Friday, April 16, 2010

Planning For Catastrophes

Can you plan for catastrophic events? I would argue no since by definition those events are not planned for at all. Note the following language:

Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 Extract

House Document No. 95-356
June 19, 1978
From first full paragraph on page 3:

"Third, whenever possible, emergency responsibilities should be extensions of the regular missions of Federal agencies. The primary task of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be to coordinate and plan for the emergency deployment of resources that have other routine uses. There is no need to develop a separate set of Federal skills and capabilities for those rare occasions when catastrophe occurs."
[emphasis supplied]

Reorganization Plans both by design and by case law have the force and effect of an enacted STATUTE. I argue that this Reorganization Plan which went into effect by implementing Executive Orders 12127 and 12148 in 1979 is now totally superseded by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and to the extent not inconsistent with PKEMA of 2006, Title VI-National Emergency Management of Public Law 109-295. Yet both FEMA and DHS and Congress continue to cite the Reorganization Act No. 3 of 1978 as still conveying some authority. My guess is this is just sloppiness and no real legal review of this issue has occurred. Either by Congress or by the Executive Branch--DOJ/OLC. This may not be important but then again who knows.

The reason for this post is more simple! Should FEMA plan fo catastrophic events? I don't believe it can do so but what it can do is design its systems, processes, and procedures to allow mobilization and scaling up to deal with larger events by surging resources and logistics. Has any STATE government addressed surging resources or logistics systems in an emergency or disaster of large-scale--Not to my knowledge.

If FEMA is not the only safety net and it is supposed to rely on the skills, competencies, systems, personnel, capabilities of other Executive Branch Departments and Agencies then does it have in place a systematic approach to evaluating these other components and organizations. No it does not. Just as it has no real system to verify state capability and now it appears that some STATES are betting that they can get more disaster declarations by reducing their capabilities. The first thing that should be done by FEMA is to document this reduction of STATE capability and disclose it publically. Once disclosed the STATES may well change their mind as to that reduction. Other solutions will be offered in future posts.