Monday, August 15, 2011

WMD and the Interest of Congress Begins!

PUBLIC LAW 104-201


Extract from House Conference Report No. 104-724

Domestic Preparedness

Enhancing the nation’s ability to prevent, and, if necessary, to respond to a terrorist incident involving nuclear, radiological, chemical, or biological weapons or materials is the cornerstone of this program. The conferees note that an interagency group, composed of the Federal Response Plan signatory agencies led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completed and forwarded to the President on July 1, 1996, a report titled ”Consequences Management for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) Terrorism.” The report documents the inadequacy of the Federal Response Plan to deal with NBC terrorist incidents and makes specific recommendations regarding capability enhancements. The conferees agree to a provision (§1411) that would require the President to take immediate action to enhance the capability of the Federal Government to respond to such incidents and to provide enhanced support to improve the capabilities of State and local emergency response and law enforcement agencies to respond to such incidents. The provision would further require the President to provide to the Congress by January 31, 1997, [published in the Congressional Record on February 26, 1997] a report containing an assessment of such capabilities, improvements required, and measures that should be taken to achieve such improvements, including additional resources and legislative authority that might be necessary.

The conferees agree to recommend $50.0 million for the establishment of a domestic emergency assistance program for the Department of Defense to immediately begin sharing its unique expertise, experience, and equipment in dealing with chemical and biological weapons and materials with local emergency first respondents (firemen, policemen, and medical workers).

The conferees expect that the Secretary of Defense will work expeditiously with the Secretary of Health and Human Services in providing DOD resources and expertise to the Office of Emergency Preparedness for the formation of emergency medical teams that are trained and equipped to handle incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

The conferees agree to provide $15.0 million for DOD to conduct interagency exercises that will focus on testing and improving the U.S. Government’s ability to respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.
The conferees have agreed to an additional provision (§1414) that would require DOD to establish at least one Chemical-Biological Emergency Response Team for rapid response to domestic terrorism. The conferees expect that such teams would be similar in concept to the Nuclear Emergency Search Team and Accident Response Groups that are maintained by DOE for response to a nuclear incident. The conferees note in the joint DOD/DOE report [prepared in consultation with FEMA] to the Congress, “Preparedness and Response to a Nuclear, Radiological, Biological, or Chemical Terrorist Attack,” dated June 13, 1996, that the DOD is attempting to establish such a capability. The conferees note that many of the capabilities sought for such teams are already present in the Army’s Technical Escort Unit, Edgewood Research, Development, and Engineering Center, and Chemical Defense and Infectious Disease Medical Research Institutes. The conferees also note the Counterproliferation Program Review Committee’s “Report on Activities and Programs for Countering Proliferation’, dated May 1996, which states that the U.S. Marine Forces, Atlantic was scheduled to activate a Department of the Navy/Marine Corps Chemical/Biological Incident Response Force on June 1, 1996, to respond to chemical and biological incidents (terrorist or otherwise) occurring on naval installations and Department of State legations worldwide. The conferees understand that the unit has been activated and is now in training.
In §1416, the conferees agree to provide authority, very narrowly defined and carefully constructed, for the President and the Attorney General to request military support to local authorities in incidents involving chemical and biological weapons. This authority is in addition to the authorities otherwise provided in Chapter 18 of title 10, U.S. Code. The conferees agree that the use of the military in any emergency situation involving biological or chemical weapons or materials should be limited both in time and scope to dealing with the specific chemical or biological weapons-related incident.
Finally, the conferees have included a provision (§1417) that would require Federal Response Plan agencies to develop and maintain an inventory of equipment and other assets that could be made available to aid State and local officials in search and rescue and other disaster management and mitigation efforts associated with an emergency involving weapons of mass destruction, and would require FEMA to maintain a comprehensive master list of the inventory. The provision would also require FEMA to establish a data base on chemical and biological agent and munitions characteristics and safety precautions and to develop a system to provide federal, State, and local officials access to the data base and to the master inventory.