Statement of Rep. Christopher Shays
May 26, 1999
Preparing to meet the threat of a terrorist attack here at home, local public safety and health care officials today face a confusing array of federal programs and agencies offering expertise, training and equipment.
In 1995, the president designated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead federal agency for consequence management, the measures needed to protect life, restore essential services and provide emergency relief, after a terrorism event involving conventional, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), part of the Department of Justice (DoJ), was directed to lead crisis management, the measures needed to prevent or punish acts of terrorism.
In 1996, Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide consequence management training and equipment to cities through what is now known as the Domestic Preparedness Program, while also authorizing FEMA and DoJ to enhance the response capabilities of local police and fire departments.
So the proposed transfer of the Domestic Preparedness Program from the Department of Defense to the Department of Justice offers the promise of "one stop shopping" for state and local first responders, but raises key questions that should be addressed before an act of terrorism puts that promise to the test.
The central question: Does the consolidation of domestic preparedness programs in DoJ ignore the clear, necessary distinction between crisis management and consequence management reflected in the presidents original lead agency designations? Will FEMA be able to assert a primary role in consequence management once the bulk of federal training and equipment funds are coming from Justice? How will DoJ resolve inevitable conflicts between the law enforcement imperative to maintain the integrity of a crime scene, and the equally compelling need to mitigate consequences by evacuating and decontaminating the same area, when they are responsible for both?
These are not abstract policy questions. When, not if, terrorists strike within our borders again, federal support will be indispensable to an effective local response. Unless that federal effort is properly structured and targeted, local planning may be inadequate, local preparations may be haphazard, and critical assets may be misallocated.
More than 40 national departments and agencies have responsibilities in the fight against domestic terrorism. Unless their roles are thoughtfully sorted out now, uncoordinated federal assistance could, like the Keystone Cops of silent films, only serve to confuse and confound local response operations.
Our witnesses today represent the key departments and agencies involved in the proposed consolidation and transfer of domestic preparedness activities: DoJ, DoD and FEMA. We appreciate their testimony today, and look forward to their continued cooperation in the Subcommittees oversight of federal anti- and counter-terrorism programs.