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Individual Agencies Exercises

The State Department is the lead agency for international terrorist incidents for both crisis management and consequence management. The State Department, through its Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, leads a FEST to provide advice and support to U.S. ambassadors, Washington decision-makers, and host governments. The FEST is an interagency team tailored to the specific terrorist incident that could deploy at the request of the ambassador and with the permission of the host country. The Department determines the composition of the FEST, which could include FBI, DOD, DOE, HHS, or EPA if the incident involved WMD. For consequence management, a Consequence Management Advisory Team would deploy with the FEST to assess the need for follow-on assets that would assist a host government in planning for and managing the consequences of a WMD incident overseas.

The State Department generally participated in field exercises with WMD scenarios that included several federal agencies. The State Department sponsored 1 (4 percent) of the 24 exercises that it participated in. This was a field exercise with participation by several federal agencies that used a conventional scenario. Of the total 24 exercises that State participated in, 15 (63 percent) were field exercises, 23 (96 percent) involved three or more agencies, and 18 (75 percent) had WMD scenarios. In general, the State Department uses DOD- and DOE-led exercises to practice its leadership role in international incidents. These exercises test rapid and no-notice deployments of command elements and tactical units to locations worldwide and frequently test the FEST so deployments can be practiced by the full cadre of interagency players.

The one exercise that the State Department sponsored-also cosponsored by DOD—was a bilateral exercise with another friendly nation. This was a field exercise where personnel and equipment deployed to a foreign country and worked with embassy personnel to practice dealing with a conventional hostage barricade situation.

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Individual Agencies Exercises

VA is a support agency that could provide health and medical support for consequence management. VA works with HHS and DOD to maintain the National Medical Disaster System, a combination of private and government hospitals that could provide health and medical support in a terrorist incident involving mass casualties. Under PDD 62, VA works with HHS to ensure that adequate stockpiles of antidotes and other necessary pharmaceuticals are available for terrorist attacks nationwide. HHS, in consultation with VA, will determine the makeup and size of the pharmaceutical caches for such emergencies.” In a terrorist attack, VA could activate its Response Support Unit to manage the agency's overall response and provide support to other agencies, such as FEMA under the Federal Response Plan. VA also has two response teams, the Emergency Medical Response Team and the Medical Emergency Radiological Response Team. The later team consists of physicians and nuclear physicists that could supplement any federal response to a terrorist threat involving nuclear material.



VA generally participated in a mixture of field and tabletop exercises with WMD scenarios that included several federal agencies. VA led 4 (33 percent) of the 12 exercises it participated in. Of these four exercises, all were field exercises, two (50 percent) involved three or more federal agencies, and all had WMD scenarios. Of the total 12 exercises that VA participated in, 6 (50 percent) were field exercises, 9 (75 percent) involved 3 or more agencies, and 10 (83 percent) had WMD scenarios.

An example of a VA-sponsored exercise was “Radex North” conducted in March 1997. VA sponsored this exercise in conjunction with the state of Minnesota, which simulated a terrorist attack on a federal building with explosives laced with radioactive material, and the subsequent decontamination and treatment of hundreds of casualties. One of the exercise's objectives was to test the concept of operations for the VA's Medical Emergency Radiological Response Team. The exercise had 500 participants and attempted to fully integrate the federal medical response into the state and local responses, including local hospitals. VA officials noted that they participated in numerous other disaster-related exercises (which were outside the scope of our review) to improve the Department's consequence management capabilities.

2VA is not involved in the development of the national stockpile of pharmaceuticals and vaccines. The Pharmaceutical caches referred to in PDD 62 are for medical response teams.

GAO Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Counterterrorist Exercises


Individual Agencies Exercises


ATF Leadership and Participation in Exercises

Exercises Led I Participated Only

Breakdown of Number of Agencies Participating in Exercises
Including ATF

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Type of Exercises That ATF
Participated In



Field Exercises
Tabletop Exercises
Type of Scenarios for Exercises That
ATF Participated In

Conventional WMD

Individual Agencies Exercises


ATF has a crisis response role and investigation jurisdiction related to incidents involving conventional bombings. ATF has a Critical Incident

a Management Response Team that is a standardized deployable command organizational structure for managing responses to incidents, which include acts of terrorism. ATF also has teams that respond and deploy to the crisis site. For example, there are Special Response Teams that provide crisis response.

ATF leads exercises that test the crisis response capabilities of its Special Response Teams. ATF participated in 10 exercises during the 3-year period, including 4 exercises (40 percent) that it led. Of the 10 exercises that ATF participated in, 9 (90 percent) were field exercises. Seven (70 percent) of the 10 exercises that ATF participated in had less than three federal agencies participating in them and had conventional scenarios, including all of the exercises led by ATF; the other three (30 percent) had some type of WMD in their scenario. ATF also participated in six other exercises led by other agencies, including three that had three or more federal agencies participating

During this period, ATF led field exercises for its regional personnel that included the Special Response Teams in each of the five ATF regions. These exercises focused on developing ATF's internal crisis response capabilities, lasted up to 1 week, and included both classroom training and field exercises. The exercises also included ATF tactical operations centers, response teams, hostage negotiators, communications, and logistics. The exercises had scenarios that generally included domestic antigovernment groups and hostage situations. These exercises included conventional firearms and explosives, not WMD. ATF officials said they have completed field exercises in all ATF regions and are conducting tabletop exercises in their 23 field divisions to update their staff on their new Critical Incident Management System.

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