Gilmore Commission - Minutes

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


Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, September 22, 1999


Honorable James Gilmore, Chairman
L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer
James Clapper
Ray Downey
George Foresman
William Garrison
Ellen Gordon
James Greenleaf
William Jenaway
Dallas Jones
Paul Maniscalco
Kathleen O'Brien
Patrick Ralstonv William Reno
Ken Shine

Governor James Gilmore (Chairman) (opening remarks): I've been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. Natural disasters like hurricanes create similar chaos to other sorts of crises, and give good insight into how EMS might respond to WMD crises. There are many parallels. I'd like to welcome Ambassador Paul "Jerry" Bremer to the panel. He is also heading a terrorism panel of his own commissioned by Congress (National Commission on Terrorism), Mr. Dallas Jones and General Reno, who are all attending their first panel meeting. I note that we have a Report to the President and the Congress coming due in December, and we will discuss that in more detail later in the meeting. I ask all Panel members for their input on the issues that I mentioned in my recent letter.

Approval of Minutes: A motion was made and seconded that the minutes of the Panel meeting of 9 June 1999 be approved as written. The motion was adopted unanimously.

Bruce Hoffman: Donald Rumsfeld, James Q. Wilson have resigned from the panel. I am stepping down as project leader of the RAND analytical support effort. Mike Wermuth will be replacing me. A copy of Mike's biographical sketch has been provided to each panel member (attached as Appendix 1).

Chairman: It is my pleasure to introduce Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) the sponsor of the legislation that established our Panel. Congressman Weldon has graciously consented to provide some insight from his perspective on the tasks ahead.

Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) addressed the Panel:

There are three key threats in the 21st century that the U.S. must deal with aggressively. They are:

  1. Missile proliferation--India, Pakistan, and China etc.
  2. Cyber-terrorism
  3. Weapons of mass destruction--the Intelligence Community says it is not a question of "if" but "when" an attack of this nature will occur.

Regarding WMD, as a consequence, Congress is funding lots of detection devices for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. There is a battle over which agencies will get Federal funding: Health and Human Services; the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and others. At the Federal level agencies and initiatives are being funded--Marine Corps CBIRF Teams, DOJ programs, other DoD activities, Active Army and Army Reserve involvement, to mention a few--but there is no coordination between the agencies or the organizations. The Clinton administration has responded of late, but all the initiatives are top-down organizational change. There is no structure coming from the bottom up, to help the first responders--the majority of whom are still volunteers--to work with each other, getting them to function more efficiently. The Federal government focus has been to give the military and Intelligence Community funds to provide for the needs of first responders.

We need to ensure that we do not just watch the biggest cities. An attack could come anywhere. I'm not talking about nationalizing response teams, but we need to pay attention to the needs of the first responders in training and equipment. Most Federal money is going to agencies at the Federal level. This does not help the first responders. Will states fund the first responders instead? Most are volunteers and are not paid at all, nor are they well-trained. The Department of Defense is not positioned nor is it trained to be a first responder and therefore cannot make up the difference.

This panel needs to assess if we're doing the right thing for the first responders, and its goal might be to become their advocates. That assessment should be based on the question: Are we doing the right thing for first responders in terms of training and equipment? We might want to improve their training, give them more equipment, and fund them their ability to integrate with all forces. We need to make sure the first responders have a knowledge-base of where to get specialized equipment, expertise, and common integrated communication systems so that all responders will be able to talk to each other. This panel needs to become advocates for first responders.

The big question is of federal vs. state vs. local government personnel. There are huge discrepancies in the capabilities between law-enforcement and the first responders, most of whom are still just volunteers. We need to determine what resources we already have that can be brought to bear.

When there was a WMD threat in Washington D.C. last year the fire department was the first responder, not the military. The military does a great job preparing for WMD environments, but they only train and get little or no actual experience in WMD environments. Emergency medical services deal with hazardous material environments all the time. They are far better prepared for that same environment.

Technology is improving in lots of areas that can help in this issue. I introduced legislation eight years ago to conduct an inventory of Federal resources that could be used to address the problem. As of today, that inventory has still not been completed. As one example, thermal imagers (a Navy asset) can be used for finding victims in wreckage is only one such area. We need to look at what we can give the on-scene commander, everything from structural engineers to communications--there is an almost total lack of integrated communications between Federal, State and local agencies. We are providing some training from the Federal level to first responders, but what good is training if they don't have resources, equipment communications, etc. There is currently a bill in Congress to allocate $1 billion for emergency fire and medial services. Currently only $20 million has been earmarked for WMD first responders. We may need a national low-interest loan program for equipment, or perhaps provide tax incentives for volunteer EMS and fire personnel. Tax funded fire departments are buying some equipment but the volunteer departments do not have the wherewithal.

I appreciate the work that the Panel is doing, and I offer the assistance of my Committee staff in your efforts.

Chairman: The federal budget is huge--the money for improvements is there and just needs to be used better; perhaps pre-positioning equipment at various sites. I'm intrigued by thermal imagers. How much do they cost?

Weldon: Each thermal imager costs $20,000. They recently have been improved to be helmet mounted. This is only one example of how technology is improving in the defense realm. The Army is digitizing to be able to find soldiers in any environment. They receive funding for all sorts of areas that could be of use to first responders. It is one example of how our priorities for the military and for emergency medical services are totally different. Over 100 emergency medical service personnel die each year in the line of duty and the public accepts it. If one soldier dies in a year in a deployment, it's a national issue. Priorities need to be reshaped.

Dallas Jones: What should be the role of states? Which state takes the threat the most seriously?

Weldon: States and localities have the primary jurisdiction for incidents of this type. California is a leader in setting responsibilities, but many states are taking the threat less seriously.

Ray Downey: As first responders, we have had training with WMD environments, but not on how to interact or operate with others, in terms of equipment, communications and other resources.

George Foresman: Authorization and funding should come from Congress. How can direction for integration and coordination come from Congress?

Weldon: It is a question of jurisdictional issues, which should start in Congress. There are forty congressional committees with jurisdiction over agencies that are in some way involved. All want to boost their agencies. The organizations that have the influence get the money. The problem is the first responders have no influence. The first responder groups are made up of volunteers. Therefore they get the scraps when it comes to funding. This Panel may want to look at ways to recommend how the Congress deals with this issue. One possible recommendation would be to have bipartisan Congressional commission or a Presidential Task Force on integrating the players, and this would improve coordination. However, just identifying the major players to integrate is a challenge.

Jones: Is Congress on top of this problem?

Weldon: We're still looking at it, figuring out how to address the problem and develop solutions. We are considering a CINC for national defense.

Hoffman: I would now like to introduce Floyd Horn from the Department of Agriculture, who will bring the Panel up on the threat of bioterrorism for American agriculture and livestock.

Floyd Horn: Our role is assessing threats to U.S. agriculture. The New York Times on September 21st did a front page article on the threat to U.S. crops from biological or chemical weapons. Two years ago the Defense Intelligence Agency found disease on crops in Uzbekistan. They required help from the Department of Agriculture to identify it. Agriculture discovered that the disease had been genetically enhanced. The Department of Agriculture is valuable, but is overlooked in critical infrastructure legislation. USDA is not included in the Presidential Decisions Directive that address this issue.

Any attack on U.S. agriculture is not about destroying the American food supply, but would most likely aim at creating fear and disruption, economic, social, and political pressure. Any such attack could be carried out from afar, and would be difficult if not impossible to trace. Furthermore, the terror group might never claim responsibility, giving the disease long time periods to incubate and reach full effectiveness.

Any offensive biological weapons program focuses on the pathogen. Any defensive program focuses on the host, such as the carriers of disease that might be smuggled into the U.S.

The Department of Agriculture needs to be included in any anti-terrorism effort. The U.S. is vulnerable to threats to our agriculture. Transmission of diseases through agricultural products is very real. Learning to grow pathogens is easy.

Russia may still be developing biological agents. The former states of the Soviet Union and other neo-proliferators are risks as well.

The Department of Agriculture uses special techniques and new technology. Aerial spraying is used without restrictions. Farmers now use scorpion venom in pesticides to kill pests. That venom is now genetically enhanced as well. That kind of genetic engineering that is used in pesticides can also be used against us in biological weapons.

Introduction of biological weapons is very hard to detect. We're unprepared, and the U.S. would be overwhelmed by a biological attack against the agricultural industry.

What is the motivation? U.S. agriculture futures market is vulnerable: an adversary could attack for financial gain if they have invested in agriculture futures.

Livestock production is centered in concentrated feed lots in the US. Two percent of the feed lots supply 70 percent of the cattle. These cattle represent 50 percent of the U.S. agriculture industry. Hogs are concentrated in the Midwest. Cattle are in the South Midwest: especially in the Texas pan handle. Introducing a pathogen into a concentrated area could cripple the U.S. agriculture industry.

Foot and mouth disease is one of the biggest risk diseases. Foot and mouth disease can be spread over distances of 150 miles by wind. Any animal can carry foot mouth disease, which does not kill the animal but makes it useless as food. To prevent the spread of the disease, the animals must be destroyed and burned.

The United States started to attack the disease from the years 1946 until 1952, spending $200 million. The biggest threat of disease came from Mexico. Sixteen Americans died in Mexico trying to inspect beef and destroy any animals infected with the disease.

Vaccines can be generated for foot and mouth disease but the disease is hard to detect, and it is hard to distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated, and an animal with the disease. Therefore vaccinated animals would still need to be destroyed. There are 70 different strains of the disease. Furthermore there is no facility that manufactures the vaccine. There is no market for it.

Another threat comes from African Swine Fever. This disease has been weaponized. It is hemorrhagic in nature, like ebola. The disease primarily targets swine. We might be able to develop a vaccine. The disease is carried by ticks and transferred to swine herds. This virus can also be manipulated genetically. Outbreaks have occurred in Brazil and West Europe. The disease could come to the U.S.\. Mortality approaches 100 percent.

There is a wide range of crops that are threatened by disease. The worst diseases threaten crops when they are close to harvest or right after they have been harvested. Potato blight once had been defeated, but a new strain has come out. This is the same disease that caused the great potato famine in Ireland. The disease only attacks potatoes after they are harvested. Furthermore the disease can be genetically altered as well. Other pathogens of concern: karnal bunt, stem rusts, leaf rust.

The current mission of United States Department of Agriculture is to control domestic contaminants, and identify pathogens. This is done by testing plants and livestock. The motto is prevent, detect, and respond. To accomplish this, the Department of Agricultural has set up specialized labs.

USDA Bio-Safety Lab-3 Facilities
Plum Island, New York
Ames, Iowa
Athens, GA
Laramie, Wyoming

Plum island is an offshore USDA BSL-3 facility. It contains a facility for animal disease research and diagnostic facilities. Renovations are under way, but most funds are not yet authorized by Congress.

These labs are adequate for dealing with pathogens, and are designed to help prevent microorganisms from escaping. The USDA does not have any BSL-4 facilities but BSL-3 facilities are designed to prevent any contact between pathogens and people.

In 1999 the USDA discovered the Nipah virus in Singapore and Malaysia. The disease attacks humans and swine. Fifty percent of the infections were lethal to humans. Over 100 humans died. Hundreds of thousands of swine were killed. The Centers for Disease Control is studying the virus.

Chairman: What is the difference between the Centers for Disease Control and Plum Island?

Horn: They have different functions and missions. The Center for Disease Control mostly deals with diseases that effect humans.

Chairman: You say agricultural attacks against the U.S. would not be about destroying the American food supply. If terrorists attack on many fronts could they threaten the U.S. food supply?

Horn: No, but the economic damage would be huge.

Chairman: Is it true that the risk of biological attack is not high because dispensing pathogens is not easy?

Horn: Aum Shinrikiyo was capable of developing agents, but delivering the agent is hard. However, a non-state actor could develop an agent and give it to a few animals to spread, or to infected insects to spread over an even wider area.

Jerry Bremer: I'm not persuaded that this is a big threat. What motive would terrorists have? Peter Chalk of the RAND staff argues in the paper he prepared for the Panel that such an attack is feasible because the group could carry it out and inflict economic disruption without losing support.

A terrorist attack against agriculture would not cause real economic harm because agriculture is a small part of the U.S. GDP. The US could replace the lost supply just by buying food from other countries, but such an attack would damage real support for the terrorist group, contrary to the Chalk paper. If such an attack could inflict economic havoc without causing a loss of support, it would have happened by now. But no attack has happened until now except for the one case of Aum Shinrikiyo.

Horn: The dollar costs of such an attack do not include the effect on U.S. trade to foreign countries. Any biological attack against U.S. agriculture destroys all possibilities for export. If the impact is small, why did Russia, according to Ken Alibek--a former Russian BW engineer who now works in the U.S.--employ 30,000 personnel to work on this problem?

Bremer: There's a contradiction between your argument that a crop attack is likely because it is hard to detect. Why would groups waste an attack against U.S. and the American culture and then not claim the attack? What would be their point?

Horn: They might attack for financial profit, especially if they invest in the futures market.

Foresman: How good is our surveillance on our crops?

Breeze: Very good. We have dogs to monitor all incoming agricultural products and they do a good job.

Bill Jenaway: Many groups attacked ancient Rome by targeting their food supply. We may be in a similar situation. We may not be at a big risk now, but we need to think about this problem because in the long-term it could be a huge threat.

Chairman: Now I'd like to introduce Robert Burnham from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Robert Burnham: I'm the chief of the FBI Domestic Terrorism Assessment unit. The issues I'll address here are:

  1. What is the threat?
  2. From what groups does the threat come?
  3. What WMD use is likely and who would use it?
  4. Threat assessment
  5. WMD response unit

The domestic terrorism threat comes from left and right wing extremist groups as well as from single issue terrorist groups. Single issue groups include extremists such as violent anti-abortion fanatics. Right wing and anti-government groups are the biggest threat. Their members tend to float among similar groups that exist. They use single-point events such as Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Freeman as rallying points. They also focus on the United Nations and the potential threat of a one world government.

Right-wing ideology is the cornerstone of the Aryan Nations. This is a splinter group of the Christian Identity Movement who believe that they are the true children of God and minorities are children of Satan.

There is a common thread in most right-wing groups. The groups themselves are not the big threat. They believe that any group action would meet with overwhelming government retaliation. Instead they operate through what is called leaderless resistance, where individual people from any of the groups--"lone wolves"--go off on their own to commit violent acts. This is the biggest threat.

We have a list of threats. The highest probability threat comes from biological toxins. The lowest threat comes from nuclear weapons.

Larry Wayne Harris is a good example of why the BW threat is the most likely. He ordered bubonic plague from a biological lab, faking a CDC authorization number. He received the plague, but possession is not a crime. It is only a crime if you weaponize it. Instead, he was arrested for falsifying the CDC number.

The overall FBI assessment of the threat is low, but the consequences would be catastrophic. If Tim McVeigh could have developed a biological weapon, would he have used it? The answer must be yes.

Over the past several years the number of biological and chemical weapons scares has grown. There have been 200 reports this year so far, but most of them are anthrax hoaxes.

The threat of an international terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction domestically is low. We know they're working on them however.

On the international side, conventional weapons and explosives are still the preferred weapons. International groups might use weapons of mass destruction, but more likely they will stick to conventional weapons such as the type used in the World Trade Center bombing.

There are indications that Osama Bin Laden is trying to develop a WMD capability. It is unknown if he can. Aum Shinrikiyo developed an agent and they had tested it. Their problem was in dispensing it. They may be back however and are well funded. Still we assess the risk as low from these groups.

Chairman: What is the motive for Aum Shinrikiyo?

Burnham: They are a right wing, anti-government group--possibly anarchist.

Bremer: They have an apocalyptic leader, who claims he is at war with the world. His followers are told they must protect him. They are a cult.

Chairman: How many foreign groups are in the U.S.?

Burnham: There are about 12. Abu Nidal and Hamas are the best examples. We are proposing to Congress that they pass legislation that makes possession of biological and chemical warfare agents illegal. You could be arrested if found in possession of such an agent.

Kathleen O'Brien: What are the differences by region of the United States for the location of domestic terrorist groups? Where are the groups located and where is there the potential for attacks? Where are the members concentrated?

Burnham: There is no real difference geographically. The dangerous types tend to float around from group to group. The groups are all over. Aryan Nations has 34 chapters in the U.S. Still, many are concentrated in the West, and in the Rockies.

Dallas Jones: Is there a risk of conventional explosives being used against hazardous materials facilities?

Burnham: Yes. Plume modeling has been done. The danger is real. I testified on that.

Ellen Gordon: What is the biggest shortfall in counterterrorist planning?

Burnham: The biggest shortfall comes in funding for training. Since 1996, in response to the Deutsch commission, we asked for more training with hazardous materials and the opportunity to work with first responders.

Paul Maniscalco: Can you describe the Bridgeton, TX event?

Burnham: This event has been code-named Sourgas. There was an attack on a petroleum storage facility to release gas as a diversion for an armored car robbery. We find groups, such as the one in this example, are increasingly lethal with a good knowledge of how to use sophisticated technology such as secondary explosive devices.

James Greenleaf: I see a problem of intelligence filtering down, possibly because of classification issues, and information filtering across organizations. How do you address this?

Burnham: Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation is helping to make things get better. The FBI is trying to work with it. The problem from sharing classified information or grand jury testimony will not go away until more people get clearances. Still, meetings with local first responders are taking place, and they are being set up by Special Agents in Charge. This is also being done with HAZMAT teams.

Jenaway: Copycat attacks happen. Should we heighten preparedness after a major event?

Burnham:Yes. This is a pattern that repeats itself and we need to be better prepared to respond.

Jenaway: If you find there is a right-wing group in an area, do you notify local law enforcement or the first responders?

Burnham: Yes. We're increasing cooperation, information sharing, but the classified information still presents a problem.

Chairman:How many people are involved in the right-wing groups?

Burnham: Thousands. Aryan Nations started recruiting in prisons 20 years ago.

Chairman: Are these groups networking?

Burnham: Individuals are networked, but not the groups, as far as we know.

Chairman: I would now like to introduce Tom Kuker, also from the FBI, who is the Director of the NDPO.

Tom Kuker: (See Appendix 2.) We have practiced WMD preparedness for the past 20 years. Groups vary in their level of preparedness. Intelligence cannot accurately predict the threat. The National Defense Preparedness Office (NDPO) goal is to establish links between Federal agencies and the response community. We also plan to deliver information to the public.

The President and Congress have passed measures such as the one that created the NDPO. We need a central clearinghouse for information. I'll talk about building that foundation. We started in February, waiting for full congressional funding approval.

The concept came from a conference with stake holders and the Attorney General to build an information clearinghouse. She promised to take care of integration building. (See tabs 1, 2, and 3 from the NDPO binder that was supplied at the panel meeting.)

NDPO is not an FBI office but an inter-agency office. FBI leads it. The Department of Defense is a member and controls the National Guard, which in some cases might be a first responder. FEMA, DoJ, HHS, DoE, EPA, are all members.

NDPO's role is to coordinate agencies with first responders. Once funding is established one-third of the staff will be local experts.

The NDPO in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control, has provided guidelines to deal with WMD threats. We coordinated an FBI hazardous material specification booklet (see tabs 4,5,6).

We had a panel in 1999 to produce a guidebook for local responders. The new book is to be published soon. It will carry the guidelines of how to respond to a WMD attack. It will be published in October.

The NDPO has been encouraged to get feedback from professional organizations like the National Association of Firefighters who petitioned the Attorney General for such an organization.

The NDPO has six areas.

Planning: We're working with FEMA to develop plans. We will also work with the state governments to identify needs and capabilities. Regional areas will be suggested as units of coordination and consideration. Each state will also assess their threat and risk. We will help incorporate the National Guard and RAID teams under the Governors' control. Reserve troops will also be incorporated. The NDPO will create a planning guide (see tab "a") to help local first responders with guidelines that will help with planning for big events like political conventions.

Training: The NDPO will create a curriculum for assuring first responders get adequate training. Efforts are underway to train local forces with active duty military forces. These forces, coupled with 270 National Guard bases around the country, means the nation will be well covered.

Exercises: FEMA funds most of the exercises. NDPO provides planning assistance learned from these exercises. Sharing of the exercise information means communities don't have to learn from scratch.

Equipment: NDPO created a standardized equipment list. The organization incorporated our equipment lists into the grant application put out by the Department of Justice. The list was created by an interagency board of the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice. This board has six sub-groups. Each sub-group is chaired by a local first responder. A standards coordinating committee is chaired by the NDPO with OSHA and others to ensure they all have proper equipment.

Information Sharing: NDPO is investigating a common data link for all key players. Key players include law-enforcement online (LEO). NDPO will augment the Internet site with general public information, as well as with links for first responders.

Health and Medical: This group will help communities deal with the sick, and treatment of the ill. A key concern is leaving small communities behind. A fire chief from a small town in Texas wrote the Attorney General about seeking health care for small towns. As a consequence his town was included in the Dallas jurisdiction.

Bremer: How would the NDPO deal with non-WMD crises that involved mass casualties?

Kuker: The plans still adhere for any hazardous or mass casualty event. The plans work for a wide array of contingencies.

Maniscalco: What is the role of the FBI in crises?

Burnham: After any event, the first responder on the scene is in charge. The FBI sets up a command post to work with, and for the locals.

Maniscalco: In my experience the FBI comes in and takes over.

Kuker: Yes it still happens, but more and more the FBI will defer to local forces. The idea is to make the jurisdictions flow and interact and not conflict.

Chairman: Thank you for your presentation. I'd like to introduce Panel member Ray Downey from the New York City Fire Department.

Ray Downey: The fire department has a long history of dealing with hazardous materials. We look at WMD scenarios as HAZMAT scenarios with lots of casualties. Since the World Trade Center and Aum Shinrikiyo, the fire department has taken a new look at WMD. New York City only has one HAZMAT team. There are too many potential targets in New York however. The fire department has learned to prepare for two or more contingencies and not devote all its resources to the first event that erupts. In 1996 New York started adding new HAZMAT personnel. We now have first responders in all boroughs. New York City has 150 "level A" suits. A level-A suit is an airtight chemical/biological protection suit. There are over 700 personnel trained to operate in those suits. They have basic equipment including detector suits and a mass spectrometer, but they also have expensive equipment such as containment vessels for deadly chemical and biological agents. The fire department has a $31 million budget, but only $3 or $4 million went to HAZMAT teams.

New York City has a citywide plan. We believe all the talk of Federal agencies is, for the first responder, "pie in the sky." The first responders feel under funded and under trained.

For the first responder it is difficult to wait for federal forces or agencies. It could take hours or longer. Also the first responder does not want to deal with their bureaucratic fighting or conflicts.

We have learned from all kinds of events. There's a standby force permanently stationed at the United Nations. They practice at all major events such as the pope's visit etc.

If New York, as the largest department in the country, is stressed by all this preparation, any smaller city or department would be unable to prepare. We need to take more bottom-up preparation; no more top-down preparation. The Marines are well prepared and have lots of equipment, but they take too long to come up from Camp Lejeune.

Greenleaf: What arrangements do you have with the surrounding areas?

Downey: Nothing formal, but we have been very helpful to the surrounding areas. We help them out as much as we can whenever they ask. There's a standing agreement with New Jersey for emergency medical services sharing, allowing it to happen. New Jersey just needs to decide to ask. This should be a model for the future. Even so, New York only has 150 personnel in level-A suits, and any scenario could see us having to treat and evacuate 2000 casualties from a toxic area. This creates a very hard problem and a scary scenario for us.

Chairman: That was very informative. If there are no more questions, let's move on to Panel member Paul Maniscalco who will present the perspective of the Emergency Medical Services.

Paul Maniscalco : (See Appendix 3.) Emergency medical response personnel have too many pulls on them from top level federal organizations. Local first responders do not care about social science or grand studies. They need hard guidelines and analyses of how communities are set up.

We should not try to define "terrorism," and we should not talk about "weapons of mass destruction." Terrorists could use nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, or explosives and munitions. Do we need to codify what serves as a hazardous material incident? We believe it should involve any incident that results in a high-impact, high-yield medical incident. Emergency medical technicians are not involved in the key planning for a response to these high yield, high impact medical incidents. We are neglected or ignored. The FBI views medical services as part of the fire department, but the fire department cannot champion two causes. As a consequence, under the fire department's purview, emergency medical technicians are given insufficient support.

Response time line curves are the key factor. Federal forces take too long to respond after a major event. We estimate they might take at least four to six hours to get involved. The problem is that emergency medical technicians are really not first responders either. Most rescues take place right after an event takes place, and are carried out by individuals in the immediate vicinity. The real first responders are those "convergence responders." That includes the fire service, emergency medical services, and police.

The first responders should continue to provide operational services until additional assets arrive. Arranging priorities becomes the difficult issue due to various agencies' conflicting priorities.

There are several response system vulnerabilities. For one exercise, the red team shutdown the networks of the emergency medical technicians and the first responders. Los Angeles California Highway Patrol (CHP) puts their units' availability on their Web site. This increases their vulnerability. Many systems have vulnerabilities similar to these. We need better background checks for our personnel. A firefighter in West Virginia used his insider position to try to blow up the FBI center in West Virginia.

Medical problems were the biggest issue in the World Trade Center bombing. The biggest medical condition was not trauma per se, but dealing with people who had pre-existing conditions.

We have found traditional disaster planning is inadequate for dealing with all the casualties that will come from a WMD attack. We have found that an unforeseen problem was that of transient patients. Such patients may not want to stay on the scene after a BW or chemical attack and may want to leave. This makes them vectors for the contagion.

Preparing for WMD attacks is also a problem. Mark-I kits are not suited for children and the elderly. We have insufficient beds and medical equipment, and insufficient access and availability to antidotes and vaccines. Hospitals do not have the money to deal with mass casualty situations and want the government to fund them. Their position is that they will not fund any initiative to treat massive casualties from a potential WMD attack until someone helps them with funding--most probably the federal government.

We believe the civilian mission expects responders to be on the scene in five minutes. We believe that success in the mission is "make-or-break in 20 minutes." We believe we will be on our own the first eight to 12 hours before federal agencies arrive. We need to practice for that point when we will be integrating with the federal authorities.

Here are the problems we see with potential response capability for our emergency response teams:

  • The fog of combat
  • Level of service is much worse than public expectation
  • The CNN factor--the B'nai B'rith anthrax scare allowed our enemies to see how emergency medical responders deal with such contingencies and prepare to counter them.
  • We have no timely access to intelligence.

There are 850,000 emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the United States. There are over one million in the fire departments and fire services across the country. We're drastically under-staffed. The Nunn-Lugar legislation is restricted to helping 150 cities so the help from there will be limited.

We have found the training is not instituted at the grass-roots level as it needs to be. Federal support is vital for this. If we are the first to be called, we need to be the best trained, the best equipped, and the best funded.

There is an overarching need for public education on this issue, and it should probably be resident in the fire department and EMS communities. Perhaps one answer to response is to have some type of regionalization. And we should look at getting the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency more involved in helping to develop technology that can assist first responders; for example, computer data bases and cell phones with direct connection to USAMRID for help in identifying causes. Hospitals--the AMA--are not behind the issue of stockpiling antidotes.

Chairman: I have found that there are huge limitations placed on first responders because of lack of funds, training, and equipment. You have a huge problem, needing to prepare for the spectrum of contingencies spanning from the single person casualty to the problem of mass casualties.

Maniscalco: One other problem is that some emergency medical technicians are dual hatted as National Guard. In a crisis, could a local first responder be stripped from their immediate response duties to form with a National Guard unit that may take 6 hours to arrive?

William Garrison: Is it feasible that many states' Governors could control units of National Guard troops that would be federally funded, but under state control? This might help the first responder short falls.

Downey: RAID teams may not be the answer. They will be coming in blind and cold.

Chairman: RAID teams are being set up within the states, but Virginia did not get one. There are ten now, which will be deployable by January 1st. They are full-time and not part-time. The problem is keeping them currently trained, equipped, and funded. New equipment comes out all the time, but the teams don't always get the actual experience the HAZMAT folks do.

Moving along, we should now welcome Panel member Kathleen O'Brien who comes from Minneapolis to discuss the role of city planners in WMD preparation.

Kathleen O'Brien: (See Appendix 4.) There is nothing theoretical in city planning. We assume local respondents will be the first on scene and on their own for the first 12 to 24 hours. As a consequence, local responders have learned to cooperate with each other. We have developed plans.

Training: We received training from Department of Defense personnel. The training was excellent, very professional. They really made attempts to tailor the exercises for our personnel. There was a good "train the trainer" session. Minneapolis has a strong mayor and Minnesota has a strong governor. However, I have to deal with 14 bosses, and I report to all of them. The organizational chart for Minneapolis however is not too bad--it is not too convoluted.

Our senior planners know there's a threat. They are sophisticated in their thinking about the problem. However there are gaps in communications between our responder personnel. In our city planning department, we don't know how to go from our local plan to a multi-jurisdictional plan in any crisis. Furthermore, we do not know how to move from ad hoc training to creating an established capability. Metropolitan Minneapolis is a very spread out city with the central city providing a lot of services to the outlying areas.

Response and Preparedness: Federal resources receive a large percentage of all funds given to responding personnel. Most of the equipment and equipment grants are centralized on major population centers mostly on the East and West Coast. This has a real impact on our ability to fund preparedness.

Participatory Program: The federal level trainers tell locals how they should train and with what equipment they should trade. The federal forces also tell locals what equipment they can buy. The locals have no leeway to buy equipment or to train in methods outside of the federal mandate, even if the locals know their environment has special or non-standard needs.

Ellen Embrey: The Department of Defense has a lot of expertise to be leveraged for responding to local crises. The best way to use them in developing new techniques and training would be to put them in the National Guard. This was the genesis of the RAID teams. There are 10 teams in the test program.

The goal of setting up the first 10 teams was to put them in the 10 FEMA regions with ready access to airlift capability, while simultaneously locating them close to major highways, giving them land routes to major intersections. The original 10 were expanded to 15 groups. Congress learned of this plan and expanded it to 17 more groups. However Congress will need to fund these additional groups on their own because the Department of Defense is only funding 15 with its present budget. People bad mouth the RAID teams but they are not even stood up yet. The teams are criticized for trying to be everything for all crises and events, but in the original concept, they are only supposed to supplement local forces--they are not supposed to be the first responders.

Maniscalco: The problem is that these groups are getting the press, the attention, and the resources as "super-groups" and yet they are going to the same training as other local groups. They are being billed as "saving grace" forces. There's no way they can be first responders. We don't think they could even show up less than four hours from the time of a crisis. That's four hours from the time of notification. Notification itself may add hours as well.

The Chairman introduced Roger Brown of the RAND staff, who provided a handout briefing to the Panel (see Appendix 5) on Federal Efforts Supporting WMD Terrorism Response and Preparedness. Mr. Brown noted several key points in the briefing, especially the breakdown of Federal funding by agency and function for antiterrorism/counter-terrorism efforts.

Chairman: The next presentation will come from Panel member retired General Clapper from the SECDEF's threat reduction advisory council.

James Clapper: We are preparing an integrated threat database available to local, state, and federal responders. The current situation is that our nation cannot rely on the intelligence community for warning of a terrorist attack. The function and organs of the intelligence community are not suited for this threat nor do they or will they devote comparable resources to this problem that they did to the USSR during the Cold War. They're not looking at the right future threat. Part of the new international threat environment means sharing of information, such as between the CIA and FBI on some missions. The terrorism mission and WMD mission are the best examples.

There's a critical need for early indicators of nuclear, chemical, and biological proliferation. Within the government there is low confidence in the intelligence community to give good warning. There is also no good way to disseminate any type of warning in a real-time mode. The national command authority, the CINCs, and domestic responders require "trans-" and "post-" offensive information. They need forensics and data that facilitates detective work.

All participants complain that they have no access to information. The intelligence community could assemble a database for all who needed it. This could be their function, especially considering that they are not able to provide warning. The intelligence community database would need to be operated and maintained by an executive organization. There is already a classified database called "Athena" with restrictive access. This database was designed, built, and is maintained by the Department of Defense, intelligence community and others. We could develop a classification of SECRET: RELEASABLE TO GOVERNORS FOR CRISES.

This database would integrate intelligence and information, both foreign and domestic, and could give analysts' tools for forensics. Analysts would also be encouraged to populate the database as soon as possible.

The database would have the following attributes. It would be

  • Timely
  • Offer improved connectivity and interoperability
  • Integration between shared workspace and entire community of interest.

The focus must be on integration and not creating data. The goal would be to expand the community to everyone who needs it.

Is this viable? Maybe. Is it "pie in the sky?" Yes, but it is also vital. It covers big turf issues, which makes it difficult to create and implement, to be sure. We know integrating people who work on foreign and domestic issues is also difficult. We also need to figure out how to deal with the issue of need-to-know?. We still have to figure out the legal and regulatory environment. Who should lead this? Probably the Department of Defense. Who would supply resources? Who would pay for it? Funds and people are the biggest questions. These need to be resolved.

Phase one of development would involve designing the architecture. Assistant SECDEF Hamre has endorsed this plan. We plan to hold our first stake holders meeting in July 2000. This plan has been briefed to DTRA, to the advisory panel, and here.

Maniscalco: Where is the funding coming from for the preparatory work?

Clapper: DTRA.

Foresman: What is the utility and application for local planners?

Clapper: If they had a research database for analysts and for talking to experts, it might improve their responsiveness. The big question is "what are the requirements of local responders for such a system." The idea behind this database is that the federal authorities want to interact better with local respondents.

Bremer: I see a problem. Without a single agency in charge, the database will not work. Unless the DCI runs it, it won't work.

Clapper: We want to avoid giving it to the DCI. We want to make it open and public. Intelligence should be an important component, but also a small part of this project.

Bremer: Without the CIA, you will not get the best intelligence; and the only way to get the CIA involved is to put them in charge.

Clapper: Certainly we need the DCI's blessing, but we don't see this database as belonging to him. It would scare off the other players.

Foresman: What is the nature of the intelligence that would be put on this database? Would it contain information such as shipments of radiological material, etc.?

Clapper: We think the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others could all put data on the nature of chemical, nuclear, biological materials on this database. The Centers for Disease Control could put information on this database as well. It would all be available to local responders and local planners. The state governor should have some clearance or access, maybe the same clearance and access as any policy maker, so he could see the data as well.

Hoffman: Do you see the database being populated with information or analysis? Isn't the analysis more sensitive?

Clapper: We see both being put on the database, but the access could be measured on different tiers.

Garrison: Within the counter-terrorism community we developed a network. This network contained "non record" traffic which was just informal, direct talking between players, without anyone going on record. Would this apply?

Hoffman: Does State do this with the OSAC (Over Seas Advisory Council)?

Clapper:Yes. Their system has had different levels of access for different talkers.

Hoffman: I would now like to give an overview to the draft report (see draft outline at Appendix 6.) We've been working on this project for approximately four months. We did not start until after the June meeting. The draft report takes a "liberal look" at what the final report might say, based on the first phase of work. There are seven key conclusions supported by empirical research with the output listed in the last two pages of the handout I have supplied. The report is not yet written, nor have we already made our conclusions.

Bremer: Are we supposed to get in our first drafts by the first of November? Why does the Department of Defense get six weeks to review it? This means we lose six weeks. If that deadline is a bureaucratic one, why should we adhere to it?

Chairman: This panel should have time to read the report before putting our names on it. This makes sense to me.

Maniscalco: I concur. The government does not need six weeks to clear and read this.

Hoffman: As agreed, therefore, we will submit a draft in the third week of November to the DoD.

Jones: In addressing the substance of the paper, the RAND reports are slanted towards saying the threat of a release of chemical weapons is small. These reports play down the risk and consequences of a release of radiological or chemical agents as well.

Chairman: I agree. As an elected official, I have to ask who would want to sign their name to a paper that plays down a threat, when it might still happen? We have heard over and over again that it is not a question of "if" but when. This sentiment contradicts the RAND papers.

Bremer: The RAND papers also surveyed the leaders and experts in the field, however, and they all came to the same conclusion. We need to assign some probabilities. If not, we do not help policymakers make decisions.

Chairman: I don't know how you do that scientifically.

Bremer: It's not just RAND who is asserting this, but experts believe that any such attack is unlikely. If this panel goes against those experts, we need to explain why.

Chairman: The explanation is that you cannot assume rationality among terrorists. It may not make sense for them to try and acquire these weapons, but they might anyway. This is why assigning a low probability is problematic. In effect, there are terrorists who we have to assume would use such weapons if they could obtain them. Bin Laden, for example. He has the money to make it possible.

Clapper: The RAND studies downplay the threat to watch. I'm surprised the threat seems as soft as it is as it appears in the reports. We don't want to just weaken all we have said before, but we want to avoid being alarmist as well. I recommend identifying one or two heartening items. We could say: "We recommend pushing on this and this issue."

Garrison: Until we can counter the big truck bomb, that is what terrorists will use. Other attacks won't take place until that attack and the threat of that attack disappears.

Maniscalco: The Defense Science Board in 1997 told us that the threat was real. How can the threat have changed so much in just two years? How could we quantify the risk and say it's too low?

Hoffman: Two years ago there was a threat and the intelligence community was caught unprepared, and therefore they have a propensity to overcompensate, and that is why the threat looked so dire in 1997. In defense of the RAND work, we have looked at expert empirical studies and made certain conclusions. If such attacks were so easy, why have they not happened? This sort of attack is not easy, and that's the message. We have identified high-consequence, low-probability kinds of attacks as the most likely. We also need to identify low-consequence, high-probability attacks and their implications and identify to policymakers that there are trade-offs between preparing for each.

O'Brien: It makes some sense that there was a backlash to the bombings at the World Trade Center and in the chemical weapon attack in the Tokyo subway. This would explain why we were told the threat was imminent. At that point it made sense. The bureaucratic response may not have been rational.

Jones: Conventional weapons attack against a chemical facility could be a WMD attack. The RAND studies are too tied to prim and proper definitions of WMD attacks. Bhopal could have been a WMD attack. We have seen plume modeling of such attacks, and it could be a real disaster.

Clapper: I have seen BBC commentators reporting that the risk is high. We need to know what other reports are saying, and prepare for that. Why are the RAND work's conclusions so different?

Hoffman: Our work is different because it is based on work by terrorism experts. They say there's no certainty that it will happen.

William Reno: There is no doubt at some point there will be economic terrorism, brought about through WMD.

Bremer: I don't feel good prescribing solutions when we have not really concluded on the threat.

Foresman: Politicians are over stating the need for responsiveness, but they have raised expectations of the public. We need to be careful about how we address this issue and make recommendations.

Greenleaf: Neither the CIA nor the FBI said anything that contradicted RAND's reports.

Foresman: RAND may have surveyed terrorism experts, but we're public policy experts. We need to take that into account. It is good public policy to have a responsive ability.

Hoffman: Panel deferred decision regarding where it will hold the next meeting. Should it be in Santa Monica or in Washington D.C.?


Additional material distributed to the Panel is attached as Appendixes 1 through 6. Some of the briefings the panel received were classified or sensitive in nature; they are part of the official record, but not attached to the minutes.