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Background

PDDs 39 and 62 assigned or reaffirmed lead and support roles to various federal agencies and established interagency support teams. The Department of State is the lead agency for both crisis management and consequence management for terrorist incidents overseas. The State Department would lead an interagency Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) to provide advice and support to U.S. ambassadors, Washington decision-makers, and host governments. For domestic terrorist incidents, the leadership of crisis management and consequence management is divided. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead federal agency for domestic crisis management and would lead an interagency Domestic Emergency Support Team (DEST) to provide advice and support to FBI on-scene commanders. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the lead agency for consequence management of domestic terrorist incidents. Other federal agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are designated as support agencies that would assist the lead agencies in crisis and consequence management. Depending on the nature of the terrorist attack, these support agencies could be part of the interagency FEST or DEST. Briefing section III provides more detailed information on the lead and supporting roles of specific agencies.?

2In addition to briefing section III, our earlier report provides detailed information on the roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies. See Combating Terrorism: Federal Agencies' Efforts to Implement National Policy and Strategy (GAO/NSIAD-97-254, Sept. 26, 1997).

Background

GAO

Purpose and Types of Exercises

• PDD-39 directed key agencies to

exercise their capabilities.

• Exercises train agency personnel and

test their response plans.

• Interagency exercises enhance

coordination and ability to work together.

Agencies use both field and tabletop
exercises.

PDD 39 required key federal agencies to maintain well-exercised
counterterrorist capabilities. Exercises test and validate policies and
procedures, test the effectiveness of response capabilities, and increase the
confidence and skill levels of personnel. Because a federal counterterrorist
response is inherently interagency, agencies also exercise together. These
interagency exercises enhance coordination among agencies and help them
work together. They also allow personnel to become familiar with other
agencies' procedures and identify those areas needing further
coordination. In the absence of actual operations, exercises are an

Background

important indicator of the preparedness of federal agencies to deal with a variety of terrorist incidents.

3 Exercises fall into two general categories, tabletop and field exercises. Tabletop exercises are performed around a table, a classroom, or a

a simulated command post as the players progress through a scenario or series of scenarios and discuss how their agency or unit might react to different situations. Tabletop exercises are used to emphasize higher level policy and procedural issues and frequently include more senior level agency officials. Tabletop exercises are limited to discussions only; there is no actual deployment of operational or tactical personnel or equipment. Thus, tabletop exercises do not test the government's ability to actually use and coordinate personnel and assets in a realistic setting. However, they are a relatively inexpensive and expeditious way to identify and resolve problems in policies and procedures. Given the relatively few logistical requirements, agencies can plan and conduct tabletop exercises within a few weeks or months.

a

Field exercises are performed in the field under simulated operational conditions. Such exercises focus on performing tasks at the operational and tactical levels and typically include tactics, techniques, and procedures that would be used in a real incident. Field exercises test agency and interagency capabilities to actually deploy personnel and their equipment and coordinate them as they perform their tasks in a realistic setting. Field

a exercises are generally more expensive than tabletop exercises because they involve more players, increased transportation and other travel expenses, and added wear and tear on equipment. Depending on their scope, field exercises may require up to a year of advance planning to prepare detailed objectives, identify essential tasks, script the scenario, develop an evaluation plan, and schedule transportation and other logistic support.

3Different agencies use slightly different nomenclature to categorize types of exercises. Our definition of tabletop exercises includes “seminar" exercises, “command post" exercises, and “functional exercises." Our definition of field exercises includes “full field” exercises, “full-up" exercises, and “muddy boots” exercises.

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Federal Exercises Overall

Federal agencies sponsored a large number of counterterrorism exercises in the 3-year period following the issuance of PDD 39. In total, federal agencies sponsored 201 counterterrorism exercises to improve their preparedness for counterterrorist operations. Most of the exercises responded to a domestic terrorist attack and were conducted in the United States, while some addressed international attacks and were conducted overseas. The number of exercises increased from 32 to 116an increase of 263 percent over this 3-year period.

The 1996 Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, commonly known as the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act, required DOD to enhance domestic preparedness by providing local emergency response personnel with training and advice. DOD's program to accomplish this, known as the Domestic Preparedness Program, had some impact on the overall increase in exercises. There were 26 Domestic Preparedness Program exercises conducted in the third year, which is 13 percent of all the exercises done over the 3-year period. While we did not collect data beyond June 1998, DOD has continued to sponsor these types of exercises in conjunction with local governments and other federal agencies. We reported earlier on this program.

See Combating Terrorism: Opportunities to Improve Domestic Preparedness Program Focus and Efficiency (GAO/NSIAD-99-3, Nov. 12, 1998) and Combating Terrorism: Threat and Risk Assessments Can Help Prioritize and Target Program Investments (GAO/NSIAD-98-74, Apr. 9, 1998).

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