By David Gura
A new report, prepared by the Evaluation and Inspections Division of the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice, raises doubts about the Department's ability to respond to a WMD incident.
Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a constituent agency, was praised for having "taken adequate steps to prepare to respond to a potential WMD attack," the Inspector General criticized the rest of the Justice Department:
Neither the Department nor the components within the Department have implemented adequate WMD response plans. The Department has not designated an entity or individual to provide central oversight of WMD-related activities, and responsibility for management of the Department's response program is uncoordinated and fragmented. The Department has not updated its policies to reflect recent national policies, existing policies have not been fully implemented, and we found no Department policies or plans for responding to a WMD incident.
For years, experts have worried about dirty bombs, chemicals, or deadly germs falling into the hands of terrorists. According to NPR's Carrie Johnson, the report says that the Justice Department is unprepared, and its approach is outdated. For instance, a critical incident plan, which doesn't even address weapons of mass destructions, hasn't been updated since 1996.
The Justice Department is in charge of coordinating an attack response, but Inspector General Glenn Fine says the lead agency in control, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has not assigned anyone to manage the process.
He said it's critical that the Justice Department move to address the deficiencies as soon as possible.
The report made five recommendations "to help the Department better prepare to respond to a WMD incident":
1. Designate a person or office at the Department level with the authority to manage the Department's WMD operational response program.
2. Update the Department's response policies and plan to conform them to the National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System.
3. Require Department components to update their own policies and plans to reflect the updated Department guidance, and to reflect the need for adequate coordination among Department components in responding to WMD incident.
4. Establish effective oversight to ensure that components maintain WMD response plans, participate in training and exercises, and implement a corrective action program in response to such exercises.
5. Ensure that the Department is prepared to fulfill its emergency support function responsibilities under the National Response Framework, including reviewing the designation of ATF as the Department's lead agency to coordinate public safety and security activities, approving a Concept of Operations Plan, and staffing national and regional coordinator positions.