Gilmore Commission - Minutes

Panel to Assess the Capabilities for Domestic Response
to Terrorist Acts Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction

Cannon Office Building
April 11, 2002



I. Opening Remarks by Governor James Gilmore (Chairman):

Chairman.A lot has happened since we last met in November, we were in the middle of a high-intensity conflict and national mourning. The President and the Congress continue to focus on the task at hand. But each morning we are seeing the continuing national situation play out in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Our democratic values are our strength; we have to strike the right balance between preserving our civil liberties, and security. This work that we do, remains important for this task. We cannot measure preparedness in just dollars, rather we have to recognize and identify the goals of preparedness and measure the preparedness accordingly. Our nation is undergoing a transformation and it is not limited to a single agency of government or a sector of business. The danger that we face is in being reactive rather than proactive. We can be thoughtful and careful because we have been working together as individuals. We have been there at the right time and the right moment, but this is just a first step.

The world is undergoing a transformation, which is a natural reaction to the cruelty directed against us. We have to ask, "What kind of country to you want to have?" Because at the end of the day, it is everybody's responsibility to make certain that we have a country that is worth securing in the first place.

II. Comments by Congressman Weldon

Weldon. There is no member of Congress unaware of what your Commission is doing; the work is constructive and engaged and helps us as we go through complicated times.

I first met Ray Downey at the first WTC bombing in 1993 and he gave me this message on what the federal government could be doing better for local fire departments: there needed to be a closer synergy between the military, and FEMA and the emergency response networks. That was the impetus for the creation of this Commission: how can we bring all of these people together to address the issue of terrorism?

You've told us what we need to do. Congress has an oversight role, but we have 35 different committees with jurisdiction, but you have it all. You can look at all of these disparate needs and the ability to call them in and if they won't cooperate we will call them. You are not looked at just one issue: we don't have the authority to look a multiple dimensions. All members understand the role that you are playing: your work is critically important.

Chairman. We thank your for your personal support, because we cannot be aggressive without the support of the Congress.

III. Congressional Update

Wermuth. I'll wait and do the administrative announcements after the classified briefing. For our update on the Executive Branch and Congress, we have our Panel consultant, Susan Spaulding.

Spaulding. I did a print out of all the bills that relate to terrorism - 489. The following are pieces of legislation that deal with state and locals.

DoD Authorization

There was a contract for counter-measures for chemical and biological training and equipment for firefighters.


There is a bill in conference that calls on HHS to develop criteria for measuring progress for bio-terrorism preparedness, a national disaster medical system, a joint inter-departmental working group, a emergency public communication task force, and a public internet site.

Grant Bills

To set up a reserve core of professionals on health and medical issues

To state, local, private to hire, train and layoff first responders (DOJ)

To local governments for developing strategic response plans and public forums, a FEMA representative for each state to do this (FEMA)

To hospitals and healthcare provides to fund the implementation and preparedness plans (HHS)

To states and political sub-divisions for the purchase of equipment (DoD)

Urban Search and Rescue Program

Mental Health

Train and respond to mental health needs after terrorist attacks

Marsh. Is there a sign that the Congress is getting its own act together?

Spaulding. It is clear that each member feels that they need to carve out their own niche.

Classified Briefings and Adjourn for lunch

IV. Briefing by Chuck Ludlam, Congressman Lieberman's Office

Ludlam. Introductory Remarks. The issue that I would like to focus on is medical responses: drugs, diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The question we ask is simple: what would it take to get the biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop the diagnostics, vaccines, and medicines need for a bio-terrorism response?

In the end, if you do not have medicine, you have a public panic on your hands. We might be hit with a smallpox epidemic that is more than 50% lethal. At this point, if people get small pox all we can do is quarantine them in a high school gym. It is incalculable how many people cross state lines and our borders, so it is ludicrous to think we can isolate outbreaks and quarantine them.

Now there are two basic approaches to solve this problem: a government-private cooperation company or private incentives. Now it is a visionary question, and we have an aggressive bill. On the tax side, the problem is that biotech companies are not encumbered by revenue so a tax credit will not work. On the procurement side, the government needs to tell the companies what they will get as reimbursement beforehand, for example according to toxin, diagnosis and efficacies.

Our bill also provides incentives for research tools - e.g if we are in the middle of an epidemic so that we could take a concept and deploy it - then we will give you the incentives on these as well. We think that we can bring in the private sector and that this will be the most effective way. When other Bills arise, they will focus on the same issues. The only way this bill will be enacted is if the Administration says, "we need it" as a matter of national security.

Foresman. When you talk about incentives for counter-measures is the expectation that a federal agency would identify those target diseases?

Ludlam. Yes. The government would be in complete control of the process. It shouldn't inhibit innovation, but the more they can say the better, and they have to say enough.

Foresman. Just to follow-up on that, when you talk about research tools for diseases that you don't already have, how do you measure performance?

Ludlam. It is certainly more complicated, requiring an expertise that we do not have. There is never going to be one research tool that leads you to a product. The government will need to identify areas where we need real breakthroughs. For example, testing antibodies on a mouse that would lead to a vaccine, but the government would have to define it. They only thing that flows automatically is the tax incentives. That may be FDA approval, but it may not.

Marsh. I noticed your emphasis on liability. How are you going to answer the question of indemnification?

Ludlam. The government will have to define, more precisely, what the process will be. Our bill includes some tort liability and reform but we are open to review on details on that and other issues.

Quinlisk. I would just like to say that I've been involved in mass vaccinations, it is not a problem in getting vaccines to the people, but more getting the vaccines to the people who actually need it. I think surrounding and containment will work: people will not try to evade getting a vaccine for small pox.

Having more tools, all these things are critical. But all the tools in the world won't help if there is not a system to identify the problem and get the tools to the people.

V. Briefing by Brendan Shields, House Republican Conference

Shields. Introductory Remarks. I want to start off by submitting a letter from Congressman Watts to this Commission (letter to be posted on Commission website).

I have been working for the past few years on how to better inform Congressional members and then to help them inform the public on the issue of terrorism and domestic preparedness. The Homeland Security Coordination Group is an informal entity that the House leadership charged us to set up. Director Ridge's office has also embraced this effort. Mr. Watts understands the importance of the national strategy that is coming in July, but we want to insure that once it arrives, we have a mechanism to address it.

VI. Congressman Chambliss and Congresswoman Harman

Chambliss. Introductory Remarks. The Speaker came to be in January of last year and asked me to chair a working group on terrorism within the Intelligence Committee. We were charged with assessing the threat of terrorism, how prepared in the U.S. to deal with this threat, and the capability of the U.S. to respond to terrorism. There could not have been a more bi-partisan working group in the Congress. We were supposed to develop a report for the end of this year, but obviously 9/11 changed our plans. We immediately were raised to Subcommittee. We also were asked to investigate intelligence deficiencies. Since then we have done a number of interviews - public and private - and visited a number of places. We are now assembling a report that will be out in 60 days: criticizing and complimenting where needed.

Harman. Introductory Remarks. We are the closest of friends and the closest of partners. We are trying to come up with an interim report and a final report and some legislation that will be important and effective. We just introduced legislation that will require - within 60 days - a system that will share information vertically and horizontally. A key feature is that classified information will be stripped. The point is that you do not have to have a classification to access it. The current system - red light / green light - is only as good as the information that will go along with it. We are also thinking about other legislative initiatives, but I wanted to mention one: statutory basis for the Office of Homeland Security. The House and the Senate are now talking about giving Ridge's office statutory authority, and then establishing a super-FEMA. We think that putting these two together will go a long way. I am hoping that one of these days, my partner will be persuaded to do this; I think it will help a lot. I think we need a strategy and although Ridge is qualified, he lacks the adequate tools.

Ralston. When you talk about information-sharing, you mean federal-state-local information sharing, correct?

Chambliss. Yes. This issue was one thing that we discovered when speaking with Mayor Giuliani and Governor Keating.

Foresman. During our initial briefing this morning, we noted that there were 438 pieces of legislation. Clearly on the House side, the establishment of your Subcommittee helps that, but over the long term, is this structure sufficient to do the necessary coordination?

Harman. The answer is that yes, something needs to be done, but whether it will happen or not, I'm not certain. We have to come up with mechanisms to defeat the stovepipes without abolishing them.

Bremer. I have come to the conclusion that Congress will not organize itself until the Administration organizes itself, including a strategy and budgetary priorities. That should then force Congress to deal with it.

Marsh. Are you looking at continuity of government and could you reference its importance?

Chambliss. We are not going to focus on that in our report.

Foresman. From a state perspective, I think that the challenge we will face next year is that you will have provided the states $3 billion, but the question will be, "Have we been making improvements?"

Harman. Yes. Spending $3.5 billion the wrong way will not make us more secure. We need to focus our money on our greatest vulnerabilities. The problem is that now you have a pot of money with no strategy. This is why Tom Ridge needs more authority or some other office needs more authority.

Chairman. From the very beginning we have focused on the simple importance of a national strategy. But if there are 485 bills in the Congress, let's say there are still 60 separate bills that could in effect be a competing with a national strategy.

Chambliss. The President has an end result in mind, but how we get there is still in question. I want the President and Governor Ridge to have the flexibility to decide what authority he needs.

VII. Discussion of 4th Report and Research Support

Chairman. Now we need to have a discussion on where we can make the biggest difference with this report. I am sensitive to the fact that Homeland Security is the subject of the day, so we want to make a contribution.

My own thoughts are that there are several current issues that we have addressed in the past. I also think that the federal-state-local issues should remain a core component. I also think the civil liberty issues are more and more important. Infrastructure should also be an area that we consider. We have not done enough with the private sector and it is clear that it is moving and should be moving.

Greenleaf. Congressman Weldon identified seven areas 1) sharing intelligence, 2) communications and inter-operability, 3) military and technical support to civilians, 4) coordination of databases between public health and other databases, 5) flow of funding and how money is being spent, 6) nuclear response and related issues, and 7) private sector. I think he is looking to us for some response and I think we should consider this.

Reno. I also took notes and captured themes: 1) programming and budget, building an integrated program for the expenditure of funds; 2) pull together the various capabilities of all the players, including the private sector; and 3) intelligence. That is a year's work, right there.

Maniscalco. I think lacking a national strategy and determining when is enough, enough, is a critical issue. We never really resolved this question. We have captured perceived readiness and perceived threat at the state and local, but I think we need to look at re-processing the data that we have. This $3.5 billion of money, what is it producing? I think we could bring some real science to see what this is doing.

O'Brien. I agree that we should look at doing three or four things. I also resonate with Jerry's [Bremer] principles. But I am thinking of the country that you asked in the morning: what kind of society that we want to be? Do I want to look at a specific list, or a big question?

I think we should grapple with that larger question. One of the reasons we have stayed ahead of the curve is that we have been asking those larger visions.

Gordon. Do we think that accountability is an issue for this Panel? I do not know if I do or not.

Foresman. As Congress and the Executive Branch are implementing some of the recommendations that we made and debating how many dollars to give to states, my point is "how are they measuring performance?"

Bremer. Just in the interest of moving the conversation forward, here are the areas that I think we should focus on: 1) private sector, 2) national strategy - probably effectively established ways to measure standards, 3) border security - unless this is resolved by the end of the year, we need to make it a central area of our study this year, 4) health and medical - we have stressed the particular threat of biological and agricultural terrorism.

Chairman. Other opinions?

Marsh. I agree with Jerry. We need to assess what has happened in the federal system and they need a report card. One thing is a national strategy. There has been some improvement in the federal structure. Since we began, there have been some other emerging issues. Borders, for instance, includes immigration and visas. Public health, for another example, has also received increased attention. Finally, the emergence of the importance of our information infrastructure is an issue that will have to be addressed. We also have to keep raising that issue of civil liberties. So I would add 1) the military dimension of homeland defense, 2) information infrastructures, and 3) civil liberties.

Quinlisk. One of the things happening at the state level is that they are trying to put into effect quarantine laws and increased access to information. The question is "how many civil liberties are we willing to give up to achieve an increased security?"

Chairman. We have two whole sections to discuss this tomorrow. We do not have to settle everything today.

Maniscalco. I just wanted to bring up another point. Those people that signed up to volunteer in September 2001 are stopping because they realize the training and work they have to do. I think that the issues of fielding emergency responders and the impact that terrorism has had on first responders is an issue we should address.

Gordon. We have seen the same impact in our state: volunteers are decreasing. How, as a nation, are we going to keep that from happening? It is a critical issue today.

Maniscalco. It also affects the national strategy. We cannot base it on these volunteers if they continue to decrease. We are building mutual aid plans based on these issues.

Quinlisk. We might broaden it to look at workforce issues: do we have the people and the training out there to look at these goals?

Ralson. There is a lot of information out there. RAND could design through a survey that would help us out to find out the reality of perceptions.

O'Brien. One of the factors that we are talking about here is resources. This could be viewed as people resources and money resources. We should also look at each of these areas in terms of resources.

Gordon. As far as agro-terrorism, we have been dancing around that and so has the Administration. We need to include that in the health and medical issues.

Hathaway. Weldon, on communication, is talking about a system that allows responders to talk on a number of different frequencies. Right now the civil support teams have these, but not first responders.

Bremer. But Bill [Reno] also raises a good question, "how deeply do we want to go into the budget?"

Reno. Normally that would not be an expectation of this Commission, but we should weigh it.

Foreman. In terms of things to sleep on, I guess the question is, in terms of the overall focus on terrorism, maybe if the threat is not as great as we believe: we need to again look at system-wide improvements. Let's keep the all-hazards approach.

April 12, 2002 Minutes