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STATEMENT OF RAYMOND DECKER, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE CAPABILITIES AND MANAGEMENT TEAM, U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, ACCOMPANIED BY STEPHEN L. CALDWELL, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
Mr. DECKER. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to participate in this important hearing on national strategies relating to combating terrorism.
More than 2 years ago, in July 2000, GAO testified before this subcommittee on "Combating Terrorism: The Need for a Strategy." We had just completed our initial review of the Attorney General's Five Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan, the closest document to a national strategy at that time, and commented on its weaknesses. We stated at that time, there should be only one national strategy to combat terrorism. We indicated that additional planning guidance providing more detailed information for specific functions should be integrated under this one overarching national strategy in a clear hierarchy.
At that time, Mr. Chairman, you were sponsoring a bill to establish an office that would, among other duties, coordinate a single integrated strategy.
A lot has happened since then. My testimony today is based upon GAO's comprehensive body of work in the area of combating terrorism over the past 6 years at the request of this subcommittee and others. In our past work, we have stressed the importance of a national strategy to combat terrorism which should serve as a foundation for defining what needs to be accomplished, identifying approaches to achieve desired outcomes, and determining how well the goals are being met. It should not only define the roles and missions of the Federal Government and agencies, but also those of State and local government, the private sector and international community. Finally, a national strategy must incorporate sound management principles promoting information sharing and coordination in order to guide effective implementation.
Sir, I'll focus my comments on two areas, the current national strategies and their implementation.
During the last year or so, the administration has developed several new national strategies relating to combating terrorism. This constellation of strategies generally replaces the 1998 Attorney General's Five Year Plan I mentioned earlier. We have identified at least 10 national strategies relating to terrorism; 9 of the 10 are approximately 14 months or younger; 3 are less than a month old. As you can see from the chart on my right, which is also on page 11 of the written statement, we have attempted to portray the complex relationships among these various strategies based on our review of the strategies and discussions with executive branch officials. Please note that the National Drug Control Strategy isn't shown on the chart since its relationship with combating terrorism is mentioned in only one or two areas within that strategy. Also, we are unaware of any national intelligence strategy to combat terrorism tailored to support all of the strategies, although we recognize intelligence and related activities as crucial for their success.
Overall, the strategies do generally form a national framework for combating terrorism. Collectively they provide goals and objectives on broad issues of national security and how combating terrorism and homeland security fit into that larger realm. In addition, they offer more detailed goals and objectives in specific functional areas to include military operations, weapons of mass destruction, money laundering, cyber security, and the protection of physical infrastructure. Although we have not fully evaluated whether the framework these strategies form is cohesive and comprehensive, there are some positive indications. The strategies are organized in a general hierarchy; some share themes, and some explicitly refer to the other strategies. They are more comprehensive in breadth, coverage, and actions needed to combat terrorism than the Attorney General's Five Year Plan. And consistent with our earlier recommendations, the strategies include not just the Federal, but State, local, private, and international partners.
Since the administration has not adopted a single overarching national strategy to combat terrorism and has stated that the National Security and the National Homeland Security Strategy are mutually supporting documents, it's difficult to ascertain the real hierarchy within its framework that may complicate implementation plans. For example, since different Federal agencies have a role in many of these strategies, some confusion in setting priorities and developing coordination mechanisms may exist without a clear understanding of how the strategies are integrated within a tiered framework.
Therefore, we believe that a better defined hierarchy among the various strategies is needed. One approach that better explains the precedence and the interrelationships of the strategies might be with a basic pyramid configuration. Although some blocks might be of different shape and size, a pyramid depiction is somewhat easier to understand for all participants.
For example, might the National Security Strategy of the United States occupy the top-most position on the pyramid and perhaps the National Homeland Security Strategy and National Strategy to Combat Terrorism sharing a tier below.
Mr. Chairman, allow me to briefly comment on implementation. These national strategies, individually or collectively, no matter how well crafted, will not prevent terrorism. However, these documents when implemented through intergovernmental, interagency, and international programs that are seamlessly integrated, effectively coordinated, appropriately resourced, and smartly led will make the difference in the war on terrorism. While these strategies must direct and guide programs, it should be noted that the strategies reflect a host of preexisting initiatives that must be reviewed to ensure proper focus and alignment with newly established goals, objectives, and actions. A critical element for successful implementation is the need for clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all players. If the Federal, State, local, private, and international participants have a thorough understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of all involved, then coordination through established mechanisms is greatly facilitated. Finally, leaders at all levels must ensure that the implementation process is effectively and efficiently carried out to achieve goals and objectives within
the time line set. Using essential tools like risk management to guide decisionmaking and performance indicators to gauge progress, leaders will be better able to focus attention and adjust resources to move closer to goals and end states.
Due to the serious consequences of failure, GAO has designated the implementation of homeland security as a high-risk Federal area. This is a product that clearly delineates that challenge. Sir, the leadership challenge is daunting but not impossible.
In closing, we believe the framework formed by these strategies, if effectively implemented with the full involvement and commitment of all partners, will result in significant progress toward our stated goals on the war on terrorism. Congress will play an increasingly important role in addressing the challenges facing this process. In addition to recently passed legislation, reorganizing the Federal Government to combat terrorism, and the appropriation of significant funds to support the war on terrorism, Congress will need to provide keen oversight through hearings like today to ensure all programs are well designed, developed, and executed to accomplish the national goals. Our success on terrorism depends on the leadership and actions of the Federal Government and its domestic and international partners.
Sir, this concludes my prepared statement and I will be pleased to respond to any questions.
Mr. SHAYS. Thank you very much, Mr. Decker.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to participate in this hearing on national strategies related to combating terrorism. More than 2 years ago, in July 2000, GAO testified before this subcommittee on this very topic and cited concerns over a potential proliferation of overarching national strategies.' At that time, we stated that there should be only one national strategy to combat terrorism. We added that additional planning guidance (e.g., at more detailed levels for specific functions) should fall under the one national strategy in a clear hierarchy. My testimony today is based upon GAO's body of work for this and other committees and subcommittees conducted over the past 6 years-much of it related to national strategies and their implementation. At the end of my statement is a list of related GAO products.
Over the last year or so, the administration developed and published several new 'national strategies related to combating terrorism. This constellation of strategies generally replaces a single strategy issued in December 1998—the Attorney General's Five-Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan-that focused on federal efforts. To date, we have identified 10 other national strategies related to terrorism:
National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002.
• National Strategy for Homeland Security, July 2002.
· National Military Strategy of the United States of America, September 1997.
· National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism, October 2002.
National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, December 2002.
· National Money Laundering Strategy, July 2002.
· National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, February 2003.
· National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, February 2003.
· National Drug Control Strategy, February 2002.
In my statement today, after providing some background on the strategies, I will discuss the questions raised in your letter inviting GAO to testify. I have divided the five hearing questions into two major topics. The first major topic addresses whether the new national strategies form a framework that is cohesive and comprehensive. The second major topic addresses whether the strategies will facilitate implementation of programs that are strategy-driven, integrated, and effective. Both topics present difficult questions to answer definitively at this point. The strategies by themselves, no matter how cohesive and comprehensive, will not ensure a strategy-driven, integrated, and effective set of programs to combat terrorism. The ultimate value of these strategies will be in their implementation. Also related to implementation, 9 of the 10 strategies are less than 14 months old, and 3 are less than 1 month old. Notwithstanding these limitations, I will provide GAO's observations to date on these strategies.
'U.S. General Accounting Office, Combating Terrorism: Linking Threats to Strategies and Resources GAO/T-NSIAD-00-218 (Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2000).