Chemical and Biological Defense:

Updated Intelligence, Clear Guidance, and Consistent Priorities Needed to Guide Investments in Collective Protection

GAO-07-113: Published: Jan 19, 2007. Publicly Released: Feb 20, 2007.

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For the military to operate in environments contaminated by chemical and biological warfare agents, the Department of Defense (DOD) has developed collective protection equipment to provide a protected environment for group activities. GAO previously reported persistent problems in providing collective protection for U.S. forces in high threat areas overseas. In this report, GAO examined (1) current intelligence assessments of chemical and biological threats, (2) the extent to which DOD has provided collective protection at critical overseas facilities and major expeditionary warfighting assets, and (3) DOD's framework for managing installation protection policies and prioritizing critical installations for funding. In conducting this review, GAO developed criteria to identify critical sites in the absence of a DOD priority listing of such sites in overseas high threat areas--areas at high risk of terrorist or missile attack.

The intelligence community is struggling with the changing security environment and communicating the uncertainties in the quality of chemical and biological threat information. Generally, the two key chemical and biological threats facing DOD forces are from hostile nations using missiles, or terrorist groups (e.g., Al Qaeda) using devices to release chemical or biological agents. DOD expects these threats to grow. The intelligence community has recognized the need to communicate more candidly about the uncertainties in intelligence regarding the type and amount of agents, the number of missiles likely armed with chemical and biological warheads, and the method of dissemination. Communicating these uncertainties helps in understanding the actual threat posed by our adversaries and in making risk management decisions on investments. However, while the intelligence community, under the Director of National Intelligence, has issued a new 2006 intelligence estimate regarding the uncertainties in the biological warfare threat, it has not issued an update on the chemical warfare threat since 2002 due to evolving assessment and communication policies. Despite the growing threat, collective protection at both critical overseas facilities and in some major expeditionary warfighting assets (e.g., infantry units, naval vessels, and medical units) is limited and inconsistent. Nearly 80 percent of overseas sites identified as critical by combatant commanders based on criteria GAO provided them, did not have collective protection equipment--including about two-thirds of the critical sites in high threat areas. At the same time, GAO found problems such as often vague and inconsistent guidance on the use of collective protection. DOD guidance encourages the use of collective protection but does not prescribe specific standards to guide strategic decisions on its use. Military service guidance, except the Air Force, was also vague and inconsistent on key issues such as (1) whether decisions on the need for the equipment should be left to local commanders' discretion, (2) when the various types of collective protection are most appropriate, and (3) what functions need to be protected. Thus, commanders have difficulty determining the need for collective protection. DOD's framework for managing collective protection and other related installation protection policies and activities is fragmented, which affects DOD's ability to ensure that collective protection resources are allocated efficiently and effectively. Prior GAO and DOD reports have highlighted continuing problems with fragmented policies and operating concepts among the many and varied programs and organizations involved. These problems result in unresolved conflict about issues, such as which critical facilities should receive priority for funding improvements, and make it difficult for DOD to balance competing warfighting and other needs and ensure that funding resources are prudently allocated. Previously, GAO and others have recommended DOD designate a single authority to integrate and coordinate installation protection policies and activities, and DOD agreed. However, despite a new ongoing reorganization, it has not yet done so.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2007 DOD updated its field manual 3-11.34, to include guidance on the installation commander's responsibility to establish a Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear plan, and that this plan will guide commanders in making decisions on the use of collective protection. The manual also provides guidance on the use of integrated overpressure systems and portable equipment, and the process for assigning each installation a priority level to be used to identify its CBRN defense capability package, including whether certain critical facilities should be collectively protected.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the problems in the overall installation protection and collective protection policies and programs do not continue to place military personnel and operations at increased risk and undercut the efficiency and effectiveness of DOD resource allocations and to help ensure clear and consistent guidance in the chemical and biological collective protection program, the Secretary of Defense--as part of the ongoing reorganization--should direct the Joint Staff and military services to develop clear and consistent criteria to guide overarching strategic decisions on the use of collective protection at DOD facilities, including issues such as whether decisions on the need for collective protection should be prescribed or left to commanders' discretion, the use of integrated overpressure and filtration systems versus portable structures, and what mission functions must be protected.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In early 2008, The Office of the Secretary of Defense issued guidance that assigns responsibility for the Defense Critical Infrastructure Program to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense/ America's Security Affairs). This guidance points out that the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense/ America's Security Affairs)will oversee efforts to identify critical facilities and for prioritizing critical facilities and infrastructure for the purpose of funding protection improvements, which will help DOD ensure funding for critical facilities are allocated appropriately and efficiently.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the problems in the overall installation protection and collective protection policies and programs do not continue to place military personnel and operations at increased risk and undercut the efficiency and effectiveness of DOD resource allocations and to ensure better coordination and integration of the overall installation protection activities, the Secretary of Defense--as part of the ongoing reorganization--should assign this single authority with the responsibility to oversee efforts to gain DOD-wide agreement on criteria for identifying critical facilities and to develop a system for prioritizing critical facilities and infrastructure for funding protection improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense) has stated that installation preparedness, including implementing procedures to mitigate terrorist incidents are performed under DOD's antiterrorism program, in accordance with DOD Directive 2000.12, with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/ Low-Intensity Conflict having worldwide responsibility for worldwide antiterrorism activities. However, DOD Directive 2000.12 does not address our recommendation to designate a single authority within the department with responsibility for worldwide installation preparedness and operation concepts. Consequently, we do not believe this action addresses the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the problems in the overall installation protection and collective protection policies and programs do not continue to place military personnel and operations at increased risk and undercut the efficiency and effectiveness of DOD resource allocations and to ensure better coordination and integration of the overall installation protection activities, the Secretary of Defense--as part of the ongoing reorganization--should designate a single integrating authority with the responsibility to coordinate and integrate worldwide installation preparedness policies and operating concepts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since GAO's report was issued in 2007, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has published a series of country-specific Intelligence Community Assessments addressing the chemical warfare activities of "relevant" countries. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence views these intelligence community assessments as "building blocks" leading toward a future National Intelligence Estimate; however, did not provide a time frame for when such a document would be prepared. While producing intelligence community assessments may be a positive step, we do not believe these assessments meet the intent of our recommendation nor do they address the need for an integrated, worldwide assessment of the chemical warfare threat. We continue to believe that an updated chemical warfare National Intelligence Estimate is needed to provide critical input and basis for DOD decision making.

    Recommendation: In light of the need for the most current intelligence estimates to help guide the government's--including DOD's--risk assessments and investment decisions, the Director of National Intelligence should identify the impediments interfering with his ability to update the chemical warfare National Intelligence Estimate, and take the necessary steps to bring the report to issuance.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has closed this recommendation citing the development of a capability development document for Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection, which includes service-specific annexes and current requirements and concepts of operations for collective protection. While this capability development document describes capability provided by the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection systems, it does not address our recommendation to DOD to develop consistent requirements for when collective protection is required for specific types of units, such as medical units, and naval, ground, and air forces. We do not believe that DOD's action in this matter meets the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the problems in the overall installation protection and collective protection policies and programs do not continue to place military personnel and operations at increased risk and undercut the efficiency and effectiveness of DOD resource allocations and to help ensure clear and consistent guidance in the chemical and biological collective protection program, the Secretary of Defense--as part of the ongoing reorganization--should direct the Joint Staff and military services to review their current policies and, where appropriate, develop consistent requirements on when collective protection is required for medical units, and naval, ground, and air forces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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