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Training For Terror

Although the threat of terrorism is growing, only a fraction of cities earmarked to prepare for a possible terrorist attacks have actually begun training.

Two years after Congress earmarked $300,000 to prepare as many as 120 cities for possible terrorist attacks, only a fraction have actually gotten the training. At the same time, officials say, the threat of biological and chemical terrorism is growing.

A recent report by the General Accounting Office, a nonpartisan federal agency, said that only 11 cities had completed the training program, which involves identifying the threat faced by each city and the training and equipment needed. Congressional leaders later said that the program has now been completed in 22 cities.

Also in April, FBI Director Louis Freeh warned a Senate committee that America's "greatest vulnerability" is that local authorities don't have the medications and equipment to deal with the effects of biochemical terrorist attacks.

Classified testimony to a Senate hearing indicated a "high degree of likelihood" that such an attack would take place in the next decade, one senator said. Another recounted the "sobering picture" painted of biochemical weapons development.

Earlier, a leading expert worried that government agencies are unprepared for the threat of biological terrorism. Dr. Michael Osterholm, a researcher in the federal effort to identify biological threats, said he was "pleading" with the government to prepare plans to get medicine to victims in the event of an attack.