Defense Prodding Agencies to Beef Up Disaster Preparedness Planning
Reported by Stew Magnuson
Most federal agencies are unprepared to do their part in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack of natural disaster, a Defense Department official complained.
“The one thing the Defense Department does better than any other government agency is planning,” said Peter Verga, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and America’s security affairs.
Except for the Department of Homeland Security, other federal agencies do not have the “culture of mission assurance,” that the Defense Department holds dear, he said at a National Defense Industrial Association homeland security executive breakfast.
Part of his office’s challenge is cajoling other agencies to plan for the 15 homeland disaster scenarios, most of which involve a weapon of mass destruction attack or natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.
“What we’re trying to do is teach them the DoD strategic planning process,” he said.
If a dirty bomb goes off in a major U.S. city, the Department of Health and Human Services or Environmental Protection Agency, for example, should be expected to perform certain functions and have the plans, trained personnel and equipment in place to carry them out, Verga said.
“Typically what happens is people just say ‘well, we’ll do what we do and the Defense Department will do everything else,’ and we find that not particularly helpful,” Verga said.
DHS and the Defense Department have five-year budget plans, but that isn’t the case with most other agencies, he noted. Their funding is approved from year to year, and therefore, it is more difficult for them to ensure that they have the personnel, plans and equipment in place.
Meanwhile, the office has written a new “National Strategy for Homeland Security,” which emphasizes natural disaster preparedness.
The strategy recognizes that the average American is more likely to be the victim of an earthquake, hurricane, flood or fire than a terrorist attack, he noted.