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New Congressional Legislation Would Require Government To Better Inform Public On WMD’s

June 11th, 2010 · No Comments

A bill, co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of members of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and introduced yesterday, would require the U.S. government to better inform the public about weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Those provisions are part of comprehensivelegislation addressing the WMD threat which is based largely on the recommendations of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism’s final report, “World At Risk.”

Of most interest to this blog, the bill has several provisions that deal specifically with public information, a significant focus of the WMD Commission report and its chairman Bob Graham.

The House legislation, sponsored by Rep. William Pascrell (D-NJ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), joins a Senate WMD bill. Both aim to codify many of the WMD Commission recommendations. This bill’s submission comes two days after a top DHS official said in a speech that the U.S. has “to start thinking very seriously about what we would actually do the day after [a nuclear or biological] attack”.

The public information provisions, according to the bill’s summary, are:

SEC. 2121. Communication of Threat Information and Alerts. This subsection directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with appropriate Federal agencies, to ensure that homeland security information concerning terrorist threats deemed to be credible is provided to State, local, and tribal authorities and to the public within the United States, as appropriate. (ADDRESSES WORLD AT RISK RECOMMENDATION 13.)

SEC. 2122. Individual and Community Preparedness for WMD. This subsection requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to assist State, local, and tribal governments in improving and promoting individual and community preparedness and collective response to WMD and terrorist attacks against the nation. The FEMA Administrator shall develop and disseminate guidelines and checklists of recommended actions, compile and distribute best practices, provide training materials, and conduct outreach efforts for individual and community prevention and preparedness. (ADDRESSES WORLD AT RISK RECOMMENDATIONS 1-5 AND 13.)

SEC. 210. Communications Planning for WMD Information Dissemination. This section requires the Secretary, acting through the FEMA Administrator, in consultation with State, local, and tribal governments and in coordination with the heads of other appropriate Federal Departments and agencies, to develop a communications plan for providing information to the public related to preventing, preparing for, and responding to attacks with WMD and acts of terrorism. The FEMA Administrator shall incorporate this plan into FEMA operational plans. This section also directs the FEMA Administrator to develop and disseminate pre-scripted messages and message templates to State, local, and tribal officials so that they can incorporate them into emergency plans, and quickly disseminate critical information to the public in anticipation or in the immediate aftermath of a WMD attack or terrorist incident. (ADDRESSES WORLD AT RISK RECOMMENDATION 13.)

Another important aspect of the bill with direct relevance to the public is the question of how “countermeasures” would be distributed to citizens after (or possibly) before an attack. The bill requires the Administration to come up with a strategy on that question:

SEC. 301. National Medical Countermeasure Dispensing Strategy. This section requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the heads of other appropriate Federal Departments and agencies, to develop and implement a National Medical Countermeasure Dispensing Strategy to enhance preparedness and collective response to an attack on humans or animals with a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agent. (ADDRESSES WORLD AT RISK RECOMMENDATION 1-5.)

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Tags: Biological Terrorism · Congress · Nuclear Terrorism

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