Combating terrorism : selected challenges and related recommendations
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Combating terrorism : selected challenges and related recommendations

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    NTL-SAFETY AND SECURITY-Aviation Safety/Airworthiness;NTL-SAFETY AND SECURITY-Transit Safety and Security;
  • Abstract:
    This General Accounting Office (GAO) report was already scheduled for release before the events of September 11. The report summarizes federal efforts to combat terrorism prior to these events. This report assesses (1) the current framework for leadership and coordination of federal agencies' efforts to combat terrorism on U.S. soil, and proposals for change, (2) progress the federal government has made in developing and implementing a national strategy to combat terrorism domestically, (3) the federal government's capabilities to respond to a domestic terrorist incident, (4) progress the federal government has made in helping state and local emergency responders prepare for a terrorist incident, and (5) progress made in developing and implementing a federal strategy for combating cyber-based attacks. Briefly, greater attention has been placed on combating terrorism as concerns have grown. Assignment of Executive Branch responsibilities and authorities also has received additional emphasis, including the appointment of a national coordinator in 1998 in the National Security Council to serve as a focal point for overall leadership and coordination. GAO's analysis indicates that a need now exists to clarify and expand the responsibilities of the Executive branch focal point. The Congress and the President both have recognized the need to review and clarify the structure for overall leadership and coordination. GAO makes a recommendation to the President that he assign a single focal point within the Executive Office of the President, with the time, responsibility, authority, and resources for overall leadership and coordination of federal programs to combat terrorism. Federal efforts to develop a national strategy to combat terrorism and related guidance have progressed, but key challenges remain. These challenges include development of a national strategy to conduct a national threat and risk assessment; assessments of the most likely weapon-of-mass destruction agents and other terrorist threats; inclusion of measurable outcomes in the Five-Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan and identification of state and local government roles in combating terrorism in the same Plan; and completion of a threat assessment. Beyond a national strategy, substantial progress has been made in completing operational guidance and related plans to coordinate agencies' responses at the site of a terrorist incident. Under current policy, the federal government has also improved its capabilities to prevent, deter, and respond to a domestic terrorist incident. Also, federal agencies have conducted a variety of exercises to test their response capabilities. Federal assistance to state and local governments to prepare for terrorist incidents has resulted in training for thousands of first responders. GAO recommends developing a more detailed strategy for combating computer-based attacks, which should be linked to a national strategy to combat terrorism.
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