Is the United States prepared for a terrorist attack involving a weapon of mass destruction? How will we know when we are prepared? These are some of the many questions policy makers have been asking about the nation's homeland security efforts. State and local first responders, including law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, and hazardous materials personnel, are widely acknowledged as being an invaluable homeland security resource. Their proximity insures that they almost always will be among the first to arrive at the scene of a terrorist attack. Some observers believe the implementation of standards for state and local governments can improve preparedness not only for terrorist attacks, but for all types of disasters, be they man-made or natural. This report identifies types of preparedness standards, describes current activities to develop these standards, and discusses policy approaches that Congress might take in addressing this issue. Arguably, standards can assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the new Department of Homeland Security, evaluating selected preparedness grant programs, and identifying weaknesses in state and local preparedness. It can also aid policymakers in evaluating an agency's compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), which requires federal agencies to measure their own performance.
CRS Report for Congress, RL31680