Since the 2001 anthrax attacks, the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments have taken a bigger role in assessing the risk of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.
However, those assessments have been coordinated on an “ad hoc” basis, said Marsha Crosse, director of Health Care Issues at the Government Accountability Office.
DHS has been responsible for assessing the possibilities of these kinds of threats and HHS the medical responses to the threats. GAO’s concern is that information is not flowing through consistently from one agency to another, Crosse said.
Simply, the agencies need to write down their best practices, according to a GAO report.
“We think they need to write some of this down so they’re not leaving appropriate parties out, so they’re coordinating early enough in the process that they’re not losing time and having to go back and modify what they’ve developed because someone who is important was left out,” Crosse said.
With administration changes and staff turnover, a formal understanding of how DHS and HHS interact on threat assessments is necessary.
“When you have changes of personnel across time, if you don’t have things written down, the next person who comes along may not think of it,” Crosse said.