Emergency Preparedness In The Nation's Capital
PUBLIC BUILDINGS SERVICE
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
NOVEMBER 2, 2001
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Committee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify on behalf of the United States General Services Administration (GSA) on this hearing on "Emergency Preparedness in the Nation's Capital." I am pleased to discuss with you the role and responsibilities of GSA in preparing for and responding to domestic disasters and national security emergencies, and on GSA's efforts to coordinate its role and responsibilities in the Nation's Capital with local and Federal governmental agencies.
GSA is assigned specific responsibilities for domestic and national security emergency preparedness under Executive Orders 12656 and 12472. These key responsibilities include:
Providing rapid and efficient logistical support and telecommunications;
Assisting client agencies in their recovery efforts;
Providing support to those Federal agencies that assist victims of disaster or emergencies; and
Ensuring the continuity of GSA operations.
These responsibilities are the same in peace-time or wartime emergencies. Since September 11, 2001, GSA has faced its greatest challenge yet in carrying out these responsibilities.
Direct Response to Terrorist Attack
In the immediate aftermath of the terrible terrorist attacks in New York City and in the Washington, D.C. area, GSA personnel nationwide went into action in accordance with our Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans. Within two hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, GSA had set up an emergency command center in New York to begin providing affected agencies with the supplies and services needed to restore operations. GSA associates literally worked around the clock to produce logistical "miracles" within a matter of days.
In the Washington, D.C. area, soon after the attack on the Pentagon, officials at the Department of Defense (DOD) asked GSA to locate, make ready for occupancy and totally equip nearly 850,000 square feet of space to relocate DOD employees displaced from areas within the Pentagon affected by the attack. By September 17th, GSA had located and begun preparation for occupancy of 850,000 square feet for DOD in Northern Virginia.
At the same time, GSA has been called upon to provide additional space, facilities and a wide variety of services to the Federal Emergency Management Agency both in New York City and Washington, D.C. Just last week, GSA also responded to a call for assistance from the Architect of the Capitol as he sought furniture, computers and other office equipment necessary to set up alternative office space for the Congress to carry out its critical functions.
At the same time, GSA has responded with a security awareness and response posture that has been consistently at or near the highest levels called for by this national emergency.
Coordination Efforts in our Nation's Capital
Madam Chairwoman, in national disasters like these, or in other national or regional emergencies requiring rapid agency action, GSA has attempted to coordinate its actions with other affected Federal, State and local governmental agencies. GSA has been coordinating with representatives of the District of Columbia City Council and the D.C. Protective Services prior to and following the September 11th attacks to outline security and access requirements for certain common areas in the District of Columbia. Historically, when it is necessary for GSA to close a public thoroughfare or a public space in the District, GSA has coordinated its actions with the D.C. Department of Public Works and with other Federal agencies. We will continue these coordination efforts to develop the most viable solutions.
We note that the District of Columbia, as the seat of our Federal government, also has some unique authorities that allow Federal agencies and DC agencies to better coordinate their emergency preparedness. Section 1537 of title 31 of the United States Code allows Federal and DC agencies to provide services to one another. While this intergovernmental authority is not limited to specific domestic or wartime emergencies and disasters, it can nevertheless be used to rapidly address services-related needs that might arise in these situations. For instance, GSA could use this authority to assist District officials with many types of services, from snow removal during blizzards, to crowd control, to telecommunications support during Presidential Inaugurations.
Finally, in response to a recent Federal law, and in an effort to better coordinate the jurisdiction of DC Metropolitan Police and certain Federal law enforcement agencies and to assist in crime prevention and law enforcement activities, GSA recently entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the Metropolitan Police. In addition to enhancing our law enforcement abilities in and around our Nation's Capital, this Cooperative Agreement also should enhance our abilities to coordinate law enforcement activities and prepare for National emergencies like those we recently experienced.
Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my statement. I will be glad to answer any questions that you or the Committee members may have.