attack, responding to attack, and recovering from attack. The actions of these multiple agencies must be integrated and coordinated if they are not to be fragmented and ineffective. Nowhere is this truer than in the initial responses to attack, when quick decisions and direct actions are required. The accumulated body of research on natural disasters reveals all too many instances of scarce information, deficient communication, poor coordination, and jurisdictional conflict among nominally coordinating organizations (Kreps and Bosworth, 1993; Tierney, Lindell, and Perry, 2001).
Coordination is complicated because it involves agencies at different levels, from federal to local, and different types of government and private agencies. It is also complicated because once a disaster occurs, informal new groups come into being—often under conditions of extreme confusion—and must be taken into account by those officially designated as responders (Drabek, 1986). In his first press conference after assuming federal responsibility for homeland security, Governor Tom Ridge properly called attention to the seriousness of the issues of overlap and coordination among government agencies. The committee knows of no more important and pressing concern with respect to effectiveness of response.
For all stages of the attack circumstance—preparedness, warning, attack, and recovery—agencies responsible for aspects of any of them should coordinate their assignments as closely as possible. This means knowing how to act when different kinds of attacks occur, how to cooperate, and how to communicate. It also means continuously reviewing each agency’s jurisdiction relative to that of others and refining responses in the light of as many hypothesized scenarios as can be developed. It also means planning for rigorously monitoring and correcting the coordination process in midcourse, as required by the specifics of the crisis. The need for such coordination and backup is especially critical in attacks when some response agencies are themselves disabled.
Recommendation 9.4: Agencies designated as responsible for the preparedness, warning, attack, and recovery phases of the government’s counterterrorism activities should coordinate their responsibilities as closely as possible.
Recommendation 9.5 (Research): There should be a deepening of research—basic, comparative, and applied—on the structure of agencies responsible for dealing with attacks and other disasters, on the optimal patterns of information dissemination and communication among them, and on the most effective strategies of coordination—and self-correcting of coordination—under extreme conditions. Research should also focus on the origins and consequences of organizational failure, miscommunication, lack of coordination, and jurisdictional conflict and on the impact on public confidence when organizations fail to act.