- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

President-elect George W. Bush should create a national office to revamp and oversee a national strategy on terrorism, a panel studying the issue said yesterday in releasing its second report.

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, the panel's chairman, said the federal government has not done well on sharing information about possible terrorist threats with state and local agencies, or on plans for an attack's aftermath.

"We must begin with a vision a clear national strategy that is synchronized, coherent and functional. You won't find such a thing as that in Washington right now," said the Republican while presenting the findings yesterday at the National Press Club in Northwest.

The panel proposed giving that task to a new office, designated the National Office for Combating Terrorism, which would set budget and policy priorities for terrorism and coordinate with federal, state and local agencies to design prevention and response plans.

The first report, released last year, said terrorist attacks in the United States are a likely eventuality, but said an attack using conventional weapons as in the World Trade Center or Oklahoma City bombings, on a larger scale, are more likely than a nuclear, biological or chemical weapons attack.

But the federal strategy is designed to address the threat from weapons of mass destruction, the panel concluded in this year's report. It also doesn't make use of experience and expertise from local and state police, fire departments and medical services.

Mr. Gilmore and other members of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction didn't single out President Clinton for criticism, but they made it clear the administration lacks a plan.

The panel, which is congressionally chartered and supported by the Rand Corp., will release its third and final report next year. This year's report is available at Rand's Web site (www.rand.org).

The panel added that intelligence gathering should not mean spying on U.S. citizens or having the military lead the handling of terrorism inside the United States.

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