Tags: Terrorism | Panel | Finalizes | Recommendations

Terrorism Panel Finalizes Recommendations

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

Virginia Gov. James Gilmore chairs the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, created in 1999 to study the issues surrounding such attacks within the U.S. borders.

Gilmore said the group's diverse membership, representing key federal, state and local responders, will help craft vital advice for the nation as it prepares resources and legislation to deal with any future attacks.

Mike Wermuth, a senior policy analyst at the RAND think tank in Arlington, and project manager for RAND's assistance to the panel, said the group's latest set of recommendations will be issued as an executive summary within the next couple of weeks. The panel's full report could be ready a couple of weeks earlier than its Dec. 15 deadline, Wermuth said.

Gilmore is offering the panel's advice, along with the rest of its research and analysis capabilities, to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, whom President Bush named last week to lead the new Office of Homeland Security.

That office's framework parallels many of the panel's previous recommendations, Gilmore said, and Ridge should be particularly in tune with the panel's point of view, given his state government background.

"We should hold steadfast to our approach that we do (our work) grounded in reason," Gilmore said. "It's critical that we remain a voice of calm, especially on those issues (such as using military forces domestically) with the potential to negatively impact the liberties of the people of America, and our press and our democracy."

Among the panel's key pieces of advice will be that OHS avoid assuming any command authority over emergency responses to a terrorist attack, Gilmore said. The office should stick to coordinating prior planning, training, intelligence and budget matters, he said, leaving the rest to the proven model based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In the intelligence area, the panel stressed the OHS or similar efforts should tap existing agencies' abilities instead of creating a redundant analysis group. The office also should work to ensure the widest possible dissemination of relevant warnings and other information, the panel said.

Senate legislation seems to be moving in that direction, Wermuth said.

Several panel members said state and local agencies are waiting for federal agencies to release training and capital equipment money related to terrorism response. The panel recommended the federal government accept preliminary state and local plans to boost the funding stream and relax stringent guidelines on what equipment can be purchased.

Since biological or chemical terrorism has become more likely, the panel's findings will include several health care-related issues. Federal agencies should expedite evaluation of the latest bio/chem protective gear for first responders, the panel said, and the various health care organizations in the Department of Health and Human Services should set up a government-contracted operation to produce vaccines and antidotes.

The panel's charter is set to run out at the end of the year, but the group is going to have at least two additional years to continue its work, said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., who has introduced legislation to that end.

"You've far exceeded anything (Congress) expected," Weldon told the panel. "There was no hesitation when I suggested to my colleagues that we extend the life of this commission. I will have no problem in conference with the Senate, I guarantee. In fact, they'll probably want to extend (the panel) more than 2 years."

The panel is tackling the terrorism issue on much more than an academic level, having been touched personally by the Sept. 11 attacks. Panel member Raymond Downey, commander of Special Operations for the New York City Fire Department, was among the first responders caught in the World Trade Center collapse, and is feared dead. Panel member Paul Maniscalco experienced the response to the WTC attacks as a NYFD deputy chief and paramedic. Ellen Embry, a Department of Defense employee serving on the panel, was in the Pentagon when it was attacked.

The panel voted to dedicate its upcoming report to Downey, should his name be added to the death toll before the report reaches the printer. Weldon said he will work toward having Congress honor Downey by dedicating a building in his name at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Virginia Gov. James Gilmore chairs the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, created in 1999 to study the issues surrounding such attacks within the U.S. borders. Gilmore said the group's diverse...
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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