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The Select Committee on Homeland Security - U.S. House of Representatives

For Immediate Release
Monday, July 12, 2004

New Report on Homeland Security Threat Advisory System Highlights Need for Reform

Click here to view GAO report [1.6 MB]

Washington, DC - Today, Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) and Ranking Member Jim Turner (D-TX) announced the release of a GAO report, entitled "Homeland Security Communication Protocols And Risk Communication Principles Can Assist In Refining The Advisory System." This report, requested on July 17, 2003 by Chairman Cox and Ranking Member Turner, examines the Homeland Security Advisory System and the costs borne by federal, state, and local governments due to changes in the threat level.

"Adjustments in the national threat level are among the most important pieces of information that American citizens receive from the federal government," said Chairman Cox. "As experience has demonstrated, these communications are most effective and efficient when they can be tailored to a specific region or sector. GAO's findings support this and provide clear recommendations to improve the system," said Chairman Cox.

"The recommendations of the GAO to improve the Department of Homeland Security's Threat Advisory System must be made to preserve public confidence and responsiveness to the warnings," said Ranking Member Turner. A lack of trust in the system will destroy its value to our public safety," Turner said.

In its report, GAO concludes that warnings should include specific information about the nature and location of a threat and timely notification to allow for early and open information sharing. GAO also states that without this specific threat information, federal agencies, states, and localities may not be able to determine risk levels and the appropriate corresponding protective measures.

GAO recommendations to address these needs build directly on the Homeland Security Act's existing requirements - specifically the requirement that the Department of Homeland Security provide "specific warning information, and advice about appropriate protective measures and countermeasures, to state and local government agencies and authorities, the private sector and other entities" (Sec. 201(d)(7)(B))

"We are encouraged that GAO found that DHS has made progress in ensuring that more specific threat information flows to federal agencies, as well as state and local governments. We plan to address further reforms in homeland security-related information sharing in the Committee this summer," concluded Chairman Cox and Ranking Member Turner.