WMD attack preparation lacking at DoJ

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

If the U.S. were attacked with weapons of mass destruction, biological or nuclear, the Justice Department would not be prepared to respond. That’s the conclusion of a report put out yesterday by the department’s Inspector General.

Col. Randall Larsen, USAF (Retired) Executive Director of the Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism and now CEO of the WMD Center, told Federal News Radio the IG’s finding “was not surprising.”

Larsen explained there’s a national response in place for the federal government to respond to natural and man-made disasters, including WMD incidents. As part of this “National Response Framework”, Justice’s job is to ensure public safety and security.

The Attorney General designated the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to be the lead agency to coordinate Justice’s response.

And that’s the big problem, according to Larsen.

They (ATF) haven’t had a leader, well… In this entire administration they haven’t had one yet, and there was a gap at the end of the Bush Administration. So they’re saying (the IG’s office) they don’t have plans, they’re not training, they don’t have checklists for people to use, the agents they interviewed… said “we don’t really know what we would do in that sort of emergency.” Well, sounds like to me one of the first things we need to get fixed is get a leader in at ATF.

The IG’s report notes the FBI is adequately prepared, said Larsen. “They have plans, they have handbooks. There’s one thing to have a plan but you get down to the handbooks, the checklists, that people really need out in the field, but more importantly, they test them. They’re involved with lots of exercises and whatever. So the assessment was that the FBI would respond.”

While the FBI may be prepared, Larsen deadpanned, “there’s a lot of law enforcement challenges after a big weapon goes off in a city.”

The WMD Commission concluded its work in February, but Larsen noted the threat still exists.

“This is the one that could really threaten the nation – WMD attacks on our cities. We have to be prepared for them. So hopefully this IG report, that’s what it’s supposed to do, report to the American public and the press so we can look at this. Hopefully it’ll put some attention on it and get this fixed.”