Combating Terrorism: Use of National Guard Response Teams is Unclear, Statement of Mark E. Gebicke, Director, National Security Preparedness Issues, National Security and International Affairs Division, Testimony before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans' Affairs, and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives   [open pdf - 86KB]

The Defense Department (DOD) recently approved the creation of 10 National Guard response teams to help state and local authorities deal with terrorists attacks involving weapons of mass destruction. GAO found differing views on the role and the use of these response teams and how they will fit into state and federal plans to respond to weapons of mass destruction. Army officials believe that the teams can be a valuable asset to federal authorities. They also believe that the teams will be a critical part of the state and local response. However, officials with the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which are responsible for managing the federal response to terrorist attacks, do not see a role for the teams in the federal response. Instead, they foresee the National Guard providing its traditional assistance in emergencies. Differing views also exist at the state level. Many state, local, and federal groups can do the work that the teams would perform. For example, more than 600 state and local hazardous materials teams in the United States deal with incidents involving highly toxic industrial chemicals and other hazardous materials. GAO's discussions with state, local, and federal officials and its own analysis found several concerns that could affect the teams' abilities to meet their mission and responsibilities. These concerns centered on recruiting and retention, training, and operational issues. This testimony summarizes GAO's June 1999 report, GAO/NSIAD-99-110.

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