U.S. not ready for terror

"Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations"

Days before four passenger jets were hijacked Sept.11 in the worst terrorist incident in U.S. history, the federal government knew it was not ready to combat a major terrorist attack.

In a report finished just days before the horrific act, the General Accounting Office said there were gaping holes in the federal government's capability to respond to terrorism.

"Even before these catastrophic incidents, the threat of attacks against people, property and infrastructures had increased concerns about terrorism," the GAO said in a 200-page report to Congress dated Sept. 20.

While agencies were in the early stages of planning for problems, there was little coordination across government departments and no collaboration with state and local government. The report, requested by Congress, included individual agency plans for combating terrorism.

The government knew there were problems. It had planned to spend $12.8 billion on combating terrorism and critical infrastructure protection in 2002. But overall leadership and coordination responsibilities needed to be centralized and clarified, GAO said.

In its report, the GAO recommended:

* Developing a national strategy to combat terrorism.

* Developing a strategy for combating computer-based attacks.

* Linking the federal government's cybersecurity strategy to the national strategy to combat terrorism.

* Developing a better strategy to protect the nation's infrastructure.

* Imposing a moratorium on new National Guard teams until their missions are coordinated with the lead federal agency for crisis management.

"The events of Sept. 11 remind us that the victims of terrorism are real people - men, women and children. Our hearts go out to the victims, including the heroic first responders who were lost, and their families," said David Walker, the comptroller general.

"We hope that this report promotes a reasoned discussion and additional actions designed to better prepare the nation to combat terrorism," he added.

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