GAO was asked to examine the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) chemical defense programs and activities, and the report examined:
The various DHS programs and activities designed to prevent and protect against domestic chemical attacks; and
The extent to which DHS has integrated and coordinated all of its chemical defense programs and activities.
The report found that:
DHS’s chemical defense programs and activities have been fragmented and not well coordinated;
DHS recently created the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office to, among other things, promote better integration and coordination among these programs and activities; and
Developing a chemical defense strategy and related implementation plan would further assist DHS’s efforts.
GAO recommended that the CWMD Office develop a strategy and implementation plan to:
Help DHS guide, support, integrate, and coordinate chemical defense programs and activities;
Leverage resources and capabilities; and
Provide a roadmap for addressing any identified gaps.
DHS concurred with the recommendation, and the report noted DHS’s prior efforts to consolidate various functions and develop a strategy and plan to integrate and coordinate DHS’s chemical defense programs and activities. The strategy, developed in 2012, identified a need for, among other things:
A common set of catastrophic chemical attack planning assumptions;
A formally established DHS oversight body responsible for chemical incident response and recovery;
A more rapid way to identify the wide range of chemical agents and contaminants that comprise chemical threats; and
Reserve capacity for mass casualty medical care.
The report referenced the U.S. Coast Guard’s Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) and the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) as “DHS components involved in chemical defense” that would presumably be included under the CWMD Office’s strategy of integration and coordination.