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Federal Exercises Overall

Federal counterterrorist exercises that included state and/or local participation tended to be tabletop exercises with WMD scenarios. Of the total 69 exercises, 49 (71 percent) were tabletops and 60 (87 percent) had WMD scenarios. The 26 Domestic Preparedness Program exercises (which were all tabletops using WMD scenarios) accounted for 26 (38 percent) of the 69 exercises that included state and/or local participation.

According to the FBI, field exercises offer hands-on training that cannot be replicated by tabletop exercises and valuable opportunities to test interactions among federal, state, and local agencies. For this reason, the FBI views participation by state and local agencies in federally sponsored field exercises as a top priority as it continues to plan and execute counterterrorist exercises. However, staffing and budget considerations or restrictive union contracts sometimes hinder state and local participation in federal exercises, according to the FBI. The FBI noted that it is not budgeted to pay state or local overtime for participation in FBI-led exercises, and until this budget problem is resolved, there will never be extensive state and local participation in FBI-led exercises. The FBI stated that the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs may be able to provide funding for state and local participation in federally sponsored field exercises.

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Individual Agencies Exercises

Federal counterterrorist exercises were generally led by one agency. The lead agency was responsible for planning the exercise, setting the objectives, scripting the scenario, coordinating the logistics, and evaluating the results. Thus, the lead agency usually expended the bulk of the personnel and resources to conduct an exercise. This is especially the case in field exercises, which are more resource intensive than tabletop exercises. The role of agencies that just participated varied by exercise and by agency. Some participating agencies were very involved in exercise planning and provided substantial resources to exercises led by other agencies. For example, in some field exercises, participating agencies attended numerous planning sessions and deployed several personnel and substantial equipment to the exercise location. In contrast, in some tabletop exercises, some participating agencies contributed one or two personnel just for the day of the exercise.

Four agencies led more than 90 percent of the counterterrorist exercises. These four agencies, and the number (and percentage) of federal exercises that they led, were DOD with 97 (48 percent), USSS with 46 (23 percent), the FBI with 24 (12 percent), and FEMA with 16 (8 percent). No other single agency led more than five (2 percent) of the total exercises over the 3-year period. For the few cases when more than one agency led an exercise, we counted all sponsoring agencies as a lead agency; thus, the total in our briefing slide (204) slightly exceeds the 201 exercises conducted during this period.

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Individual Agencies Exercises

Some agencies (e.g., DOD, USSS, FBI, and FEMA) not only led many exercises but also participated in many exercises led by other agencies. Other agencies we reviewed led 5 or fewer exercises but participated in at least 10 exercises in the 3-year period. These agencies generally exercise their personnel and equipment through their participation in other agencies' exercises. For example, State Department officials told us that they leverage DOD-sponsored exercises to exercise their counterterrorism responsibilities, including their lead agency status. As discussed earlier, because some exercises were sponsored by more than one agency, the number of exercises that agencies led (204) slightly exceeded the 201 exercises conducted in this period.

Additional information on agencies leading and participating in exercises is provided by the individual agencies in the remainder of this section. For the agencies that led the most exercises (DOD, USSS, FBI, and FEMA), the data is displayed by exercises that each agency led. These agencies are presented in descending order of the number of exercises they led. For the other agencies, the data is displayed by exercises in which they participated. These agencies are presented in descending order of the number of exercises they participated in.

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