GAO delivers report to Congress on CBRN preparedness

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently delivered a report to Congress on the ability of the United States to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack.

As the Congress’s investigative arm, the GAO was tasked with assessing how the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security coordinate on developing CBRN risk analyses and the extent to which they have institutionalized the process, according to

GAO analysts looked at relevant laws, presidential directives, collaboration best practices and internal control standards. They also interviewed DHS and HHS employees and analyzed CBRN risk assessments.

The report shows that DHS and HHS have coordinated with one another and with other departments at the federal level to develop risk assessments, but neither department has formalized procedures for their development.

According to the GAO’s best practices for interagency collaboration and federal standards for internal control, agencies can develop coordination procedures by defining desired common outcomes, agreeing on roles and responsibilities and developing written policies and procedures to help ensure that management directives are enforced, reports.

The GAO said that such practices and standards would help the departments to institutionalize their agreements on CBRN issues and lead to better continuity beyond the tenure of any given official or individual office.

The DHS and HHS generally agreed that with the GAO recommendation that the DHS develop timeframes and milestones to ensure the development and interagency agreement on written procedures for CBRN risk assessments, and that HHS develop written procedures for incorporating interagency input into its modeling reports.