Magazine article National Defense

Bush Adm. Should Implement Gilmore Commission Proposal

Magazine article National Defense

Bush Adm. Should Implement Gilmore Commission Proposal

Article excerpt

Today, the term "asymmetric threat" has become synonymous with "terrorism." In addition to what many would consider conventional terrorist activities--such as assassination, kidnapping, and bombing--the United States now faces the threat of attacks using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear, and high yield conventional explosives (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The challenge of defending the nation against asymmetric threats is daunting, but surmountable. The new administration should consider adopting the recommendations of the Gilmore Commission to hasten the country's preparation for such an eventuality.

Congress, meanwhile, can do its part by resurrecting and passing H.R. 4210, The Preparedness Against Terrorism Act of 2000. H.R. 4210 contains many of the elements and recommendations of the Gilmore Commission Report. During the summer of 2000, H.R. 4210 was passed by the House but died in the Senate.

The Gilmore Commission was established by Congress and chaired by Virginia Gov. James Gilmore. In its December 2000 report, the panel called on the new administration to develop a national strategy for fighting terrorism and establish the National Office for Combating Terrorism (NOCT) in the executive office of the president. The Gilmore Commission reports can be accessed via the Internet at http://wxvw.rand.org/organization/nsrd/terrpanel/.

As described in the report, the NOCT office would oversee the development of a national strategy for combating terrorism, coordinate and review programs and budgets of the federal agencies involved with combating terrorism and identify conflicts and duplications among federal entities. Most importantly, the office would administer a budget certification/decertification process for federal agencies to insure program accountability and compatibility.

Some argue against the establishment of a NOCT, saying that the capability and authority already resides:

* Within the Department of Justice, since the FBI is the lead federal agency for crisis management, or

* Within the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is the lead federal agency for consequence management.

However, the domestic focus of both these agencies makes them unsuitable for combating a problem that is both domestic and transnational. The idea of the Defense Department as lead agency for combating terrorism is publicly unacceptable and politically unpalatable, and rightly so. This option smells of martial law and the Reconstruction Era, subsequent to the Civil War, a dark period in U.S. history that brought no credit to the military or the civilian government. The Pentagon currently supports all emergency functions of the federal response plan and should remain in just such a role.

The NOCT would include the highest levels of people from local and state responder and emergency management organizations as well as professional organizations associated with fire, law enforcement and medical services.

Many pieces of the puzzle are already in place, requiting only the overarching organizational framework. Arguably, the requirement to equip and train response organizations to perform the consequence management mission after a WMD attack is the greatest challenge the United States faces.

Several agencies already are addressing the challenge by either congressional mandate, executive direction or on their own accord. …

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