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Combating Terrorism: Observations on Crosscutting Issues (Testimony, 04/23/98, GAO/T-NSIAD-98-164).

GAO discussed its work and observations on federal efforts to combat
terrorism, focusing on the: (1) foreign-origin and domestic terrorism
threat in the United States; and (2) origins and principles of the U.S.
policy and strategy to combat terrorism.

GAO noted that: (1) conventional explosives and firearms continue to be
the weapons of choice for terrorists; (2) terrorists are less likely to
use chemical and biological weapons than conventional explosives,
although the likelihood that they may use chemical and biological
materials may increase over the next decade, according to intelligence
agencies; (3) more than a decade ago, the Vice President's Task Force on
Terrorism highlighted the need for improved, centralized interagency
coordination; (4) GAO's work suggests that the government should
continue to strive for improved interagency coordination today; (5) the
need for effective interagency coordination--both at the federal level
and among the federal, state, and local levels--is paramount; (6) the
challenges of efficient and effective management and focus for program
investments are growing as the terrorism issue draws more attention from
Congress and as there are more players and more programs and activities
to integrate and coordinate; (7) the United States is spending billions
of dollars annually to combat terrorism without assurance that federal
funds are focused on the right programs or in the right amounts; (8) as
GAO has emphasized in two reports, a critical piece of the equation in
decisions about establishing and expanding programs to combat terrorism
is an analytically sound threat and risk assessment using valid inputs
from the intelligence community and other agencies; (9) threat and risk
assessments could help the government make decisions about: (a) how to
target investments in combating terrorism and set priorities on the
basis of risk; (b) unnecessary program duplication, overlap, and gaps;
and (c) correctly sizing individual agencies' levels of effort; and (10)
finally, there are different sets of views and an apparent lack of
consensus on the threat of terrorism--particularly weapons of mass
destruction terrorism.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  T-NSIAD-98-164
     TITLE:  Combating Terrorism: Observations on Crosscutting Issues
      DATE:  04/23/98
   SUBJECT:  Terrorism
             Crime prevention
             Law enforcement information systems
             Explosives
             Intergovernmental relations
             National defense operations
             Emergency preparedness
             Firearms
             Domestic intelligence

             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Before the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs
and Criminal Justice, Committee on Government Reform and Oversight,
House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
1:00 p.m., EDT
Thursday,
April 23, 1998

COMBATING TERRORISM - OBSERVATIONS
ON CROSSCUTTING ISSUES

Statement of Richard Davis, Director, National Security Analysis,
National Security and International Affairs Division

GAO/T-NSIAD-98-164

GAO/NSIAD-98-164T

Combating Terrorism

(701141)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
  PDD - Presidential Decision Directive
  RAID - Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection
  OMB - Office of Management and Budget
  WMD - weapons of mass destruction

============================================================ Chapter 0

Mr.  Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

We are pleased to be here today to discuss our work and observations
on federal efforts to combat terrorism.  As you know, we have been
studying the crosscutting aspects of the terrorism area for nearly 2
years at the requests of Congressman Ike Skelton and Senator John
Glenn, in addition to this Subcommittee.  This horizontal approach to
our work--looking at terrorism matters across several
agencies--offers a very different perspective on the issues to the
Congress than if we looked at individual agencies and their programs
separately.  We will first briefly talk about the foreign-origin and
domestic terrorism threat in the United States as we understand it
from intelligence analyses and the origins and principles of the U.S. 
policy and strategy to combat terrorism.  Then I would like to share
some of our observations about issues that warrant further attention. 


   SUMMARY
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:1

Conventional explosives and firearms continue to be the weapons of
choice for terrorists.  Terrorists are less likely to use chemical
and biological weapons than conventional explosives, although the
likelihood that they may use chemical and biological materials may
increase over the next decade, according to intelligence agencies. 
More than a decade ago, the Vice President's Task Force on Terrorism
highlighted the need for improved, centralized interagency
coordination.  Our work suggests that the government should continue
to strive for improved interagency coordination today.  The need for
effective interagency coordination--both at the federal level and
among the federal, state, and local levels--is paramount.  The
challenges of efficient and effective management and focus for
program investments are growing as the terrorism issue draws more
attention from the Congress and as there are more players and more
programs and activities to integrate and coordinate.  The United
States is spending billions of dollars annually to combat terrorism
without assurance that federal funds are focused on the right
programs or in the right amounts.  As we have emphasized in two
reports, a critical piece of the equation in decisions about
establishing and expanding programs to combat terrorism is an
analytically sound threat and risk assessment using valid inputs from
the intelligence community and other agencies.  Threat and risk
assessments could help the government make decisions about how to
target investments in combating terrorism and set priorities on the
basis of risk; identify unnecessary program duplication, overlap, and
gaps; and correctly size individual agencies' levels of effort. 
Finally, there are different sets of views and an apparent lack of
consensus on the threat of terrorism--particularly weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) terrorism. 


   THE FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC
   TERRORISM THREAT IN THE UNITED
   STATES
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:2

We are all aware that certain key large-scale terrorist incidents at
home and abroad since 1993 have dramatically raised the public
profile of U.S.  vulnerability to terrorist attack.  The bombings of
the World Trade Center in 1993 and of the federal building in
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1995, along with terrorists' use of a
nerve agent in the Tokyo subway in 1995, have elevated concerns about
terrorism in the United States--particularly terrorists' use of
chemical and biological weapons.  Previously, the focus of U.S. 
policy and legislation had been more on international terrorism
abroad and airline hijacking. 

The U.S.  intelligence community, which includes the Central
Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI), and others, has issued classified National
Intelligence Estimates and an update on the foreign-origin terrorist
threat to the United States.  In addition, the FBI gathers
intelligence and assesses the threat posed by U.S.  or domestic
sources of terrorism. 

What is important to take away from these intelligence assessments is
the very critical distinction made between what is conceivable or
possible and what is likely in terms of the threat of terrorist
attack.  According to intelligence agencies, conventional explosives
and firearms continue to be the weapons of choice for terrorists. 
Terrorists are less likely to use chemical and biological weapons
than conventional explosives, although the likelihood that terrorists
may use chemical and biological materials may increase over the next
decade.  Chemical and biological agents are less likely to be used
than conventional explosives, at least partly because they are more
difficult to weaponize and the results are unpredictable.  According
to the FBI, the threat of terrorists' use of chemical and biological
weapons is low, but some groups and individuals of concern are
beginning to show interest in such weapons.  Agency officials also
have noted that terrorists' use of nuclear weapons is the least
likely scenario, although the consequences could be disastrous. 

The FBI will soon issue its report on domestic terrorist incidents
and preventions for 1996.  According to the FBI, in 1996, there were
3 terrorist incidents in the United States, as compared with 1 in
1995; zero in 1994; 12 in 1993; and 4 in 1992.  The three incidents
that occurred in 1996 involved pipe bombs, including the pipe bomb
that exploded at the Atlanta Olympics. 


   ORIGINS AND PRINCIPLES OF U.S. 
   POLICY AND STRATEGY TO COMBAT
   TERRORISM
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3

U.S.  policy and strategy have evolved since the 1970s, along with
the nature and perception of the terrorist threat.  The basic
principles of the policy continue, though, from the 1970s to today: 
make no concessions to terrorists, pressure state sponsors of
terrorism, and apply the rule of law to terrorists as criminals. 
U.S.  policy on terrorism first became formalized in 1986 with the
Reagan administration's issuance of National Security Decision
Directive 207.  This policy resulted from the findings of the 1985
Vice President's Task Force on Terrorism, which highlighted the need
for improved, centralized interagency coordination of the significant
federal assets to respond to terrorist incidents.  The directive
reaffirmed lead agency responsibilities, with the State Department
responsible for international terrorism policy, procedures, and
programs, and the FBI, through the Department of Justice, responsible
for dealing with domestic terrorist acts. 

Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 39--issued in June 1995
following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma
City--builds on the previous directive and contains three key
elements of national strategy for combating terrorism:  (1) reduce
vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks and prevent and deter terrorist
acts before they occur; (2) respond to terrorist acts that do
occur--crisis management--and apprehend and punish terrorists; and
(3) manage the consequences of terrorist acts, including restoring
capabilities to protect public health and safety and essential
government services and providing emergency relief.  This directive
also further elaborates on agencies' roles and responsibilities and
some specific measures to be taken regarding each element of the
strategy. 

Now a new PDD on combating terrorism is being drafted that could
further refine and advance the policy.  This draft directive, which
is classified, reflects a recognition of the need for centralized
interagency leadership in combating terrorism.  Among other things,
the draft policy tries to resolve jurisdictional issues between
agencies and places new emphasis on managing the consequences of a
terrorist incident and on the roles and responsibilities of the
various agencies involved. 


   OBSERVATIONS ON CROSSCUTTING
   TERRORISM ISSUES
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4

Based on the reports and work we have performed to date, we would
like to make three observations.  First, in certain critical areas,
just as the Vice President's Task Force on Terrorism noted in 1985,
improvements are needed in interagency coordination and program
focus.  Since that time--and even since PDD-39 was issued in June
1995--the number of players involved in combating terrorism has
increased substantially.  In our September 1997 report,\1 we noted
that more than 40 federal agencies, bureaus, and offices were
involved in combating terrorism.  To illustrate the expansion of
players since PDD-39, for example, Department of Agriculture
representatives now attend counterterrorism crisis response exercise
planning functions.  Also, to implement the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici
Domestic Preparedness Program,\2 the U.S.  Army's Director of
Military Support has created a new office for the new mission to
train U.S.  cities' emergency response personnel to deal with
terrorist incidents using chemical and biological WMD and plans to
create another office to integrate another new player--the National
Guard and Reserve--into the terrorism consequence management area. 
The National Guard and Reserve initially plan to establish 10 Rapid
Assessment and Initial Detection (RAID), teams throughout the
country.  The U.S.  Marine Corps has established the Chemical
Biological Incident Response Force.  Further, the Department of
Energy has redesigned its long-standing Nuclear Emergency Search Team
into various Joint Technical Operations Teams and other teams.  At
least one Department of Energy laboratory is offering consequence
management services for chemical and biological as well as nuclear
incidents.  And the Public Health Service is in the process of
establishing 25 Metropolitan Medical Strike Teams throughout the
country in addition to 3 deployable "national asset" National Medical
Response Teams and existing Disaster Medical Assistance Teams.  There
are many more examples of new players in the terrorism arena. 

Effectively coordinating all these various agencies', teams', and
offices' requirements, programs, activities, and funding requests is
clearly important.  We are currently examining interagency
coordination issues as part of our work for this Subcommittee and
Congressman Skelton in counterterrorism operations, exercises, and
special events and in the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness
Program.  In doing our work, we have observed some indications of
potential overlap in federal capabilities to deal with WMD, and we
plan to further assess this issue for you and Congressman Skelton. 

In a second, related observation, more money is being spent to combat
terrorism without any assurance of whether it is focused on the right
programs or in the right amounts.  Our December 1997 report\3 showed
that seven key federal agencies spent more than an estimated $6.5
billion in fiscal year 1997 on federal efforts to combat terrorism,
excluding classified programs and activities.  Some key agencies'
spending on terrorism-related programs has increased dramatically. 
For example, between fiscal
year 1995 and 1997, FBI terrorism-related funding and staff-level
authorizations tripled, and Federal Aviation Administration spending
to combat terrorism tripled. 

We also reported that key interagency management functions were not
clearly required or performed.  For example, neither the National
Security Council nor the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was
required to regularly collect, aggregate, and review funding and
spending data relative to combating terrorism on a crosscutting,
governmentwide basis.  Further, neither agency had established
funding priorities for terrorism-related programs within or across
agencies' individual budgets or ensured that individual agencies'
stated requirements had been validated against threat and risk
criteria before budget requests were submitted to the Congress. 

Because governmentwide priorities have not been established and
funding requirements have not necessarily been validated based on an
analytically sound assessment of the threat and risk of terrorist
attack, there is no basis to have a reasonable assurance that funds
are being spent on the right programs in the right amounts and that
unnecessary program and funding duplication, overlap, misallocation,
fragmentation, and gaps have not occurred.\4

In part, as a result of our work, the National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 1998 (P.L.  105-85, Nov.  18, 1997) requires OMB
to establish a reporting system for executive agencies on the
budgeting and expenditure of funds for programs and activities to
combat terrorism.  OMB is also to collect the information and the
President is to report the results to the Congress annually,
including information on the programs and activities, priorities, and
duplication of efforts in implementing the programs.  OMB recently
issued its first report to the Congress on enacted and requested
terrorism-related funding for fiscal years 1998 and 1999,
respectively.  OMB reported that more than 17 agencies' classified
and unclassified programs were authorized $6.5 billion for fiscal
year 1998, and $6.7 billion was requested for fiscal year 1999. 
OMB's figures are lower than ours were for fiscal year 1997, but
different definitions and interpretations of how to attribute
terrorism-related spending in broader accounts could cause a
difference of billions of dollars.  What is important about the OMB
effort is that it is a first step in the right direction toward
improved management and coordination of this growing program area. 
But this crosscutting, or functional, view of U.S.  investments in
combating terrorism, by itself, does not tell the Congress or the
executive branch whether or not the federal government is spending
the right amounts in the right areas. 

Many challenges are ahead as we continue to see the need for (1)
governmentwide priorities to be set; (2) agencies' programs,
activities, and requirements to be analyzed in relation to those
priorities; and (3) resources to be allocated based on the
established priorities and assessments of the threat and risk of
terrorist attack.  As an example of my last point, if an agency
spends $20 million without a risk assessment on a security system for
terrorism purposes at a federal building, and the risk of an attack
is extremely low, the agency may have misspent the $20 million, which
could have been allocated to higher risk items. 

Additionally, we see opportunities in the future to apply Government
Performance and Results Act of 1993 principles to the crosscutting
programs and activities intended to combat terrorism.  The act
requires each executive branch agency to define its mission and
desired outcomes, measure performance, and use performance
information to ensure that programs meet intended goals.  The act's
emphasis on results implies that federal programs contributing to the
same or similar outcomes should be closely coordinated to ensure that
goals are consistent and program efforts are mutually reinforcing. 

In response to a separate requirement from the fiscal year 1998
Appropriations conference report (House Report 105-405), the
Department of Justice is drafting a 5-year interdepartmental
counterterrorism and technology crime plan.  The plan, due to be
completed by December 31, 1998, is to identify critical technologies
for targeted research and development efforts and outline strategies
for a number of terrorism-related issues.  In developing the plan,
Justice is to consult with the Departments of Defense, State, and the
Treasury; the FBI; the Central Intelligence Agency; and academic,
private sector, and state and local law enforcement experts.  While
Justice's efforts to develop an interagency counterterrorism and
technology crime plan are commendable, this plan does not appear to
have been integrated into the agencywide Government Performance and
Results Act planning system.  Justice's 1999 annual performance plan
contains a section on reducing espionage and terrorism, and it does
not mention the 5-year plan or how it plans to coordinate its
counterterrorism activities with other agencies and assess inputs,
outputs, and outcomes.  Justice has recognized that it needs to
continue to focus on developing and improving crosscutting goals and
indicators. 

Our third observation is that there are different sets of views and
an apparent lack of consensus on the threat of
terrorism--particularly WMD terrorism.  In our opinion, some
fundamental questions should be answered before the federal
government builds and expands programs, plans, and strategies to deal
with the threat of WMD terrorism:  How easy or difficult is it for
terrorists (rather than state actors) to successfully use chemical or
biological WMDs in an attack causing mass casualties?  And if it is
easy to produce and disperse chemical and biological agents, why have
there been no WMD terrorist attacks before or since the Tokyo subway
incident?  What chemical and biological agents does the government
really need to be concerned about?  We have not yet seen a thorough
assessment or analysis of these questions.  It seems to us that,
without such an assessment or analysis and consensus in the
policy-making community, it would be very difficult--maybe
impossible--to properly shape programs and focus resources. 

Statements in testimony before the Congress and in the open press by
intelligence and scientific community officials on the issue of
making and delivering a terrorist WMD sometimes contrast sharply.  On
the one hand, some statements suggest that developing a WMD can be
relatively easy.  For example, in 1996, the Central Intelligence
Agency Director testified that chemical and biological weapons can be
produced with relative ease in simple laboratories, and in 1997, the
Central Intelligence Agency Director said that "delivery and
dispersal techniques also are effective and relatively easy to
develop." One article by former senior intelligence and defense
officials noted that chemical and biological agents can be produced
by graduate students or laboratory technicians and that general
recipes are readily available on the internet.  On the other hand,
some statements suggest that there are considerable difficulties
associated with successfully developing and delivering a WMD.  For
example, the Deputy Commander of the Army's Medical Research and
Materiel Command testified in 1998 about the difficulties of using
WMDs, noting that "an effective, mass-casualty producing attack on
our citizens would require either a fairly large, very technically
competent, well-funded terrorist program or state sponsorship."
Moreover, in 1996, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
testified that the agency had no conclusive information that any of
the terrorist organizations it monitors were developing chemical,
biological, or radiological weapons and that there was no conclusive
information that any state sponsor had the intention to provide these
weapons to terrorists.  In 1997, the Central Intelligence Agency
Director testified that while advanced and exotic weapons are
increasingly available, their employment is likely to remain minimal,
as terrorist groups concentrate on peripheral technologies such as
sophisticated conventional weapons. 


--------------------
\1 Combating Terrorism:  Federal Agencies' Efforts to Implement
National Policy and Strategy (GAO/NSIAD-97-254, Sept.  26, 1997). 

\2 The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, contained in
the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 (title
XIV of P.L.  104-201, Sept.  23, 1996), established the
Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program.  The Department of
Defense is the lead federal agency for implementing the program, and
is to work in cooperation with the FBI, the Department of Energy, the
Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human
Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

\3 Combating Terrorism:  Spending on Governmentwide Programs Requires
Better Management and Coordination (GAO/NSIAD-98-39, Dec.  1, 1997). 

\4 For further discussion of threat and risk assessment approaches
and models, see Combating Terrorism:  Threat and Risk Assessments Can
Help Prioritize and Target Program Investments (GAO/NSIAD-98-74, Apr. 
9, 1998). 


-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.1

Mr.  Chairman, that concludes our prepared statement.  we would be
happy to answer any questions at this time. 

*** End of document. ***