HOW 20 CONGRESSMEN MET, WAIVED THE RULES, AND VOTED TO SET UP A PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL ON TERRORISM TO COORDINATE FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL ANTI-TERRORISM "PROTECTION."
On July 25, 2000, the House of Representatives passed HR 4210, the new "Preparedness Against Terrorism Act of 2000. Only 20 members of the house were present. The bill required a two-thirds vote of the house. The Rule was waived and the bill was voted upon with only 20 members of Congress present. House passed by voice a bill that would set up a presidential council on terrorism preparedness to coordinate federal programs that help state and local governments take anti-terrorism measures.
Tillie Fowler, Fla, was the republican sponser of this bill, which had the support of 39 CO-SPONSORS, 26 of whom were republican.
Click. Congressional Record of the Vote.
Click. Two Versions of HR 4210.
Click. Background of HR 4210
Click. House would make it easier to seize assets of terrorist states
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 4210) to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide for improved Federal efforts to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks, and for other purposes, as amended.
The Clerk read as follows:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; REFERENCES.
(a) Short Title: This Act may be cited as the `Preparedness Against Terrorism Act of 2000'.
(b) References: Except as otherwise specifically provided, whenever in this Act an amendment or repeal is expressed in terms of an amendment to, or repeal of, a section or other provision of law, the reference shall be considered to be made to a section or other provision of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.).
SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.
(a) Findings: Congress finds that--
(1) the President should strengthen Federal interagency emergency planning by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies for development of a capability for early detection and warning of and response to potential domestic terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction; and
(2) Federal efforts to assist State and local emergency preparedness and response personnel in preparation for domestic terrorist attacks should be coordinated so as to eliminate duplicative Federal programs.
(b) Purposes: The purposes of this Act include--
(1) coordinating and making more effective Federal efforts to assist State and local emergency preparedness and response personnel in preparation for domestic terrorist attacks;
(2) designating a lead entity to coordinate such Federal efforts; and
(3) updating Federal authorities to reflect the increased risk of terrorist attacks.
SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF MAJOR DISASTER.
Section 102(2) (42 U.S.C. 5122(2)) is amended to read as follows:
`(2) Major disaster: `Major disaster' means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, snow drought, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, explosion, act of terrorism, or other catastrophic event in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this Act to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.'.
SEC. 4. ADMINISTRATION OF EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PROGRAMS BY THE PRESIDENT.
Title VI (42 U.S.C. 5195 et seq.) is amended--
(1) by striking `Director' each place it appears (other than in sections 602(a)(7) and 603) and inserting `President';
(2) in section 603 by striking `Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency' and inserting `President';
(3) in section 611(c)--
(A) by striking `With the approval of the President, the' and inserting `The'; and
(B) by striking `responsibilities and review' and inserting `responsibilities. The President shall review';
(4) in section 621(g) by striking the second sentence;
(5) in section 623--
(A) by striking paragraph (1) and redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (1) and (2), respectively; and
(B) in paragraph (2) (as so redesignated) by striking `unless' and all that follows through `approval of the President,' and inserting `unless the President'; and
(6) in section 624 by striking `to the President and Congress' and inserting `to Congress'.
SEC. 5. DEFINITIONS.
(a) Hazard: Section 602(a)(1)(B) (42 U.S.C. 5195a(a)(1)(B)) is amended by striking the period at the end and inserting `, including a domestic terrorist attack involving a weapon of mass destruction.'.
(b) Natural Disaster: Section 602(a)(2) (42 U.S.C. 5195a(a)(2)) is amended to read as follows:
`(2) Natural disaster: The term `natural disaster' means any hurricane, tornado, storm, flood, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, snow drought, drought, fire, or other catastrophe in any part of the United States which causes, or which may cause, substantial damage or injury to civilian property or persons.'.
(c) Emergency Preparedness: Section 602(a)(3)(A) (42 U.S.C. 5195a(a)(3)(A)) is amended by inserting `the predeployment of these and other essential resources (including personnel),' before `the provision of suitable warning systems,'.
(d) Director: Section 602(a) (42 U.S.C. 5195a(a)) is amended by striking paragraph (7) and redesignating paragraphs (8), (9), and (10) as paragraphs (7), (8), and (9), respectively.
(e) Weapon of Mass Destruction: Section 602 (42 U.S.C. 5195a) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(10) Weapon of mass destruction: The term `weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of--
`(A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors;
`(B) a disease organism; or
`(C) radiation or radioactivity.'.
SEC. 6. DETAILED FUNCTIONS OF ADMINISTRATION.
(a) Federal Emergency Response Plans and Programs: Section 611(b) (42 U.S.C. 5196(b)) is amended--
(1) by striking `may prepare' and inserting `shall prepare'; and
(2) by adding at the end the following: `In accordance with section 313, the President shall ensure that Federal response plans and programs are adequate to respond to the consequences of terrorism directed against a target in the United States, including terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.'.
(b) Emergency Preparedness Measures: Section 611(e) (42 U.S.C. 5196(e)) is amended--
(1) in paragraph (1) by inserting `preventing and' before `treating';
(2) in paragraph (2) by striking `developing shelter designs' and inserting `development of shelter designs, equipment, clothing,'; and
(3) in paragraph (3) by striking `developing' and all that follows through `thereof' and inserting `development and standardization of equipment and facilities'.
(c) Training and Exercise Programs: Section 611(f) (42 U.S.C. 5196(f)) is amended--
(1) in the subsection heading by inserting `and Exercise' after `Training';
(2) in paragraph (1)(A) by inserting `and exercise' after `training';
(3) by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (3) and (4), respectively; and
(4) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following:
`(2) The President shall establish priorities among training and exercise programs for preparedness against terrorist attacks based on an assessment of the existing threats, capabilities, and objectives.'.
SEC. 7. REPEALS.
(a) Use of Funds To Prepare for and Respond to Hazards: Section 615 (42 U.S.C. 5196d) is repealed.
(b) Security Regulations: Section 622 (42 U.S.C. 5197a) is repealed.
SEC. 8. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
Section 626 (42 U.S.C. 5197e) is amended--
(1) by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c); and
(2) by inserting after subsection (a) the following:
`(b) Priorities: Amounts appropriated pursuant to this section for training and exercise programs for preparedness against terrorist attacks shall be used in a manner consistent with the priorities established under section 611(f)(2).'.
SEC. 9. PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON DOMESTIC TERRORISM PREPAREDNESS.
Title VI of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5195 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`SEC. 651. ESTABLISHMENT OF COUNCIL.
`(a) In General: There is established a council to be known as the President's Council on Domestic Terrorism Preparedness (in this subtitle referred to as the `Council').
`(b) Membership: The Council shall be composed of the following members:
`(1) The President.
`(2) The Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
`(3) The Attorney General.
`(4) The Secretary of Defense.
`(5) The Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
`(6) The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
`(7) Any additional members appointed by the President.
`(1) In general: The President shall serve as the chairman of the Council.
`(2) Executive chairman: The President may appoint an Executive Chairman of the Council (in this subtitle referred to as the `Executive Chairman'). The Executive Chairman shall represent the President as chairman of the Council, including in communications with Congress and State Governors.
`(3) Senate confirmation: An individual selected to be the Executive Chairman under paragraph (2) shall be appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, except that Senate confirmation shall not be required if, on the date of appointment, the individual holds a position for which Senate confirmation was required.
`(d) First Meeting: The first meeting of the Council shall be held not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
`SEC. 652. DUTIES OF COUNCIL.
`The Council shall carry out the following duties:
`(1) Establish the policies, objectives, and priorities of the Federal Government for enhancing the capabilities of State and local emergency preparedness and response personnel in early detection and warning of and response to all domestic terrorist attacks, including attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
`(2) Publish a Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and an annual strategy for carrying out the plan in accordance with section 653, including the end state of preparedness for emergency responders established under section 653(b)(1)(D).
`(3) To the extent practicable, rely on existing resources (including planning documents, equipment lists, and program inventories) in the execution of its duties.
`(4) Consult with and utilize existing interagency boards and committees, existing governmental entities, and non-governmental organizations in the execution of its duties.
`(5) Ensure that a biennial review of the terrorist attack preparedness programs of State and local governmental entities is conducted and provide recommendations to the entities based on the reviews.
`(6) Provide for the creation of a State and local advisory group for the Council, to be composed of individuals involved in State and local emergency preparedness and response to terrorist attacks.
`(7) Provide for the establishment by the Council's State and local advisory group of voluntary guidelines for the terrorist attack preparedness programs of State and local governmental entities in accordance with section 655.
`(8) Designate a Federal entity to consult with, and serve as a contact for, State and local governmental entities implementing terrorist attack preparedness programs.
`(9) Coordinate and oversee the implementation by Federal departments and agencies of the policies, objectives, and priorities established under paragraph (1) and the fulfillment of the responsibilities of such departments and agencies under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan.
`(10) Make recommendations to the heads of appropriate Federal departments and agencies regarding--
`(A) changes in the organization, management, and resource allocations of the departments and agencies; and
`(B) the allocation of personnel to and within the departments and agencies,
to implement the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan.
`(11) Assess all Federal terrorism preparedness programs and ensure that each program complies with the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan.
`(12) Identify duplication, fragmentation, and overlap within Federal terrorism preparedness programs and eliminate such duplication, fragmentation and overlap.
`(13) Evaluate Federal emergency response assets and make recommendations regarding the organization, need, and geographic location of such assets.
`(14) Establish general policies regarding financial assistance to States based on potential risk and threat, response capabilities, and ability to achieve the end state of preparedness for emergency responders established under section 653(b)(1)(D).
`(15) Notify a Federal department or agency in writing if the Council finds that its policies are not in compliance with its responsibilities under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan.
`SEC. 653. DOMESTIC TERRORISM PREPAREDNESS PLAN AND ANNUAL STRATEGY
`(a) Development of Plan: Not later than 180 days after the date of the first meeting of the Council, the Council shall develop a Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and transmit a copy of the plan to Congress.
`(1) In general: The Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan shall include the following:
`(A) A statement of the policies, objectives, and priorities established by the Council under section 652(1).
`(B) A plan for implementing such policies, objectives, and priorities that is based on a threat, risk, and capability assessment and includes measurable objectives to be achieved in each of the following 5 years for enhancing domestic preparedness against a terrorist attack.
`(C) A description of the specific role of each Federal department and agency, and the roles of State and local governmental entities, under the plan developed under subparagraph (B).
`(D) A definition of an end state of preparedness for emergency responders that sets forth measurable, minimum standards of acceptability for preparedness.
`(2) Evaluation of federal response teams: In preparing the description under paragraph (1)(C), the Council shall evaluate each Federal response team and the assistance that the team offers to State and local emergency personnel when responding to a terrorist attack. The evaluation shall include an assessment of how the Federal response team will assist State and local emergency personnel after the personnel has achieved the end state of preparedness for emergency responders established under paragraph (1)(D).
`(c) Annual Strategy:
`(1) In general: The Council shall develop and transmit to Congress, on the date of transmittal of the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and, in each of the succeeding 4 fiscal years, on the date that the President submits an annual budget to Congress in accordance with section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code, an annual strategy for carrying out the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan in the fiscal year following the fiscal year in which the strategy is submitted.
`(2) Contents: The annual strategy for a fiscal year shall include the following:
`(A) An inventory of Federal training and exercise programs, response teams, grant programs, and other programs and activities related to domestic preparedness against a terrorist attack conducted in the preceding fiscal year and a determination as to whether any of such programs or activities may be duplicative. The inventory shall consist of a complete description of each such program and activity, including the funding level and purpose of and goal to be achieved by the program or activity.
`(B) If the Council determines under subparagraph (A) that certain programs and activities are duplicative, a detailed plan for consolidating, eliminating, or modifying the programs and activities.
`(C) An inventory of Federal training and exercise programs, grant programs, response teams, and other programs and activities to be conducted in such fiscal year under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and measurable objectives to be achieved in such fiscal year for enhancing domestic preparedness against a terrorist attack. The inventory shall provide for implementation of any plan developed under subparagraph (B), relating to duplicative programs and activities.
`(D) A complete assessment of how resource allocation recommendations developed under section 654(a) are intended to implement the annual strategy.
`(1) In general: In developing the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and each annual strategy for carrying out the plan, the Council shall consult with--
`(A) the head of each Federal department and agency that will have responsibilities under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan or annual strategy;
`(C) State and local officials;
`(D) congressionally authorized panels; and
`(E) emergency preparedness organizations with memberships that include State and local emergency responders.
`(2) Reports: As part of the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan and each annual strategy for carrying out the plan, the Council shall include a written statement indicating the persons consulted under this subsection and the recommendations made by such persons.
`(e) Transmission of Classified Information: Any part of the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan or an annual strategy for carrying out the plan that involves information properly classified under criteria established by an Executive order shall be presented to Congress separately.
`(f) Risk of Terrorist Attacks Against Transportation Facilities:
`(1) In general: In developing the plan and risk assessment under subsection (b), the Council shall designate an entity to assess the risk of terrorist attacks against transportation facilities, personnel, and passengers.
`(2) Contents: In developing the plan and risk assessment under subsection (b), the Council shall ensure that the following 3 tasks are accomplished:
`(A) An examination of the extent to which transportation facilities, personnel, and passengers have been the target of terrorist attacks and the extent to which such facilities, personnel, and passengers are vulnerable to such attacks.
`(B) An evaluation of Federal laws that can be used to combat terrorist attacks against transportation facilities, personnel, and passengers, and the extent to which such laws are enforced. The evaluation may also include a review of applicable State laws.
`(C) An evaluation of available technologies and practices to determine the best means of protecting transportation facilities, personnel, and passengers against terrorist attacks.
`(3) Consultation: In developing the plan and risk assessment under subsection (b), the Council shall consult with the Secretary of Transportation, representatives of persons providing transportation, and representatives of employees of such persons.
`(g) Monitoring: The Council, with the assistance of the Inspector General of the relevant Federal department or agency as needed, shall monitor the implementation of the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan, including conducting program and performance audits and evaluations.
`SEC. 654. NATIONAL DOMESTIC PREPAREDNESS BUDGET.
`(a) Recommendations Regarding Resource Allocations:
`(1) Transmittal to council: Each Federal Government program manager, agency head, and department head with responsibilities under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan shall transmit to the Council for each fiscal year recommended resource allocations for programs and activities relating to such responsibilities on or before the earlier of--
`(A) the 45th day before the date of the budget submission of the department or agency to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the fiscal year; or
`(B) August 15 of the fiscal year preceding the fiscal year for which the recommendations are being made.
`(2) Transmittal to the office of management and budget: The Council shall develop for each fiscal year recommendations regarding resource allocations for each program and activity identified in the annual strategy completed under section 653 for the fiscal year. Such recommendations shall be submitted to the relevant departments and agencies and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall consider such recommendations in formulating the annual budget of the President submitted to Congress under section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code, and shall provide to the Council a written explanation in any case in which the Director does not accept such a recommendation.
`(3) Records: The Council shall maintain records regarding recommendations made and written explanations received under paragraph (2) and shall provide such records to Congress upon request. The Council may not fulfill such a request before the date of submission of the relevant annual budget of the President to Congress under section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code.
`(4) New programs or reallocation of resources: The head of a Federal department or agency shall consult with the Council before acting to enhance the capabilities of State and local emergency preparedness and response personnel with respect to terrorist attacks by--
`(A) establishing a new program or office; or
`(B) reallocating resources, including Federal response teams.
`SEC. 655. VOLUNTARY GUIDELINES FOR STATE AND LOCAL PROGRAMS.
`The Council shall provide for the establishment of voluntary guidelines for the terrorist attack preparedness programs of State and local governmental entities for the purpose of providing guidance in the development and implementation of such programs. The guidelines shall address equipment, exercises, and training and shall establish a desired threshold level of preparedness for State and local emergency responders.
`SEC. 656. POWERS OF COUNCIL.
`In carrying out this subtitle, the Council may--
`(1) direct, with the concurrence of the Secretary of a department or head of an agency, the temporary reassignment within the Federal Government of personnel employed by such department or agency;
`(2) use for administrative purposes, on a reimbursable basis, the available services, equipment, personnel, and facilities of Federal, State, and local agencies;
`(3) procure the services of experts and consultants in accordance with section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, relating to appointments in the Federal Service, at rates of compensation for individuals not to exceed the daily equivalent of the rate of pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code;
`(4) accept and use donations of property from Federal, State, and local government agencies;
`(5) use the mails in the same manner as any other department or agency of the executive branch; and
`(6) request the assistance of the Inspector General of a Federal department or agency in conducting audits and evaluations under section 653(g).
`SEC. 657. ROLE OF COUNCIL IN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL EFFORTS.
`The Council may, in the Council's role as principal adviser to the National Security Council on Federal efforts to assist State and local governmental entities in domestic terrorist attack preparedness matters, and subject to the direction of the President, attend and participate in meetings of the National Security Council. The Council may, subject to the direction of the President, participate in the National Security Council's working group structure.
`SEC. 658. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND STAFF OF COUNCIL.
`(a) Executive Director: The Council shall have an Executive Director who shall be appointed by the President.
`(b) Staff: The Executive Director may appoint such personnel as the Executive Director considers appropriate. Such personnel shall be assigned to the Council on a full-time basis and shall report to the Executive Director.
`(c) Administrative Support Services: The Executive Office of the President shall provide to the Council, on a reimbursable basis, such administrative support services, including office space, as the Council may request.
`SEC. 659. COORDINATION WITH EXECUTIVE BRANCH DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES.
`(a) Requests for Assistance: The head of each Federal department and agency with responsibilities under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan shall cooperate with the Council and, subject to laws governing disclosure of information, provide such assistance, information, and advice as the Council may request.
`(b) Certification of Policy Changes by Council:
`(1) In general: The head of each Federal department and agency with responsibilities under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan shall, unless exigent circumstances require otherwise, notify the Council in writing regarding any proposed change in policies relating to the activities of such department or agency under the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan prior to implementation of such change. The Council shall promptly review such proposed change and certify to the department or agency head in writing whether such change is consistent with the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan.
`(2) Notice in exigent circumstances: If prior notice of a proposed change under paragraph (1) is not possible, the department or agency head shall notify the Council as soon as practicable. The Council shall review such change and certify to the department or agency head in writing whether such change is consistent with the Domestic Terrorism Preparedness Plan.
`SEC. 660. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
`There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subtitle $9,000,000 for fiscal year 2001 and such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2002 through 2005. Such sums shall remain available until expended.'.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) and a Member of the minority each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler).
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Traficant) the subcommittee ranking member for his work on the bill. I also want to thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Chairman Shuster) and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the ranking minority member of the full committee, for their support and help, as well.
The gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) and I have worked long and hard these past several weeks on this, and I really deeply appreciate all of his advice and support on this.
Mr. Speaker, it was a brisk April morning 5 years ago that America was awakened with horror to the frightening reality that we live in a world where our main streets are no longer immune from the terror that lurks around the world.
The two posters that are here in front are illustrations from that time in Oklahoma. The pictures of that awful day are a sobering reminder of the new threats of evil that Americans face, but they also remind us of how grossly unprepared our Nation was and still is to respond to such a disaster.
Mr. Speaker, tonight we have a tremendous opportunity to tackle this lingering threat to our national security that grows deeper each day. Right now our terrorism preparedness efforts are floundering without a national strategy and real authority to support it. Over 40 departments and agencies are involved in the Federal effort with a $9 billion price tag.
Unfortunately, this effort has been tainted by bureaucrats bickering and battling over money and control, all under the guise of protecting and preparing Americans for a terrorist attack.
For more than 2 years, this administration has fostered an unworkable system and has, until last week, opposed any measure to fix the problem. Federal agencies have been playing politics with the lives of our friends and neighbors.
But this is not a partisan political issue by evidence of the support of my good friends and colleagues from across the aisle.
We have heard from the men and women in communities across the Nation who are our emergency responders, whether they be police, firefighters or emergency personnel, no one knows who to turn to for help.
These local responders know our preparedness programs have been independent and uncoordinated, resulting in overlapping and repetitive mistakes. It is an embarrassing alphabet soup.
But the Council on Terrorist Preparedness, which is proposed in this bill, would eliminate these problems. It brings with it the authority of the President of the United States and requires the creation of a national strategy.
H.R. 4210 eliminates the duplication of our Federal efforts and it strengthens our response capabilities. We are not attempting to reinvent the wheel by eliminating existing programs. This council will merely make our efforts more effective and better coordinated.
Without these changes, our Federal effort remains a dysfunctional family full of bickering siblings looking to get the upper hand while endangering the lives of our loved ones.
Let me be clear, the threat to our families is real. Just last week, the FBI arrested a group who apparently used the cover of night in a quiet North Carolina neighborhood to funnel funds to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
This bill will not prevent us from a terrorist attack. However, it will help us prepare for the inevitable and ensure that our emergency personnel have the right training and equipment to save lives.
The American people are depending on us. We must not fail them in this solemn responsibility.
I encourage my colleagues to support H.R. 4210.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Preparedness Against Terrorism Act 2000 and want to offer my highest congratulations to the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) on the splendid work that she has done, the persistence that she has demonstrated, and the determination to achieve something of everlasting value and significance to the country.
I appreciate the support that the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Chairman Shuster) has given to the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) and our side, and I appreciate very greatly the steadfastness of the ranking member of the subcommittee, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Traficant) who has devoted considerable time and effort and talent to the achievement of this legislation.
But I also express my appreciation to the Office of Management and Budget, which from the very outset has not only had reservations about the bill but at various points said they were steadfastly opposed to the legislation.
I had felt all along from the time that this issue was raised at the very outset that there was a problem that needed to be addressed, that we needed to have the right vehicle, and if we could work together on both sides of the aisle, we could accomplish something good and lasting. And I think we are at that point.
In response to terrorist attacks in the United States already cited by the chairwoman, the World Trade Center bombings in 1993, the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the Federal Government has increased efforts across the board to establish preparedness against terrorist attacks.
We in the Congress have enacted legislation to increase funding for preparedness to deal with terrorism. The President has issued Presidential Decision Directives, PDDs, to coordinate those efforts.
The funding for Federal counterterrorism programs has almost doubled from $6.5 billion in fiscal year 1998 to over $11 billion for the coming fiscal year.
That is all well and good. The problem is that these Federal programs were established without having an overarching national strategy. That led to programs being created independently of each other without coordination amongst the programs and with fragmentation and overlapping efforts and duplicative programs.
There are more than 90 terrorism preparedness training courses offered by such agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many others.
Many of these courses have similar content, but they often have different program criteria. As Members of Congress, we, our colleagues in this body, are approached by local government officials saying, `we just do not know where to turn. We get the run-around. Do not see us, see some other agency.'
And then there are some parts of the country and some communities and local units of government that get no training whatever for a variety of reasons, not turning to the right place, not putting the right application in, not phrasing it in the right way.
So the subcommittee, to the great credit of the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) and our ranking member, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Traficant), held three hearings on emergency preparedness against terrorism attacks and confirmed in the process of those hearings the lack of a structured, coordinated Federal effort. State and local emergency responders testified that the current framework is a complex structure of uncoordinated and duplicative programs.
Now, to address this matter, the administration, to their credit, created a National Domestic Preparedness Office within the FBI for the purpose of offering one-stop shopping information on preparedness programs. But the hearings have shown that this office has fallen far short of expectations.
The General Accounting Office analyzed the issue. The panel created by Congress, a very long name, Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, we cannot even put that in an acronym, we do not do very well ourselves, but both entities analyzed and reported to the committee the importance of establishing a national terrorism preparedness strategy to clearly define the end goal of preparedness for State and local responders.
That is what this legislation is all about, to ensure the development and the implementation of a coordinated, effective program to support State and local efforts.
The central entity here after a lot of compromise, a lot of discussion between the chairwoman, the ranking member of the subcommittee, myself, our staff, and the Office of Management and Budget, resulted in the establishment in this bill of the President's Council on Domestic Terrorism Preparedness.
The first objective of this council is to establish coordination at a very high policy level. I believe that is the core. I think that is the most critical issue, and I say that based on my experience as a member of the Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism.
What we found, in the aftermath of Pan Am 103, after a year inquiry into the causes of that tragedy and the splintered governmental response, was that, at the very highest policy levels of government, the assistant secretary of one entity would not talk to the director of an agency. The director of an agency could not communicate with an ambassador overseas.
Now, that is just nonsense. We need information to flow rapidly to the people who are in a policy position to make decisions that will have effect. And that was the concern of our commission on Pan Am 103. We recommended a central coordinating force that would operate as a clearinghouse and a coordinating force within and amongst the key domestic government agencies and those that do our work overseas, such as the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department Intelligence Office.
Well, that is what we are going to do with this council, to coordinate and implement new efforts, eliminate duplication, eliminate overlapping, and assure that State and local emergency responders get all the assistance they need clearly, directly in a coordinated and focused manner.
And the council can then turn and advise Congress on recommendations for allocating the resources, rationalizing government-wide budgets on terrorism preparedness, and help the Congress monitor the efforts to assure that we are developing and putting in place a defined, effective, national strategy, one that is centrally directed and that will be effective nationwide.
That is the objective of this legislation. I think it moves in the right direction. There will be a few other issues to overcome, relatively minor ones in my opinion, but I think that we can overcome those issues working together as we have done up to this point.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Isakson) who is a member of the subcommittee and who has worked very diligently with us on this legislation.
Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) for her tremendous work on this legislation and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Traficant) the ranking member of the subcommittee.
Mr. Speaker, on a warm summer evening in 1996, in my home of Atlanta, Georgia, my daughter Julie and her friend from Washington, D.C., attended the Olympic Festival with tens of thousands of Americans and foreign visitors from all over the world.
On the same night, a terrorist bomb blew up, a U.S. citizen from Albany, Georgia, a foreign correspondent from Turkey were killed, and hundreds of Atlantans and others were injured.
The story the next day was more about the chaos of coordination, or lack thereof; and the Federal Government and all our resources, as well as State and local, were there.
Because of Oklahoma City, because of the trade center in New York, because of the subway in Tokyo, and because of my hometown of Atlanta, we know that terrorism and its attacks are a reality. And because of the hearings that the gentlewoman from Florida held and the ranking member held, we also came, I came, to a reasonable conclusion: those with the evil in their heart prepared to execute a terrorist act probably are better prepared to execute than we are to respond.
This bill changes that matrix. It coordinates the multiplicity and multiple levels of authority. It pulls us together with a common goal to be ready to respond and in fact ready to retard a terroristic act on the soil of our country and an international terroristic act beyond. We have no higher priority in the 21st century than the protection of our citizens, than to give them the coordination to protect them against the most dangerous and threatening threat of the 21st century. I commend the gentlewoman.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield 6 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Traficant), the ranking member of the subcommittee.
Mr. TRAFICANT. Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler), the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Shuster), and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar). I want to compliment the staff, and I want to pay tribute to the entire Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. There is a lot of talk about dealing with terrorism, but while everybody is talking the talk, our committee has walked the walk.
I am a little bit disappointed in this legislation; but I am going to support it because the original concept that I believe is the proper concept would have created the Office of Terrorism Preparedness in the Executive Office of the President with a director appointed similar to the powers of the drug czar. This has been watered down. But I congratulate the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) because a half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.
Let us talk about the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. We have passed through this Congress H.R. 809, the very first step to tackling domestic terrorism. H.R. 809 reforms the Federal Protective Service. Be advised at the time of the bombing of the Murrah Building out in Oklahoma City, there was one guard guarding three buildings; and that guard, not to demean the contract guards, but was not even a full-time FPS guard. We passed that. We are having problems with the other body to some degree and the administration on it, and that bill should be passed expeditiously because it sets the foundation and the framework for a domestic preparedness strategy.
But that is what this bill is all about. The bottom line, the entity that was created to coordinate these programs, the FBI's national domestic preparedness office, has not done the job. They have not done the job. They do not coordinate. In addition, to make that point, the General Accounting Office after an extensive review and the congressionally commissioned Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, which the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) so eloquently alluded to, we have already commissioned these things; but we commission so many things and do not follow through.
That is why the gentlewoman from Florida is to be commended. The bottom line is this is not rocket science, folks. This council on domestic terrorism preparedness within the Executive Office of the President will do those coordinative efforts, will make those contacts, will bring the State and local communities into a coordinated national Federal strategy. And it is not going to end there. I think in talking about a half a loaf that we should make these incremental gains toward a better program of domestic antiterrorism measures, but we should not stop there.
There was a recent article printed that said our borders are so wide open a nuclear device could be slipped across any part of our border and literally launched at one of our cities from within our own territory. I believe that was USA Today. My God, what is happening here? I think the White House should be listening. I think the other body should pay strict attention to H.R. 809 and now to this finely crafted bill. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure under the chairmanship of the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Shuster) and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) I think has done a tremendous job in bringing that to the attention of the American people and developing a legislative criteria to promulgate these programs and place them into some practical action. That is what we need.
So although I am not totally satisfied, I do support the bill. I hope that it has resounding numbers and that it will have and reach success in the other body and be signed into law, that along with H.R. 809, the reform of the Federal Protective Service, which I think is so very important.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Gilchrest), a member of the full committee who has been working closely with us on the development of this legislation.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for yielding me this time. When we consider the size of the United States, the diversity of this great Nation, the range of our population and the configuration of the potential danger throughout the world, the United States above all countries should have the kind of strategy, the kind of policy, the kind of coordination, the kind of vision to protect our citizens. Up to this point, that strategy and that policy has been fragmented.
With this particular bill, the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) and the members of the committee that have come together and their staff to coordinate this activity, that fragmentation will no longer exist, the policy will be straightforward; and America will be safer.
I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer).
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's courtesy in yielding me this time.
Domestic terrorism is one of the most fundamental threats to the liveability of our community. I have greatly enjoyed working with the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) and the leadership of our committee on the Preparedness Against Terrorism Act. It is providing important coordination as has been detailed by the preceding speakers, and I want to add my strong support and am proud to be a cosponsor.
But I would like to focus, if I could, for just 2 minutes on one particular aspect that I appreciate the subcommittee adding into the effort and that deals with the critical area of transportation. Providing safe and accessible transportation choices for all members of the community is a critical role for the functioning of that community. There are 350,000 Americans who work every day in providing public transportation services that allow our communities to work. And there are more than 6 million Americans a day who ride transportation services to work, to school, and to other functions in their community. Ensuring their safety from acts of terrorism is a critical step toward the larger goal of providing a safe working environment and safe transportation.
The Preparedness Against Terrorism Act adds an important launching point toward meeting this goal. It includes critical provisions for the first time in Federal statute for studying the threats from terrorism on our Nation's transportation systems and strategies for improving our ability to prepare, prevent, and respond to these potential attacks.
We had demonstrated and our colleague from Georgia mentioned a few moments ago the release of the poisonous gas in 1995 on the Japanese subway system. We saw how it faced the unique and increasing potential threat from terrorist attack given the difficulty in monitoring, identifying and responding to threats of this nature.
When accidents or crime occur on buses or rail, they often capture the news headlines. Despite the high profile given to such instances, transit, of course, remains one of the safest modes of transportation; but sometimes you would not know that through the headlines.
Sadly, in recent years there have been a series of events across the country. In Washington, D.C., and California, Wisconsin and Texas, bus drivers have been attacked, threatened and injured. In several instances passengers as well have been injured as a result of these attacks. When these types of tragedies occur, we have real problems in terms of making sure that people use the system. For the thousands of men and women who work as bus drivers, rail or ferry operators, we need to highlight the important job they perform and recognize the responsibility they take on with each passenger they carry.
I appreciate the provisions in this bill that have the director develop in its annual preparedness plan and risk assessment looking at what happens for transportation. But I hope that this will serve as a springboard for our doing a better job for the entire transportation system to deal with the needs of passengers and transportation workers.
I have enjoyed working with the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) and the transit union to include these provisions in the bill, but I hope this tip of the iceberg is something we can work on in our committee to extend these provisions because every day Americans deserve maximum safety and security when they use the transportation systems. I appreciate the work here, and I hope we will be able to follow up on it.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Kuykendall), a member of the full committee, who has been working very closely with us on this legislation.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for yielding time. In my previous life I was a city councilman and sat on the Los Angeles County emergency preparedness commission.
In Los Angeles County, we have got about 10 million people. That is a little nation all by itself. We dealt with many of these risks that we are looking at here from a national perspective. We are a high-profile location in Los Angeles. We have subways and we have LAX Airport. We have the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, targets to terrorists that would be immense if they wanted to successfully attack one of them.
I came to Congress, and I found myself sitting in the House Committee on Armed Services as a member of that committee and finding out in a recent study we just received that the greatest threat for loss of life to Americans in the next decade is acts of terrorism within the boundaries of our Nation. Not to our military forces deployed in Kosovo or in the Middle East, but the greatest threat for loss of life to Americans in the next decade is to civilians principally within the boundaries of the United States.
If you put high-profile targets, and that is the greatest threat for the next 10 years, it seems only understandable that you would want to coordinate a Federal exercise so that you could get the benefits of their expertise. We have had over 40 agencies spend $9 billion last year. In 2 years one city got eight training programs from three different agencies. We have had 12 States that did not get any training. In addition to that, there are 100 Federal terrorism response teams, but there is no plan on how they should all coordinate their effort.
This bill fixes that. This bill takes a giant step toward protecting American civilians, Americans who are going to be the most likely targets in this next decade. Although it seems relatively small in stature when you stack it up to the bills we take on every day, I think this could have an immense amount of impact on our personal lives over the next decade.
I urge Members' support of the bill.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Shays), who is chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security for the Committee on Government Reform and has been working very diligently on this issue this year.
Mr. SHAYS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time. As we work on this very important bill, I rise with some disappointment that she will not be here next year to continue her excellent work.
I rise in support of the Preparedness Against Terrorism Act because I think it is an outstanding bill that addresses some real concerns. The Subcommittee on National Security of the Committee on Government Reform held eight hearings on terrorism in this Congress. The issues we looked at included the need for integrated foreign and domestic threat assessments, better coordination of Federal programs to combat terrorism, and a clearer focus on the needs of local and State first responders.
The bill we are considering this evening would address the concerns that my subcommittee has heard expressed in testimony. With more than 40 Federal agencies and programs involved, and no clear national strategy to guide program spending, current policy is clearly confused, and there is no way to know if money is being targeted effectively.
Currently, only a coordinator on the National Security Council has any responsibility, but no authority over Federal counterterrorism programs. Some have been calling for appointment of a terrorism czar on the model of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Mr. Speaker, I think this bill strikes the right balance between those options by making one person in the Executive Office of the President responsible to coordinate Federal spending to combat terrorism while keeping the emphasis on the primary response role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and local police, fire, medical, and National Guard units.
This is an outstanding bill, it will do important things, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. And I, again, thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) for her fine work on this legislation.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Foley).
Mr. FOLEY. Mr. Speaker, let me thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Chairwoman Fowler) for her leadership on this bill, as well as the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar).
Let me give my colleagues a little relation to disaster when it occurs, how difficult it is for communities, and while I make no comparison between terrorism and hurricanes, I was in the Florida Senate when Hurricane Andrew struck; and I was asked to chair a committee that would dole out the necessary resources to communities to dig ourselves out, if you will, of Hurricane Andrew.
The one thing that struck me was the lack of preparedness on behalf of all agencies. Everyone was scrambling, everyone was trying to provide and do good things, but everybody seemed to be in each other's way, because nobody had a template as to how to do it. When we look at the sheer fright and disaster that would accompany a domestic terrorism incident, we recognize firsthand this is so important, proactive legislation, in order to avoid the chaos that ensued after Hurricane Andrew.
We went through Oklahoma. We have seen other instances where potentially the United States could be a target of terrorist activities, the Hamas, other groups. Hizbollah we know are reportedly organizing and raising funds in America. We know Osama bin Laden has perpetrated tremendous acts of violence against citizens in our embassies in countries.
Now we recognize we have an opportunity here with this great bill, a bipartisan bill, to make America the leader both of hopefully preventing terrorism, because one thing I realize about Washington, people say why did we do that, one reason we do it is to be proactive, to put in place the necessary structure in order to not only signal to terrorists that we are serious, we are investigating your activities and we are going to thwart and stop your activities, but God forbid they occur, that at least we have a proper coordinated response in order to assist our citizens in bringing about some semblance of order to the communities.
I pray because of the proactivity of both Members of Congress and the committee, we will not only send a message to every terrorist worldwide, we are not only watching you, we are prepared to respond to you, and we will stop you before your deathly deeds are done.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I yield to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) for the purposes of a colloquy.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler), the Chair of the subcommittee, for yielding to me.
Is it our intention that the legislation not conflict with existing Presidential decision directives, specifically PDD62, that this bill is, indeed, intended to create an entity to work within PDD62's working group structure?
Mrs. FOWLER. Reclaiming my time, yes, that is correct. Section 657 of this important legislation enables the council to participate in the National Security Council's working group structure. Our intention is to make the existing preparedness subgroups more effective.
Mr. OBERSTAR. If the gentlewoman would yield further, subsection 14 of section 653 states that the council shall establish general policies regarding financial assistance to States. It is my understanding, I think our understanding, that these policies are not intended to specifically direct where grants should go or to micromanage the agency programs.
Mrs. FOWLER. That is correct. The council should issue general policies for the purpose of implementing the overall plan. The council should provide assistance to agencies in identifying what types of projects or areas are consistent with the overall plan and should be priorities for funding.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 2 1/2 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, I do so just for the purpose of correcting what I think is a mischaracterization of the bill by my good friend, the ranking member of the subcommittee. This is not a half a loaf. This is virtually the whole loaf. To be sure, it does not include the original language of the bill to establish within the Executive Office of the President an entity to coordinate, but neither did we achieve that objective in the Aviation Security Legislation of 1990 after the report of our Presidential commission established by President Bush.
When we reported to the President the recommendation to establish within the Department of Transportation a new office, a new assistant Secretary, the President's response was that is really the prerogative, the privilege of the executive branch to establish such new authorities.
We acknowledge that is the prerogative of the executive. When the Office of Management and Budget in this context raised the same question, what we did was get together and ask how can we achieve the same objective and not transgress into what is appropriately executive branch prerogatives.
I think this coordinating council which we have established here and a precedent for which is a coordinating council that was established also in the Bush administration to deal with a plethora of transportation programs when the subcommittee that I chaired at the time found 137 different transportation programs in multiple departments of government, none of them being coordinated.
Then the Bush Administration's Office of Management and Budget came and said, we agree with your idea to have a coordinating council, and we are here to support it. That initiative has worked very well, as I anticipate this coordinating council will work very well.
Again, I compliment the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) on her initiative for being so stick-to-itive on this matter and bringing it to a very successful conclusion.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I want to just thank the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the ranking member. I think the work that we have done on this legislation is an example of how this legislative process is supposed to work.
When we see a problem and we work together to develop what is going to be the best solution for that problem, and it evolves over time, that is what has happened with this legislation, that it has been a work in progress for several months now. I think the project that we have produced today is an excellent product.
It is not half a loaf as the gentleman said, it is the whole loaf, because the point of this all along was to establish an entity within the Executive Office of the President; and that is what we are doing, establishing this council within the executive office that will be able to coordinate and oversee and eliminate the duplication that occurs right now in these programs throughout our Federal Government. So it really has been an example of how we should work on every piece of legislation in this body together.
I also just wanted to point out, Mr. Speaker, that this legislation has been endorsed by the National League of Cities, the National Emergency Management Association, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. These three groups have worked very closely with us, and we have taken their input as we have crafted this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I include for the Record the following letters:
July 25, 2000.
Hon. Tillie K. Fowler,
U.S. House of Representatives,
Dear Representative Fowler: We are writing on behalf of our members to express support for H.R. 4210, the `Preparedness Against Terrorism Act of 2000.' This legislation will help address our concerns about a coordinated system of federal resources to communities throughout this country.
Local fire, police, and emergency medical services personnel are the first responders to the scene of a terrorist threat or attack. It is crucial that the federal government develop and implement a comprehensive national domestic preparedness plan as provided for in H.R. 4210.
Our organizations urge the swift adoption of this bill in the House of Representatives.
National League of Cities.
July 25, 2000.
Hon. Tillie K. Fowler,
U.S. House of Representatives,
The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) represents the state directors of emergency management who are responsible for protecting lives and property from natural disasters and man-made events such as domestic terrorism. State emergency management serves as the central coordination point for all state agency resources during an incident and provides interface with federal agencies when assistance is needed.
NEMA supports the concepts embodied in H.R. 4210 that strive to improve federal coordination efforts for domestic preparedness including the development of a national strategy. We support provisions in the bill that require budget and program reviews for federal agencies involved with domestic preparedness and that they are aligned with the goals and objectives identified in the national strategy. NEMA would like to see the greatest possible authority provided to the President's Council to affect real change in how federal agencies coordinate with each other and with states on this critical issue. State and local emergency management and responder input to the Council is extremely important as they are the ones who will respond to and manage the event for the first several hours. H.R. 4210 includes a provision that establishes a State and local advisory group.
NEMA commends you for your efforts to improve our nation's domestic preparedness program and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure H.R. 4210 meets its intended goal of enhancing preparedness and response capabilities among all levels of government.
Joseph F. Myers,
Mr. Speaker, as stated earlier, this is an excellent bill. This is an important bill, because what we are doing here is ensuring that each and every community in our country will be better prepared when, and if, a terrorist act does occur.
American lives are at stake here, and we cannot waste any more time. We need to work together to make sure that those emergency responders that are the first ones on call when an instance occurs that they have the training, they have the resources, they have the equipment that they need to respond. Again, I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers, and I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Pease). The question is on the motion offered by the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 4210, as amended.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.
House would make it easier to seize assets of terrorist states
9.52 p.m. ET (204 GMT) July 25, 2000
By Jim Abrams, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Tuesday approved a measure making it easier for terrorist victims to collect damages from nations that foster that terrorism.
American courts have awarded former hostages and families of terrorist victims multimillion-dollar judgments against Iran and Cuba, but the administration has so far blocked the freeing of frozen assets to those winning the suits.
The House legislation, passed by voice, strengthens a 1996 law allowing a victim to sue a terrorist state by restricting the president's authority to issue waivers preventing the release of assets.
Diplomatic property would still be protected from claims, but the commercial property, cash accounts and assets such as rental money of a country could be used to satisfy court judgments in terrorism cases.
"Today we have moved one step closer to giving these victims and their families the justice they deserve,'' said Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., sponsor of the House bill. Identical legislation sponsored by Sens. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has yet to reach the Senate floor.
This year a federal court awarded $327 million in damages to the parents of a Connecticut rabbinical student and a 22-year-old New Jersey woman who were killed in a bus bombing in Jerusalem linked to Iran.
Former hostage Terry Anderson, who spent seven years in captivity in Lebanon, also won a $341 million judgment against Iran this year. A federal judge in Miami has ordered Cuba to pay $187 million to the families of three Americans killed in 1996 when Cuban military jets shot down two small private planes off the island's coast. None of those plaintiffs has been able to collect on the claims.
The administration has voiced its opposition to the measure, saying countries might retaliate by seizing American property.
Separately, the House passed by voice a bill that would set up a presidential council on terrorism preparedness to coordinate federal programs that help state and local governments take anti-terrorism measures.
The council would be responsible for establishing an overall strategy for terrorism preparedness and making recommendations to coordinate the president's anti-terrorism budget. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, is sponsored by Rep. Tillie Fowler, R-Fla.
In response to recent terrorist attacks in the United States, including the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Alfred R. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, federal efforts were stepped up to address preparedness against terrorist attacks. Although FEMA has interpreted Title VI of the Stafford Act to include preparedness against terrorist attacks the statute does not explicitly reflect this practice.
In addition, recent terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad have resulted in FEMA and many other agencies creating programs and response teams to assist in preparing emergency responders against terrorist attacks. Some of these programs were directed by Congress and enacted into law. These laws include the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-132) and the Defense Against Weapons of mass Destruction Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-201), commonly known as the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act.
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Attorney General, in consultation with the FEMA Director, was directed to make grants to provide specialized training and equipment to enhance metropolitan fire and emergency service capabilities. The Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act tasked the Department of Defense (DOD) with enhancing the domestic preparedness for responding to terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is scheduled to assume responsibility for the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici training program, the Domestic Preparedness Program, by the year 2001.
In addition to FEMA’s Stafford Act responsibility for preparation, Presidential Decision Directive 39, signed June 21, 1995, designates FEMA as the lead Federal agency for "consequence management" in the event of a terrorist attack. The term "consequence management" is defined as measures that alleviate the damage or suffering caused by an event such as a terrorist attack. The same Directive designates the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as the lead for "crisis management," or law enforcement. Including FEMA and the FBI, more than 40 departments and agencies receive funding for federal programs for terrorist attack preparedness.
On June 9, 1999 and April 6, 2000, the Subcommittee held hearings examining these programs. Testimony from state and local emergency responders during these hearings revealed several major problems in the current federal framework. First, in the absence of an organized federal effort, federal agencies have created a massive structure of uncoordinated, fragmented and often duplicative programs – many of which do not address the needs of the state and local responders. Second, the entity created to coordinate these programs, the FBI’s National Domestic Preparedness Office (NDPO), has not met the expectations of the response community.
Since 1998, funding for federal terrorism programs has almost doubled from $6.5 billion in FY 1998 to a budget request of $11.1 billion for FY 2001. As testimony from this Subcommittee’s previous hearings indicates, Federal programs were created in the absence of an overall national strategy. In addition, most programs were created independently of each other, with little or no coordination between the agencies. This lack of organization has resulted in programs that are fragmented and often duplicative.
There are currently more than 90 terrorism preparedness training courses offered by DOD, DOJ, FEMA, the National Fire Academy, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. Although created independently, several of these courses teach extremely similar content. As one witness noted, after attending two federal training programs back to back, one local responder asked rhetorically, "How many ways can you bake the same chicken?"
Testimony from both the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Congressionally commissioned "Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction" (the Panel) indicate that there is a great need for an over-arching coordination among the federal agencies involved in terrorism preparedness. GAO and the Panel also agreed that federal efforts will never be coordinated without defining an end-state of preparedness for emergency responders. When asked who should coordinate federal efforts for terrorism preparedness during the first hearing Fire Chief John Eversole answered: "Whoever you give that to, you better give them a big whip and a chair so they can crack that whip and make everybody jump in line because I find the competition between Federal agencies intolerable and certainly demeaning to the locals."
In response to the requests of state and local emergency responders for assistance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) created the NDPO within the FBI. It was intended to be a "one-stop-shop" for information and assistance. As we learned during previous hearings, state and local emergency responders were hopeful that the NDPO would be the answer to the confusion they face in navigating the myriad of federal programs. The Panel also expressed support for the coordination concept behind the creation of the NDPO.
Unfortunately, although the NDPO has been in existence since October 1998, it has not yet become fully operational. In fact, a few weeks ago, the Director of the NDPO office recently asked to be reassigned. Subsequently, responders have expressed serious disappointment in the NDPO’s effectiveness.
While many responders support the creation of the NDPO, some have criticized its placement in the FBI. Traditionally, state and local responders have a tenuous relationship with the FBI. In addition, the NDPO has no authority to coordinate the programs of other federal agencies. At best, it could take inventory of the federal programs.
H.R. 4210, introduced by Mrs. Fowler and Mr. Traficant, amends the Stafford Act to reflect emerging threats from terrorism and cybertechnology. It also establishes an office within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to coordinate government-wide efforts for improving domestic preparedness against terrorist attacks.
The Office of Terrorism Preparedness (OTP) will be responsible for creating a national strategy for preparedness, which will eliminate duplication of efforts and define an end state for preparedness. The OTP will exercise limited budgetary authority over each agency’s programs, basing funding decisions on accomplishing the goals of a defined national strategy. It will also assist state and local emergency responders in navigating the federal preparedness programs. Moreover, it will eradicate duplicative government functions and identify waste, fraud and abuse through oversight of the agencies it coordinates.