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Burdick, Brett A., Terrorism Program Manager, Virginia Department of
PREPAREDNESS AGAINST TERRORIST
Thursday, April 6, 2000
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON TRANSPOR-
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:00 p.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Tillie K. Fowler [chairwoman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Mrs. FOWLER. The Subcommittee will come to order.
Our Ranking Member is over on the Floor right now with two amendments. So he's given us permission to go ahead and start, and we will make sure that both his and Mr. Oberstar's statements and questions will be included in the record. So you will be receiving some questions from them at a later date, also.
I want to thank all of you for being here this afternoon. I want to just go back with a little history and set a basis for why we're here today. In looking back, in April, this very month, of 1915, the German army initiated the first large scale use of chemical gas as a weapon, by releasing thousands of cylinders of chlorine gas over a four mile front near Ypres, France. Over 5,000 unprepared French and Algerian troops were killed or wounded in that attack. Many more of them, terrified, deserted their trenches.
Fortunately for the French, the Germans did not exploit this sudden break in the lines and the Allies learned some valuable lessons that helped them better prepare for future gas attacks. So here we are, 85 years later, and we live in a very different world, except the threat of a chemical attack has not changed. Today, civilians, not troops, may be at the greatest risk from a gas attack. And the battlefield is not some well defined war zone, it could be a shopping mall, an office building or the subway. And the threat is not just from chemicals, but from biological and radiological weapons as well.
So at our first hearing that we had last June, we learned that this country is not prepared for a terrorist attack involving a weapon of mass destruction. More troubling, we learned that the Federal Government is engaged in a turf battle over trying to help people get prepared. In the process, then, we have fragmented and overlapping Federal programs that in some cases are making people more confused about what to do and when to do it.
I vividly remember at our last hearing, Chicago's fire chief John Eversole, who's with us here today, too, and I want to quote from him, he said "There is so much confusion and competition between
Federal agencies that they are sometimes more interested in what they are doing than in what's getting done on the general end of it."
I've been closely following this issue since our hearing in June. And I am surprised at how many people in the Federal agencies that are trying to administer these programs still do not understand or admit that there is a problem with the lack of coordination and inefficient use of resources. They are either in denial or they are too busy with their turf and funding battles to care.
Since 1997, the increase in funding for some agencies has been tremendous. I want to give you an example. The budget of just one program in the Department of Justice increased from zero in 1997 to a fiscal year 2000 budget request of $142 million and a fiscal year 2001 request of $175 million. Now, I want to tell all of these agencies that it is past time to get their act together. I do not want to spend any more money trying to figure out how many different ways you can, in essence, boil water. We have got to do something very soon to get this Federal family under control, or we will be endangering the public that we are trying to protect.
In fact, I am pleased to announce that Mr. Traficant and I will be introducing legislation today to eliminate the duplication and fragmentation that exists within the existing Federal programs. Our proposal will provide the necessary framework for effective coordination of Federal agencies responsible for preparing State and local responders against terrorist attacks. It requires the creation of a much-needed national strategy and identification of measurable objectives to reach an end stage of preparedness.
In addition, it will update the Stafford Act to bring it in line with today's threats. Our bill would empower an office within the Office of the President with the necessary authority to bring Federal programs in line with the needs of State and local responders. The office will function in a manner similar to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, thereby enabling it to coordinate all Federal assets and to eliminate fragmented and repetitive programs.
Although some areas of the country are now better prepared for a terrorist attack, there are still many communities that are not. And in fact, emergency response personnel in most of our suburban and outlying areas are not trained to handle such events. The individuals that serve these communities do not have access to the training programs and exercises that are available to larger communities. It's important that we will not forget these communities in our preparedness efforts.
So today we're going to hear from the people who are on the front lines, State and local officials who are obligated to respond when an attack occurs. In addition to these officials, we will receive testimony from a very knowledgeable individual, General James Clapper, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. General Clapper is currently the Vice Chairman of the Advisory Panel to assess domestic response capabilities for terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. The Advisory Panel is a congressionally authorized panel established to address the threat of terrorism in the United States.
We will also hear from the General Accounting Office, which has
sponse team capabilities and Federal programs designed to enhance the preparedness of first responders against a weapon of mass destruction.
I look forward to hearing the testimony from all of our witnesses and working together to improve the capabilities of State and local responders. I hope that unlike the French in World War I, we do not need to be attacked before we learn it is better to be prepared than unprepared. And as I stated earlier, we will make the opening statements of Mr. Traficant a part of the record.
So I would like to call on Mr. Terry, our Vice Chairman, if you have an opening statement.
Mr. TERRY. I have some observations and some thoughts that I'd like to share for the record. And one is that, if you ask Americans and the general population of this country if they feel there will be a terrorist attack and if they feel they are at risk, probably with near unanimity, people would say yes. We do not have to look very past just to the New Years Eve celebrations, where Seattle canceled theirs, for fear of attacks.
And on that day, more people were concerned about possible bombings like what happened at the Atlanta Olympics than they were of whether their cars would stop running or computers would shut down. So this is very real.
And I'm not sure if the American public would be aghast at how disorganized the Federal Government is in response to this, or if they just think it's typical. Because you look at it, and it does look like a Keystone Cops operation.
So I'm proud to work with you, Madam Chairwoman, and this Committee, to try and, I guess it's kind of the buzz word of this election cycle, reform. Certainly, whether we're talking about prevention and interdiction, or investigation or dealing with the consequences, we, this Committee, has to define those roles. We have to force those roles and implement them in this Government so we can run as efficiently as possible if, and hopefully it's only if, and not when, one of these occurrences occur. People expect it from us, and we should.
But we also need to keep in mind that as we organize and streamline and learn our roles, whether it's quarter back or running back or tight end of the same team, that we have to remember that we will work with the first responders. In some of the earlier testimony from the June hearings, we found that in a continuation of battle for turf and ground that some of our Federal responders went in thinking they were going to supplant the local first responders, the ones that had already been there, the ones that were trying to find bodies in the destruction in Oklahoma City and trying to save lives. We can't do that.
So as we look to streamline the Federal Government's operations and make it efficient, so this can be a secure Nation, and the people can have some degree and confidence that the Federal Government is doing the right thing, and not just continuing to be the Keystone Cops in this area, that we remember that we're in a partnership with the local communities, that we're in a partnership with the firefighters and our police officers, and that we can't allow this to become a bill or, it's not, and that the right direction this