Panel: Urgent Need to Enhance Preparedness for Domestic Disasters

Sept. 20, 2010
A panel of retired senior U.S. military officers, former members of Congress, National Guard generals and academics with expertise in responding to domestic disasters have completed a report for Congress and the secretary of defense that details how defense officials can better support the nation’s response to a major disaster on United States soil.

The congressionally mandated panel, supported by staff from the RAND Corp., told lawmakers and the secretary that the United States has an urgent need to implement changes in the way the Department of Defense plans for and would respond to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident.

In all, the report provides more than 40 recommendations for the president, Congress, the secretary of defense, other federal cabinet secretaries and governors about how to overcome obstacles that complicate the nation’s ability to respond effectively to CBRNE incidents.

The panel was chaired by retired Adm. Steve Abbot, president and CEO of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. Abbot previously was deputy assistant to the president for homeland security and the deputy commander-in-chief, U.S. European Command. Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, served as the panel’s vice chairman.

“This is a matter of critical importance because such an incident will happen, and the stakes are too high to delay action,” Abbot said. “In our year of deliberations, we identified a number of findings and recommendations that will allow the Department of Defense to better support the civil authorities that will respond to a domestic disaster.

“It is a national imperative for leaders at all levels to discover and implement solutions to overcome barriers to effective response.”

The Advisory Panel on Department of Defense Capabilities for Support of Civil Authorities After Certain Incidents was mandated by Congress through the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008, as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2009.

The panel’s full report can be found at

The panel was provided research and administrative support by the RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies and the defense Intelligence community.

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