The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report titled Chemical Terrorism – A Strategy and Implementation Plan Would Help DHS Better Manage Fragmented Chemical Defense Programs and Activities.
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.