Report 2002-117 Summary - July 2003

Terrorism Readiness:

The Office of Homeland Security, Governor's Office of Emergency Services, and California National Guard Need to Improve Their Readiness to Address Terrorism

HIGHLIGHTS

Our review of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services' (OES) and the California National Guard's (National Guard) terrorism readiness activities revealed:

  • Both agencies have developed plans that adequately guide their response to terrorist events, but OES has not included a prevention element in the State's terrorism response plan.
  • OES has not always identified the critical training that staff in the operations centers need to effectively complete their duties.
  • OES does not regularly develop and administer state-level terrorism readiness exercises with other state and local agencies, as its terrorism response plan requires.
  • Clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the State's Office of Homeland Security and OES would be beneficial.
  • Although the National Guard generally relies on its members' military training to respond to terrorism missions, it has not provided all of the training its staff in its Joint Operations Center needs to adequately respond to these missions.
  • The National Guard believes it has not had sufficient funding to participate in exercises involving other state and local emergency response agencies.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) has developed a State Emergency Plan (emergency plan) that establishes a system for all phases of emergency management within the State and covers all emergencies that the State may encounter, including terrorist events. An annex to the emergency plan, called the terrorism response plan, describes how the State will respond to terrorist events and identifies the roles and responsibilities of 25 state agencies participating in the State's responses.

Not included in either the emergency plan or the terrorism response plan are ways the State might help prevent terrorist events. Rather, the plans focus on how the State will respond when a terrorist event occurs. Although this focus is consistent with the role established for OES in the California Emergency Services Act (act), the recently developed National Strategy for Homeland Security calls for states to develop their abilities to help prevent terrorist events from occurring. The director of the State's new Office of Homeland Security (OHS) advised us that his office recognizes the need for a prevention element in the terrorism response plan and intends to develop a state plan on terrorism that incorporates such an element.

As part of the emergency plan, OES is responsible for coordinating the State's response to terrorism, which it does through its state operations center (state center) and its regional emergency operations centers (regional centers). However, OES has not always identified the critical training that staff in the state and regional centers need to effectively complete their duties. Without an assessment of the training needs of its staff, OES is not in a position to ensure that all state and regional centers' staff are properly trained. According to OES, it lacks the funding to develop and implement training requirements for its staff. Additionally, although OES staff receive on-the-job experience, OES does not regularly develop and administer state-level terrorism readiness exercises with other state and local agencies, as the terrorism response plan requires. OES again cites a lack of funding as the reason it has not conducted these exercises. However, since February 2003, OES reports to the Governor's Office through the OHS director, who told us that he believes OES is adequately funded. He stated further that his office plans to perform a thorough assessment of the organization of OES to identify ways it can fulfill its statutory responsibilities more efficiently. In June 2003, OHS decided that the California National Guard (National Guard) should be responsible for coordinating state-level exercises and allocated federal funding for that purpose. Because of the unique role OES plays in coordinating emergencies, it will be important for OES to work with the National Guard to establish an effective exercise program. Without periodic training exercises, OES cannot ensure that state and local agencies are adequately prepared to respond to terrorism activities that occur within the State.

Clarification of the roles and responsibilities of OHS and OES would be beneficial. The authority provided to OES under the act and the authority provided to OHS by the governor's February 2003 executive order appear to have the potential to overlap. Moreover, the directors of the two offices appear to have differing views on their roles and responsibilities. A lack of clarity in their respective roles and responsibilities could adversely affect the State's ability to respond to emergencies, such as a terrorist event.

As one of the state agencies OES can call on in an emergency, the National Guard has developed an overall strategy as well as specific plans and procedures to outline its role in the State's response to terrorist events and identify the actions essential to its being prepared for its likely missions. Although the National Guard has begun working toward completing several of the objectives of its overall strategy, it has many left to accomplish. The National Guard told us that the primary reason for it not yet attaining all the objectives of its overall strategy is that many of the actions require the participation of bodies outside the National Guard, such as the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Therefore, it has not yet fully accomplished many of the key actions.

Additionally, most of the training performed by the National Guard is federally funded and designed to prepare the organization to meet its federal military missions. Although these federal missions are not specifically terrorism readiness, the skills possessed by the National Guard forces can be used by the State to respond to terrorist events occurring within the State. The National Guard's Joint Operations Center is responsible for receiving requests for state missions from OES and developing and overseeing the National Guard's response to the requests. The Joint Operations Center has identified key training its staff need to effectively coordinate missions and perform the functions of the Joint Operations Center; however, many of the 38 staff have not received even half of this training. According to the deputy director of the Joint Operations Center, lack of funding and limited availability of classes have hindered its ability to train its Joint Operations Center staff in the areas identified. Without proper training, the ability of the National Guard to respond promptly and effectively to state missions may deteriorate.

Training is also lacking in the National Guard's Army Guard Division—specifically, training in its terrorism readiness force protection program, designed to protect National Guard units against terrorist threats. According to the commanders of the Army Guard units we visited, training is not being provided because they have not received the guidance from National Guard management on implementing the terrorism readiness force protection training. Without the required terrorism readiness training, National Guard troops are less prepared for terrorist threats. Furthermore, although the National Guard performs regular exercises to prepare its response to state missions, including terrorism, the National Guard believes it has not had sufficient funding to participate in exercises involving other state and local emergency response agencies. As discussed previously, OHS has now allocated federal funds to the National Guard to coordinate state-level exercises.

Finally, although an analysis focusing on a key measure of recruiting and retention success indicates that the effortsof California's National Guard have not been as successful as National Guard forces in many other states and territories, it has managed to finish near its end-strength goal—that is, the number of members for which the National Guard is funded—for each of the last four years. Further, its ranking among states and territories in recruiting and retention does not have a direct correlation to its readiness to respond to its missions, including responding to terrorist events. However, federal deployments of National Guard units do affect the availability of the units to respond to state missions. Because the military missions assigned to the National Guard by the Department of Defense are its primary missions, National Guard units activated by the federal government are not available to respond to state missions. OES advised us that if National Guard forces are deployed, OES can access resources through other agencies as needed. Nonetheless, OES stated that although some capabilities of the National Guard can be replaced by other agencies, the National Guard plays a critical role in supporting requests for specialized equipment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To ensure that the State is adequately prepared to address terrorist threats, OHS should do the following:

  • Continue its plans to develop a state plan on terrorism that includes a prevention element.
  • Continue its plans to thoroughly assess OES functions to determine how it can optimize its efficiency.
  • Work with the governor on how best to clarify the roles and responsibilities of OHS and OES.

To ensure that state agencies, including OES, are adequately prepared to respond to terrorist events occurring within the State, OES should do the following:

  • Identify the most critical training required by staff at the state and regional centers and then allocate existing funding or seek additional funding it needs to deliver the training.
  • Assist the National Guard in providing state-level terrorism readiness exercises.

To ensure that its members are adequately trained to respond to terrorism, the National Guard should do the following:

  • Determine the most critical training its Joint Operations Center staff need to fulfill their duties and then allocate existing funding or seek the needed funding to provide the training, document-ing why it is needed.
  • Develop guidance for its Army Guard Division to implement its terrorism readiness force protection program.
  • Use the recently awarded funds from OHS to identify the type and frequency of state-level exercises responding to terrorist events that the State needs to be adequately prepared. The National Guard should then provide the exercises it has identified.

AGENCY COMMENTS

OHS and OES agree with the recommendations directed to each of them. The Military Department, which is composed mainly of the National Guard, acknowledges that our report identifies areas where it can improve its support to the State, and its response describes actions it is taking for each recommendation directed to it.


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