Response Capabilities Today
Terrorist attacks using Sarin gas (a nerve agent) in the Tokyo subway affected more than 5,000 people. Concern for similar or larger events using chemical, biological, or radiological weapons have spurred legislation and programs to prepare local firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders. Despite these commendable efforts, significant shortfalls remain in trained and equipped response capability throughout the United States. The relatively small-area bombing in Oklahoma City required 11 of todays 27 national Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces. Even these highly skilled teams are not prepared to operate in or around chemical, biological, or radiological hazards. The sheer size of WMD events may demand the support of many other properly trained and equipped personnel. First response organizations, state support agencies, and other federal agencies require major efforts to develop adequate capabilities. Until this occurs the DoD will continue to be tasked to support the WMD response. Even military units prepared to fight in a nuclear, biological, or chemical environment are not fully focused, trained, or equipped to support response to victims of attacks in the United States. Furthermore, our own ability to project combat power may be severely degraded by asymmetric attacks on sea and air ports of embarkation. Military units must also be prepared to respond to attacks on our facilities and installations.
Level of Current Preparedness
Local, state, and federal governments are applying tremendous resources in many ongoing efforts to improve their WMD response capabilities. All responder agencies of local, state, and the federal governments must prioritize resources to address deficiencies in their plans for responding to a domestic WMD event. Military units identified to perform functions in and around the hazard areas will require additional personal protective gear, special training, and periodic exercises to ensure their safety and ability for timely and effective responses. This plan highlights those areas and provides sound solutions to meet those needs.
Results of the assessments conducted by the Catastrophic Disaster Response Group (CDRG) were highlighted in a report to the President in February 1997. These same shortfalls were identified in the SICG Strategic Plan produced in August 1997. The critical areas of concern which are highlighted below:
· Tailored and timely Federal Response to augment state and local responders.
· Specialized equipment and coordinated training.
· Capability to deal with a large number of victims.
· Adequate medical supplies and pharmaceuticals: available and stockpiled.
· Baseline information of capability at federal, state and local levels.
· Better planning interface among federal, state and local authorities.
· Prioritization of transportation infrastructure for rapid movement of time-sensitive response resources.
· Timely and accurate emergency information.
· Electronic information management and communications capability.
· Manage stringent Public Safety measures.
· Finalize FRP Terrorism Incident Annex.
In addition to the CDRG assessment, DoD has identified four additional areas not addressed in the existing NLD Domestic Preparedness Program highlighted below:
· Current NLD program targets 120 cities - 11 states and 4 territories are not included in this program.
· Federal assets are not well dispersed geographically.
· Military personnel require additional equipment and training to reach an adequate response capability.
· The RC has some statutory limitations that impede response decisions.
Military Preparedness to Support WMD Response
While many military units possess basic skills and capabilities that can be applied to WMD response requirements, few have been specifically focused on the precise tasks or equipped with the appropriate assets to immediately respond to such an event. During the development of this plan, Services were asked to identify units that might perform the response tasks identified in the interagency WMD response plan and to indicate if those units were adequately organized, trained, and equipped to perform these specific tasks. This survey dramatically displayed existing gaps in procedures, training, and equipment necessary for appropriate response.
For many of the WMD response tasks, focusing units on the missions they may be asked to perform and developing their awareness of the Incident Command System (ICS) is all that may be necessary. For others, specific tasks will require training. In a WMD scenario, selected members will be tasked to deploy to the Hot Zone and operate for extended periods of time, quite different from our wartime practices. Even more demanding, the tasks requiring total decontamination must be anticipated. These are very different practices when compared to our military doctrine today. Here again, the value of training to the same standards, using common terminology and exercising with first responders, we have the opportunity to prepare for this most demanding mission. In general terms today, the Department is not prepared for the WMD response. This plan addresses the areas requiring DoD attention and isolates in some detail the response options the Department may be asked to perform. In the end, the solution to the WMD response mission requires a partnership military and civilian.
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