3 Ocotber 1998: See also Health and Human Services testimony
3 October 1998
See related FBI comments: http://jya.com/fbi-barr.htm
02 October 1998
(Bureau may take over lead role in domestic preparedness) (580) By Ralph Dannheisser USIA Congressional Correspondent Washington -- The number of credible terrorist threats and incidents in the United States has climbed significantly this year, the chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterterrorism planning section says. Robert Blitzer told the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee October 2 that, through September, the FBI had opened more than 86 investigations into the threatened or actual use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials. That compares, for example, with 68 such investigations undertaken in all of 1997, Blitzer reported. The FBI official said that few of the threats came from state sponsors of terrorism abroad, who have generally chosen to hit the "softer targets" of U.S. citizens abroad in embassies, businesses, and military installations. But at the same time, he said, the FBI believes that the domestic threat that international terrorists do pose "will continue for the foreseeable future." Blitzer, along with almost a dozen other government and private witnesses, testified as the subcommittee looked into the effectiveness of a program, now run by the Department of Defense, to prepare local government authorities for a terrorist incident involving a weapon of mass destruction. The program, called the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Plan after the three prime Senate sponsors of the legislation that set it up, designates the Army to coordinate training of firefighters and other so-called "first responders" in the event of a terrorist incident involving a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon. Some 120 cities are targeted to receive training and, on average, $300,000 worth of equipment, to respond to such an attack. Opening the hearing, Representative Mark Souder (Republican, Indiana) expressed concerns over such matters as "the criteria for determining which cities receive federal aid, the apparent duplication in training and equipment loans, the sustainment of training and equipment, and the lack of valid threat and risk assessments." Souder, vice chairman of the subcommittee, declared his "biggest concern is that the bureaucracy currently in place to respond to a terrorist incident may cause as much confusion and chaos as the attack itself." A witness representing the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative accounting arm of Congress, alluded to a similar concern on the part of some local officials. The comments by Richard Davis, director of GAO's National Security Analysis, National Security and International Affairs Division, appeared to preview a full report on the issue that he said the GAO will issue "within the next few weeks." Davis said some of the local officials see evidence of "a fragmented and possibly wasteful federal approach toward combating terrorism." But he cited recent consideration by the agencies involved, under a National Security Council initiative, of transferring lead responsibility for the domestic preparedness program from the Defense Department to the Department of Justice. Plans for such a transfer were confirmed by Michael Dalich, chief of staff with the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs. Dalich said Justice had reached an agreement in principle with the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Security Council to take over coordination of domestic preparedness efforts, "with the FBI in the lead." "We believe that this action...will resolve many of the problems of potential overlap and lack of coordination" identified in the soon-to-be-released GAO report, he said.
[Congressional Record: October 2, 1998 (Digest)] [Page D1088-D1091] From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:cr02oc98-2] House of Representatives COMBATING TERRORISM Committee on Government Reform and Oversight: Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice held a hearing on Combating Terrorism: The Status of the Defense Department Domestic Preparedness Program. Testimony was heard from the following officials of the National Security and International Affairs Division, GAO: Richard Davis, Director, National Security Analysis; and Davi D'Agostino, Assistant Director, National Security Analysis; the following officials of the Department of Justice: Robert M. Blitzer, Section Chief, Domestic Terrorism/Counterterrorism Planning Section, National Security Division, FBI; and Michael J. Dalich, Chief of Staff, Office of Justice Programs; the following officials of the Department of Defense: Charles L. Cragin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Reserve Affairs; and James Q. Roberts, Principal Director, Policy and Missions, Office of the Assistant Secretary, Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; and Robert Knouss, Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness, Department of Health and Human Services.