental, and 18 (or 9 percent) included nongovernmental or
                             other private organizations. Four exercises included foreign government
                             participation to simulate federal agency integration in international

Interagency Exercise         We found that there was no formal interagency exercise program as
Program Has Not Been Fully   envisioned in PDD 39. The National Security Council established an
                             interagency Exercise Subgroup co-chaired by the State Department (for
                             international exercises) and the FBI (for domestic exercises) that also
                             included FEMA, DOD, HHS, DOE, EPA, CIA, NRC, and the Departments of
                             Transportation and Agriculture as members. The purpose of the Exercise
                             Subgroup is to promote interagency discussions of exercises, but it has not
                             implemented PDD 39 requirements to prepare or receive approval for
                             interagency exercise objectives and a schedule of exercises. Interagency
                             field exercises occur when individual agencies, particularly DOD and DOE,
                             invite other agencies to participate. Because individual agencies that
                             sponsor or participate in exercises tend to focus on their own roles, some
                             complex transfers of command and control between agencies have not
                             been exercised, particularly in domestic scenarios. We believe that without
                             interagency exercises objectives set by the Exercise Subgroup, agencies
                             are not likely to exercise these key scenarios. As a result, the federal
                             government will be less prepared to respond in a tailored, synchronized
                             manner if an incident occurs. Officials from State, FBI, DOD, DOE, EPA,
                             and HHS said that the Exercise Subgroup has fallen short of achieving its
                             full objectives. These officials cited a number of obstacles to full
                             implementation of the group as envisioned in PDD 39 and in the group’s

                             Despite the incomplete implementation of an interagency exercise program
                             as envisioned in PDD 39, in the 3 years since PDD 39, there were 96
                             counterterrorist field and tabletop exercises involving 3 or more agencies.
                             These interagency exercises occurred because individual sponsoring
                             agencies, such as DOD, invited other agencies to participate in their
                             exercises. For example, DOD’s Domestic Preparedness Program tabletop
                             exercises form the core of interagency exercises with a focus on domestic
                             consequence management and intergovernmental participation.

                             Page 12                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

International Crisis        International crisis management exercises are more comprehensive than
Exercises More              domestic exercises. DOD’s and DOE’s well-developed international field
                            exercise programs have enhanced the preparedness of the federal
Comprehensive Than
                            government to conduct counterterrorist operations overseas. The State
Domestic Crisis Exercises   Department uses DOD-led and DOE-led exercises to practice its leadership
                            role in international terrorist incidents. Each year, DOD and DOE sponsor
                            several international interagency field exercises. Commanders and
                            exercise planners take several steps to challenge participants in these
                            exercises. For example, these exercises test rapid and no-notice
                            deployment of command elements and tactical units to locations
                            worldwide. In addition, these exercises also frequently test the FEST, so
                            rapid and no-notice deployments also can be practiced by the full cadre of
                            interagency players. While exercises do not guarantee success, they have
                            resulted in a high degree of preparedness of federal agencies to operate
                            overseas in a terrorist crisis.

                            Domestic crisis response exercises are led by law enforcement agencies
                            and primarily provide tactical training to their crisis response teams. Many
                            of these exercises center around the response capabilities of the lead
                            agency, rather than coordinating an interagency response and therefore do
                            not include many of the federal, state, and local agencies that would be
                            needed to effectively respond, or the entire range of activities required to
                            respond to a terrorist crisis.

                            The FBI’s domestic crisis response program is well developed with
                            regularly scheduled field exercises that test regional and field office
                            capabilities at the tactical level.10 But the program generally does not
                            exercise the broader interagency leadership role that the Bureau would
                            play in a major terrorist incident. Some aspects of this leadership role have
                            been tested in selected exercises, such as FBI-led exercises done in
                            preparation for the Atlanta Olympics. The FBI has begun taking steps to
                            enhance its program and it played a significant interagency leadership role
                            in a June 1998 exercise sponsored by DOD. FBI officials noted that the
                            Bureau had increased this program’s budget resources—which they had
                            previously cited as an impediment to a more robust program.

                              For the purpose of this report, the tactical level refers to the personnel and activities occurring at a
                            specific site to eliminate or capture a terrorist or terrorists and to render safe and remove a conventional
                            or unconventional weapon or device.

                            Page 13                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

The Secret Service conducts a variety of counterterrorist exercises for its
special agents related to its mission to protect the President. The exercises
generally involve continuity of operations of the White House or protecting
the President or other officials. Some of the exercises included other
federal agencies (generally DOD), state and local police, and fire and
rescue authorities. The Secret Service generally did not conduct exercises
with the FBI, although the two agencies have overlapping responsibilities
at special events.11 In the few cases in which both agencies participated in
the same exercise, they did not exercise how they would interact in a
terrorist incident. The Secret Service plans to increase the agency’s
counterterrorism exercise program to reflect its new role in certain special
events. For example, in preparing for the World Energy Council in Houston
in September 1998, the Secret Service conducted a tabletop exercise that
included FBI and state and local authorities. In its comments on our
classified report, the Secret Service stated that it planned to conduct the
exercises with the FBI on scenarios where the two agencies need to work

ATF conducts exercises that test its crisis response and investigation roles
in terrorist bombings. These exercises do not involve tests of ATF’s
supporting role in an interagency response led by the FBI. ATF generally
does not exercise with FBI, although the two agencies have potentially
overlapping responsibilities, such as in cases where the sources of
bombings are unknown.12 ATF is developing a crisis management exercise
program similar to the FBI program. ATF exercises feature its Critical
Incident Management Response Team and involve its regional Special
Response Teams. FBI exercises feature its Critical Incident Response
Group and involve its Hostage Rescue Team and regional Special Weapons
and Tactics teams. The ATF and FBI scenarios that we reviewed were
similar, and ATF officials were unable to make any distinction between
their program and the FBI’s program. Based upon our analysis of the ATF’s
program, it appears that ATF is exercising its lead in incidents in which the

11In addition to both agencies providing some  type of security function at special events, their statutory
authorities may result in potential overlap. Secret Service has the statutory mission to protect the
President and other protectees (18 U.S.C. 3056), and also investigates any threatening criminal activity
against the President pursuant to that authority. The FBI has the statutory mission to investigate attacks
upon the President (18 U.S.C. 1751).

  FBI and ATF have a 1973 Memorandum of Understanding on which agency has primary investigative
jurisdiction in a bombing based upon such factors as the target of the bomb. If the perpetrator of the
bombing is unclear, both agencies may claim jurisdiction. FBI and ATF officials have been meeting to
resolve their differences on this issue.

Page 14                                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                         FBI, not ATF, would lead. The lack of coordination on exercises between
                         these two law enforcement agencies could reduce the effectiveness of the
                         total federal response to a terrorist incident and lead to duplication of

                         In addition, crisis management exercises, both international and domestic,
                         always end in the successful tactical resolution of the incidents and do not
                         include more likely scenarios where terrorist attacks are successful, or
                         occur without adequate threat warning. Thus, the full gamut of interagency
                         crisis management activities is not tested. For example, in the 3 years
                         following PDD 39, the FBI did not conduct or participate in a field exercise
                         that simulated the concurrence of crisis response and consequence
                         management to deal with a major terrorist incident.

Consequence Management   Domestic consequence management exercises are not well developed.
Exercises Not            PDD 39 designated FEMA as the lead federal agency for consequence
                         management in domestic terrorist events. In addition, the fiscal year 1995
                         Emergency Supplemental Appropriations tasked FEMA to develop
                         exercises to focus on the consequences of terrorist incidents as part of its
                         exercise program. In response to these taskings, FEMA sponsored a series
                         of interagency counterterrorism tabletop exercises that focused on
                         interagency and intergovernmental issues. However, FEMA has not
                         planned or sponsored an interagency field exercise to test its consequence
                         management leadership role. Tabletop exercises are useful to the extent
                         they identify important policy and operational issues that need to be
                         resolved. However, tabletop exercises are not a substitute for field
                         exercises that test the federal government’s ability to use and coordinate
                         personnel and assets in a realistic setting. FEMA officials told us that they
                         lack the resources to manage an interagency field exercise program. They
                         also stated that they are reluctant to commit resources to field exercises
                         because the Domestic Guidelines and CONPLAN are still not approved and
                         that they do not want to exercise their staff using procedures that may not
                         be correct because of additional changes in these guidance documents.
                         Commenting on our classified report, FEMA noted that numerous other
                         disaster-related operations (which were outside the scope of our review)
                         significantly improved the federal government’s overall response
                         capabilities to conduct consequence management in terrorist incidents.

                         Federal agencies or entities other than FEMA have sponsored some
                         consequence management field exercises. The Department of Veterans
                         Affairs (VA) sponsored four recent domestic field exercises that dealt with

                         Page 15                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                          the medical aspects of consequence management in a terrorist attack using
                          WMD. For example, in March 1997, VA sponsored an exercise, in
                          conjunction with the state of Minnesota, that simulated a terrorist attack
                          on a federal building with explosives laced with radioactive material, and
                          the subsequent decontamination and treatment of hundreds of casualties.
                          Commenting on our classified report, VA stated that numerous other
                          disaster-related exercises (which were outside the scope of our review)
                          also improved VA’s consequence management capabilities. DOD sponsored
                          two recent domestic field exercises that also dealt with the medical aspects
                          of consequence management in a terrorist attack using WMD. For example,
                          in September 1997, DOD sponsored a field exercise (co-sponsored by VA)
                          to practice providing medical care to victims of a terrorist WMD attack.
                          That exercise, which had over 2,000 participants, also included state and
                          local responders, and local community hospitals.

                          In addition, some states and cities have sponsored field exercises on
                          consequence management, some of them in conjunction with the DOD
                          Domestic Preparedness Program. For example, in November 1997, New
                          York City sponsored a field exercise based on a scenario where terrorists
                          released chemical agents. The objectives of this exercise were to test first
                          responder’s ability to appropriately evaluate and respond to a chemical
                          attack and fully integrate the city’s incident command system. DOD, in
                          conjunction with cities, plans to conduct more than 100 Domestic
                          Preparedness Program field exercises in the next several years.

Better Processes to       Lessons learned processes are practices that allow an agency to learn from
                          its successes and mistakes to improve its performance. We found that
Capture Lessons           DOD, DOE, and FEMA had relatively good processes in place to capture
Learned Could             and share lessons learned, while other agencies had less rigorous
                          processes. There was also no interagency process in place to capture and
Improve Future            share lessons learned, but agencies were starting to implement a process at
Operations                the end of our review.

DOD, DOE, and FEMA Have   A key part of any lessons learned process is preparing an After Action
Requirements and          Report (AAR) or other evaluation that provides an official description of
                          the results of an operation, special event, or exercise. An AAR typically
Processes to Capture
                          includes a summary of objectives, operational limitations, major
Lessons Learned           participants, a description of strengths and weaknesses, and recommended
                          actions. Effective follow-up and validation also are important parts of a
                          lessons learned process, as they are the only means to ensure that

                          Page 16                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

problems have been corrected. Another important feature of a lessons
learned process is the dissemination within an organization and, where
appropriate, to other organizations, of aspects of operations that worked
well and those that need further improvement or development. For
counterterrorism operations, which are inherently interagency matters, the
lessons learned process should also address the interaction between
different agencies to highlight problems for resolution in interagency
forums or by top national leadership.

The DOD and DOE processes for capturing lessons learned had several
positive characteristics in comparison to the other agencies’ processes we
reviewed. DOD and DOE had requirements to produce AARs and their
officials or contractors wrote AARs, made specific recommendations,
disseminated AARs to different organizational units, and produced AARs
for some exercises and events led by other agencies. For example, we
observed DOE contractors as they entered lessons learned data “real time”
during a June 1998 exercise led by DOD. Some DOD field exercises
included data evaluation plans in advance to ensure that lessons were
learned on the specific exercise objectives. In addition, DOD and DOE
officials included interagency issues in their AARs and sometimes
disseminated them to other agencies.

DOD and DOE officials cited the value of a sound AAR process to
improving their performance and said that on the basis of issues identified
in earlier AARs, they had improved operations. For example, DOD
exercises helped determine and refine policy and procedures on the final
disposition of WMD devices. Policy issues on this topic were identified in
AARs going back to 1993. In the intervening years, DOD continued to
include this issue in its tabletop exercises. In 1996, a new policy was
incorporated into a formal contingency plan. The new policy was further
tested in tabletop exercises in 1997 and finally in field exercises in 1998.
While there are remaining issues to be resolved on the final disposition of a
WMD device, DOD officials were able to track their progress on this issue.
DOE reorganized its Nuclear Emergency Search Team on the basis of
lessons learned from a series of exercises. We were able to track the
evolution of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team through past evaluations
and AARs written by DOE.

Although the DOD and DOE lessons learned processes were good in
comparison to the other agencies we reviewed, we did note some
weaknesses in their processes. DOD and DOE did not write AARs for all of
the counterterrorism operations, special events, or exercises that they

Page 17                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                             participated in. Both DOD and DOE officials stated that emerging crises or
                             the tempo of operations did not always allow staff to write AARs. In
                             addition, dissemination of lessons learned were sometimes limited because
                             of security classifications. Finally, our prior report, which included a
                             broader and more detailed review of DOD’s lessons learned programs,
                             discussed weaknesses in the collection, analysis, dissemination, and
                             ultimate use of lessons learned.13

                             FEMA also had relatively sound lessons learned requirements and
                             processes as part of its Comprehensive Exercise Program for designing,
                             conducting, and evaluating exercises. For several years, FEMA had been
                             developing computer software to record lessons learned from exercises
                             and monitor corrective actions.14 FEMA produced AARs on the tabletop
                             exercises it led but not for exercises led by other agencies. Contractors
                             usually wrote AARs and FEMA officials reviewed and approved them.
                             FEMA disseminated its AARs both internally and externally. FEMA’s AARs
                             generally included interagency issues for those exercises that included
                             other agencies. For example, the AAR on FEMA’s June 1996 “Cirrus Wind”
                             exercise stressed the need for FEMA and FBI to work together to
                             understand their responsibilities for consequence and crisis management.

Other Agencies’ Lessons      Federal agencies other than DOD, DOE, and FEMA had less rigorous
Learned Processes Not Well   processes for capturing lessons learned and producing AARs. The other
                             agencies did not have a written policy that required that they produce AARs
                             or a formal process to capture lessons learned. The production of AARs by
                             some of these other agencies was sporadic, particularly for operations,
                             special events, and exercises led by other agencies. In addition, few of
                             these other agencies included discussions of interagency issues in their
                             AARs. Finally, the dissemination of AARs was limited at many agencies,
                             which minimized the benefits of lessons learned. These limitations make it
                             more difficult for the agencies to capture the strengths and weaknesses
                             shown in operations or exercises so they can continue or expand good
                             practices or take corrective actions when necessary to improve future
                             performance. Table 2 describes selected agencies’ processes for capturing
                             lessons learned and producing AARs.

                             13See Military Training: Potential to Use Lessons Learned to Avoid Past Mistakes is Largely Untapped
                             (GAO/NSIAD-95-152, Aug. 9, 1995). While the review examined DOD lessons learned processes, it did
                             not specifically focus on counterterrorist operations or exercises.

                               At the end of our review, FEMA officials told us they were testing software to implement this
                             corrective action program throughout the agency.

                             Page 18                                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

Table 2: Characteristics of Federal Agencies’ Processes to Capture Lessons Learned From Counterterrorist Operations, Special
Events, and Exercises
                 Agency policy and/or process to         Actual agency production of after            AAR discussion of interagency
Agency           capture lessons learned                 action reports                               issues and dissemination
DOD              Policy requires AARs; formal process Generally produces AARs for                     AARs generally discuss interagency
                 is Joint Universal Lessons Learned   operations, special events, and                 issues; AARs disseminated internally
                 System.                              exercises, including those led by               and sometimes externally.
                                                      other agencies.
DOE              Policy requires AARs; formal process Generally produces AARs for special AARs generally discuss interagency
                 is After Action Tracking System.     events and exercises, including those issues; AARs disseminated internally
                                                      led by other agencies.                and sometimes externally.
FEMA             Policy requires AARs; formal process Produces no AARs for special events; AARs generally discuss interagency
                 is Corrective Action Program.        produces AARs for FEMA exercises, issues; AARs disseminated internally
                                                      but not those led by other agencies. and sometimes externally.
ATF              No formal policy or process.            Produces AARs for some operations; AARs do not discuss interagency
                                                         produces no AARs for special events; issues; AARs disseminated internally.
                                                         produces AARs for ATF exercises, but
                                                         not those led by other agencies.
FBI              No formal policy or process.            Produces no AARs for operations or           AARs generally do not discuss
                                                         special events; generally produces           interagency issues; AARs
                                                         AARs for FBI field exercises but not         disseminated internally to
                                                         tabletop exercises or those led by           participating FBI offices, but not to
                                                         other agencies.                              FBI Headquarters or externally.
EPA              No formal policy or process.            Sometimes produces AARs for            AARs generally discuss interagency
                                                         special events and exercises,          issues; AARs disseminated internally,
                                                         including those led by other agencies. but not externally.
Secret Service   No formal policy or process.            Generally produces AARs for special          AARs generally do not discuss
                                                         events; produces no AARs for                 interagency issues; AARs not
                                                         exercises led by Secret Service or           disseminated internally or externally.
                                                         other agencies.
State            No formal policy or process.            Rarely produces AARs for operations Not applicable.
                                                         and exercises, even if led by State. AARs rarely done.
HHS              No formal policy or process.            Rarely produces AARs for operations          Not applicable.
                                                         or exercises, even if led by HHS.            AARs rarely done.
                                            Note: We did not include VA or CIA in this table because we did not conduct detailed reviews of their
                                            processes to capture lessons learned. Both agencies did write AARs for selected exercises.
                                            Source: Our analysis of agencies’ data.

                                            Many agencies did not produce AARs even in cases where they led an
                                            exercise. Agencies lead exercises because they have specific objectives to
                                            achieve, and one purpose of exercises is to capture lessons that might
                                            improve future operations. Nevertheless, we found many cases where
                                            agencies devoted their resources to develop exercise objectives and
                                            conduct an exercise, yet did not write AARs. For example, the FBI has
                                            sponsored the Weapons of Mass Destruction Interagency Support Exercise

                                            Page 19                                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

series, which includes numerous federal agencies and has the objective to
advance interagency coordination for terrorist attacks. However, FBI has
not produced AARs on any of the four tabletop exercises. Table 3 shows
whether agencies produced AARs for the exercises they led.

Table 3: Production of After Action Reports by Selected Federal Agencies for the
Counterterrorism Exercises They Led in the 3 Years Following PDD 39 (June 1995 to
June 1998).
                                                        Total exercises       AARs produced by
Agency                                                   led by agency             lead agency
DOD                                                                    97                 79 (81%)
Secret Service                                                         47                            0
FBI                                                                    22                 13 (59%)
FEMA                                                                   16                 14 (88%)
DOE                                                                     5                 5 (100%)
ATF                                                                     4                 4 (100%)
VA                                                                      4                   2 (50%)
HHS                                                                     3                            0
State                                                                   1                            0
EPA                                                                     1                 1 (100%)
Other                                                                   3                   1 (33%)
Note: Includes both tabletop and field exercises the agency led. The Secret Service noted that its
lessons learned are based on special events, not its exercise program. Other government agencies
include the Department of Transportation, U.S. Capitol Police, and 13 other agencies, offices or
Source: Our analysis of agencies’ data.

Many agencies also did not produce AARs when they participated in a field
exercise. Field exercises are very resource intensive because they require a
great deal of advance planning and because agency personnel and
equipment actually deploy to another location. Again, we found cases
where agencies led or otherwise participated in field exercises but did not
produce AARs. For example, in a recent DOD-sponsored field exercise,
FEMA developed specific objectives and tasks to be accomplished and sent
several staff to planning meetings and to the week-long exercise itself, yet
it did not produce an AAR. Table 4 shows the extent to which agencies
produced AARs for field exercises that they participated in.

Page 20                                                GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

Table 4: Production of After Action Reports by Selected Federal Agencies for
Counterterrorist Field Exercises That They Participated in for the 3 Years Following
PDD 39 (June 1995 to June 1998).
                                            Total field exercises          AARs produced for field
Agency                                    agency participated in              exercises by agency
DOD                                                                72                         38 (53%)
Secret Service                                                     52                                   0
FBI                                                                32                         18 (56%)
FEMA                                                               16                                   0
State                                                              15                            1 (7%)
DOE                                                                13                         10 (77%)
HHS                                                                13                           2 (15%)
ATF                                                                 9                           4 (44%)
VA                                                                  6                           2 (33%)
EPA                                                                 4                           1 (25%)
Other                                                              14                                   0
Note: Includes all field exercises, whether the agency led the exercise or not. Secret Service noted that
its lessons learned are based on special events, not its exercise program. Other government agencies
include the Department of Transportation, U.S. Capitol Police, and 13 other agencies, offices, or
Source: Our analysis of agencies’ data.

Officials from these agencies generally cited a lack of dedicated staff or the
tempo of ongoing operations or exercises as reasons they did not write
AARs or otherwise capture lessons learned. In our view, agencies that
devote the resources to lead exercises or to participate in other agencies’
field exercises should also devote the resources to writing AARs to capture
lessons learned. Some officials noted that they hold a “hotwash” (i.e., an
oral AAR discussion) after an exercise which, they said, served the purpose
of capturing lessons learned. Hotwashes are valuable because they are held
immediately after exercises; however, their value is limited to the
participants that attend. Written AARs, on the other hand, provide
accountability because they identify and document problems or issues and
can be used to track the progress of corrective action. By not producing
written AARs, agencies are forfeiting many of the benefits of participating
in exercises. In commenting on our classified report, several agencies cited
efforts underway to develop or improve processes for capturing lessons
learned at their individual agencies.

Page 21                                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

Interagency Lessons     The 1996 Nunn-Lugar hearings highlighted that, although some agencies
Learned Process Being   wrote AARs and made recommendations, there were recurrent interagency
                        problems because there was no central place where officials assembled
                        and analyzed AARs together to discuss interagency problems. During our
                        review, we also found no AAR or lessons learned process at the interagency
                        level. The Exercise Subgroup charter included the discussion of lessons
                        learned and AARs. While this interagency forum had been used to discuss
                        specific exercises, there was no process to review individual agency AARs
                        that raise interagency issues. For more than 2 years, the group has
                        discussed developing a formal interagency process and has looked
                        specifically at the processes being used by DOD and DOE. The State
                        Department has been a repository for various agencies’ AARs for
                        international exercises, but Department officials there said they lacked the
                        staff and standing to analyze them, separate out the interagency issues, and
                        prepare related evaluations or make recommendations. At the time of our
                        review, the FBI was in charge of developing an interagency AAR process,
                        but no decisions had been made. In commenting on our classified report,
                        several agencies noted that the Exercise Subgroup had recently adopted an
                        interagency AAR process and was starting to implement it.

Conclusions             During the last 3 years, federal agencies have worked together in many
                        operations and special events and have generally coordinated their
                        activities. However, issues of interagency guidance and command and
                        control remain that need to be addressed to enhance the federal
                        government’s ability to effectively respond to terrorist incidents. Federal
                        agencies have participated in many interagency counterterrorism exercises
                        in the last 3 years. However, an interagency exercise program, as directed
                        in PDD 39, has not been fully achieved, so exercises have not generally
                        practiced key transfers of authority among responding federal agencies.
                        International field exercises, generally led by DOD, include the full cadre of
                        interagency players in demanding scenarios and some are done with no
                        notice. In contrast, domestic counterterrorism exercises are not as
                        demanding in testing the interagency ability to respond. The FBI’s crisis
                        management field exercises have provided good practice for its tactical
                        response units but have generally not exercised the Bureau’s interagency
                        leadership role and rapid deployments for no-warning terrorist attacks.
                        FEMA’s consequence management exercises have been limited to tabletop
                        exercises that do not fully test the federal government’s ability to provide a
                        rapid interagency response in a realistic exercise environment. Although
                        agencies can benefit most from counterterrorism exercises if they produce

                        Page 22                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

                  AARs and have a process to capture lessons learned, most of the agencies
                  that we reviewed did not do so. Although counterterrorism is inherently an
                  interagency response, there was also no interagency process to capture
                  lessons learned. At the close of our review, agencies said they were
                  adopting several measures to address these issues at both the agency and
                  interagency level.

Recommendations   This report makes no recommendations. However, in our classified report,
                  we made several recommendations to enhance interagency guidance,
                  command and control, exercises, and processes to capture and share
                  lessons learned. DOD classified these recommendations as a result of its
                  security review of our classified report.

Agency Comments   We received written comments on our classified report from 15 agencies,
                  including the Departments of Justice, State, Treasury; DOD, DOE, HHS, VA;
                  and FEMA, EPA, CIA, NRC, ATF, the Secret Service, U.S. Customs Service,
                  and Internal Revenue Service. The National Security Council declined to
                  provide official comments on the report. Many of the agencies concurred
                  or partially concurred with the report and our recommendations and cited
                  recent steps taken to implement them. For example, DOE stated that our
                  report was an accurate assessment of both the progress and the lingering
                  shortfalls within the interagency counterterrorist community. NRC stated
                  that our recommendations will provide a blueprint for resolving many of
                  the interagency difficulties outlined in the report. Other agencies did not
                  concur with parts of our report and provided additional information about
                  their programs or cited improvements underway. For example, the
                  Department of Justice cited progress in interagency guidance, command
                  and control relationships, exercise programs, and processes to capture
                  lessons learned. We did not reproduce agency comments in this report due
                  to security classification reasons. However, we incorporated their
                  unclassified comments in this report as appropriate.

Scope and         We focused our examination on counterterrorist activities in the 3-year
                  period following the issuance of PDD 39 in June 1995. We obtained
Methodology       documents and interviewed officials at the Departments of Justice, State,
                  Treasury (including the Secret Service and ATF), DOD, DOE, HHS, VA, CIA,
                  EPA, FEMA, NRC, and the U.S. Capitol Police. We also obtained
                  information on matters pertaining to intergovernmental counterterrorist

                  Page 23                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

operations (e.g., those involving federal, state, and local entities) from state
and local officials and selected federal field offices in the course of our
related work on DOD’s Domestic Preparedness Program.

We compiled a list of 230 counterterrorism activities that included
operations, special events, and exercises that were conducted from June
1995 to June 1998. In some cases, we discussed counterterrorist activities
before and after that period, but we did not include them in the statistics
we compiled and analyzed. We did not review covert activities or law
enforcement cases (e.g., criminal investigations and arrests of terrorists)
except in the cases of overseas arrests, which are interagency operations.
We also did not include aircraft hijackings or related exercises, where the
Federal Aviation Administration is generally the lead federal agency. To
ensure the accuracy of our list of activities, appropriate federal agencies
reviewed it for completeness and accuracy. We also examined policy
guidelines, contingency plans, AARs, and other documents from actual
operations, special events, and exercises. Further, we attended and
observed interagency meetings, planning sessions, and exercises.

We performed our work in accordance with generally accepted government
auditing standards between November 1997 and September 1998.

As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until
30 days after its issue date. At that time we will send copies to appropriate
congressional committees, the federal agencies discussed in this report,
and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. We also will
make copies available to other interested parties upon request.

If you have any questions about this report, please contact Mark Gebicke,
Director for National Security Preparedness Issues, at (202) 512-5140.
Other major contributors to this report were Davi M. D’Agostino,
Stephen L. Caldwell, Alan M. Byroade, Lee Purdy, and Raymond J. Wyrsch.

Henry L. Hinton, Jr.
Assistant Comptroller General

Page 24                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism

Page 25    GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism
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International Challenges (GAO/RCED-94-38, Jan. 27, 1994).

Nuclear Security: Improving Correction of Security Deficiencies at DOE’s
Weapons Facilities (GAO/RCED-93-10, Nov. 16, 1992).

Nuclear Security: Weak Internal Controls Hamper Oversight of DOE’s
Security Program (GAO/RCED-92-146, June 29, 1992).

Page 27                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism
                          Related GAO Products

                          Electricity Supply: Efforts Underway to Improve Federal Electrical
                          Disruption Preparedness (GAO/RCED-92-125, Apr. 20, 1992).

                          State Department: Management Weaknesses in the Security Construction
                          Program (GAO/NSIAD-92-2, Nov. 29, 1991).

                          Chemical Weapons: Physical Security for the U.S. Chemical Stockpile
                          (GAO/NSIAD-91-200, May 15, 1991).

                          State Department: Status of the Diplomatic Security Construction Program
                          (GAO/NSIAD-91-143BR, Feb. 20, 1991).

(701124/701163)   Leter   Page 28                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-135 Combating Terrorism
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