Monday, April 19, 2010


IN the 81st Congress which came office in January 1951 world events were accelerating in a way almost similar to the 1938-1939 period. One of the most interesting things was that Congress needed to absorb the lessons of the detonation of the Atom Bomb by the Soviets in 1949, the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 and also understand fully the implications of the effort in WWII and the post war arrangements.
But first an even further lookback. One of the key EM statutes is largely regulatory and that specically is the Federal Communications Act of 1934, now significantly amended. Implementing regulations for that statute are found in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Of interest in particular to the world of EM are Parts 11 concerning the EAS and the restoration priorities system also codified in Title 47 and those regulations at Parts 201-212 concerning emergency communications. Recently courts have ruled that the Internet is an information system not a communication system and therefore not subject to FCC regulation. Just as wireless communications and the airways have been regulated it is another example of the Courts failing to understand what exactly the history of the law and its implications for their decisions. Adopting a system of that ignores legal history and its context and implications for current statutory law and ignoring stare decisis has led to complete confusion including of course the notoriety of the various 5-4 decisions that have turned SCOTUS into a ping-pong match and lessened respect for its members judgements and judicial wisdom.
In any event in the 81st Congress, three linchpins of modern emergency management appeared. First, the eactment of Public Law 875 of the 81st Congress, the Disaster Relief Act of 1950, wherein Congress abandoned the disaster by disaster legislative process for a permanent authorization. Second, the enactment of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, Public Law 920 of the 1st Congress which continued in effect with some important amendments until its repeal in 1994 by Public Law 103-337 after only one year earlier Congress ended the almost 20 struggle to make it all-hazards not just primarily nuclear attack in Public Law 103-160. Title VI of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 100-707, which amended in part, revoked in part, and accomplished other purposes in enactment on November 23, 1988, was added from the then current language of Public Law 920 as amended, largely by substitution whereve it appeared of the term "Emergency Management" wherever the previous term "civil defense" had appeared and incorportated into the new Stafford Act Title.
Also the 80 and 81st Congress worked to enact the Defense Production Act of 1950 in part to reflect the lessons of production during WWII and in part to prepare the nation for defense production in the Korean Conflict. This will be discussed in more detain later.

These four statutes became the lynchpins for the military/civil relationships during the erection of the modern National Security State. Other statutes relating to this relationship will be discussed over the course of time.

When lecturing the flyaway teams and EM teams of other federal agencies I used to discuss these statutes in some detail and explain why they were in part Congressional attempts to protect the civil agencies, the domestic economy and the predations of the ever voracious DOD created by the National Security Act of 1947, now heavily amended and its attempt to preserve civilian control but also in its establishment of several key civil agencies, including not the least the CIA. What continues to fascinate me is the lack of real discourse or academic or policy analysis of the post-1950 developments in military/civil activities. After the formation of FEMA while the Civil Defense budget was part of the FEMA budget until repeal of Public Law 920 the civil defense authorizing committee were the respective Armed Services Committees of the Senate and House. The Senate Armed Services Committee also confirmed at least one appointee in a PAS position throughout FEMA's history from 1979 to the repeal of Public Law 920 in 1994. This had a huge impact on FEMA and its culture. More to come on this discussion.