Technical Bulletin 2010-4-5
A Brief History of the National Response Plan (NRP)*
One of the interesting areas of potential research is the development and background of the National Response Plan (NRP), first mandated by the Homeland Security Strategy of 2002, then the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and finally the Reorganization Plan submitted on November 25, 2002, to implement the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. HSPD (Homeland Security Presidential Directives) 5 and 8 implement the mandates.
In reality the foundation for an all-hazard civil response plan with military support had been in evolution since the administration of President Ronald Reagan. One key element of the evolution of the all-hazards plan concept had been FEMA’s insistence on providing a separate National Security Emergency Plan throughout the early Reagan Administration. Interestingly during the first 10 years of FEMA existence, the natural disaster response elements in FEMA opposed any formal plan or planning. Only the statutory mandate of the National Earthquake Reduction Act in 1977 had led to a national earthquake response plan published in 1987.
This technical bulletin explains why the effort eventually directed to incorporating into what became the Federal Response Plan issued in May 1992 civil response elements for National Security Emergencies occurred. (Tragically, the FRP’s adoption was less than 120 days prior to Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. Neither training nor documentation had been produced in time for response to Hurricane Andrew. Again, the NRP’s adoption was less than 5 months prior to Hurricane Katrina and again training and implementation documents had not been completed.)
The concept of a National Security Emergency Plan as developed by National Security Council staff as early as 1983 was derivative of early planning efforts mandated by the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, Pub.L 81-920, (hereinafter FCDA). President Eisenhower, then the Deputy Army Chief of Staff for Plans and in charge of war planning, has been attributed with the saying “Planning is everything but the plan is nothing.” A comprehensive recent discussion of civil emergency planning appears in “Facing the Unexpected-Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States,” Kathleen J. Tierney, Michael L. Lindell, and Ronald W. Perry, Joseph Henry Press, Washington, D.C. (2001). It is certain that planning, and the coordination and cooperation to produce a plan has been identified as a key element of preparedness. It is significant that planning alone is not equivalent to preparedness, which also includes the elements of logistics, personnel, equipment, training and exercises.
* The National Response Plan was replaced by the National Response Framework in Framework in January 2008! It has yet to be tested by a large scale event.
A very brief background discussion of federal planning efforts for both mobilization of resources and response to domestic disasters and emergencies as well as preparedness for large-scale events may be helpful.
On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman in E.O. 10346 mandated that each federal department or agency should cooperate with the Federal Civil Defense Administration to prepare plans for providing its personnel, materials, facilities, and services during the existence of a Civil Defense Emergency (a term used in the FCDA). It should be noted that authority for declaration of a Civil Defense Emergency lapsed in 1974. The plans were to be designed to include continuity of department and agency operations and coordination of such arrangements with other national, state, and local civil defense plans. No consolidated emergency response plan appeared until 1958, the initial National Civil Defense Plan (really a preparedness plan and not a response plan), and then with final issuance of a document signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 under the auspices of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (originally, the Office of Emergency Management in WWII, and then the Office of Emergency Planning (1958-61), and the Office of Emergency Preparedness (1962-73). The 1964 Plan assigned responsibilities to all the Federal departments and agencies without indicating what budget or resources were to be applied (a defect that still plagues the National Response Plan today.)
It should be noted that so-called Continuity of Government (COG) and resource mobilization plans were segregated by both funding and legal authority for their conduct as early as 1953. [No specific law or Executive Order mandates these functions although Section 404 of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended comes close and in addition the implication of such planning underlies the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended.] For a discussion of COG planning see Paul Bracken, Command and Control (Yale University Press, 1983). Additional civil government mobilization, including standby legislation (primarily the titles of the FCDA that lapsed in 1953 and the Defense Production Act of 1950) was incorporated in classified Plan D and “Other than D” to address nuclear attack related emergencies. These plans were never signed off by the President approval or Department of Justice formal review for legality. Telecommunications planning was also separately addressed as early as 1962. For a list of planning assignments as of 1962 see E.O. 11051 of September 27, 1962.
Resource mobilization planning for a coordinated federal response was energized when on December 17, 1981, the President through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs signed a memorandum establishing the Emergency Preparedness Mobilization Board (hereinafter EMPB). This action was taken in response to a Memorandum for Edwin Meese, III, and Counselor to the President from Frank C. Carlucci, Deputy Secretary of Defense and Louis O. Guiffrida, Director of FEMA, dated May 26, 1981.
Two National Security Decisions (NSDD 30 “Managing Terrorist Incidents” April 10, 1982 and NSDD 47 “Emergency Mobilization Preparedness” July 22, 1982) were soon issued that established several fundamental principles. First in the event of threatened or actual terrorist attacks lead agencies were designated as responsible, principally State for international terrorism, Justice for domestic terrorism, and FEMA for response to actual events. Second, the principal was established that even natural disasters could impact national security, and a single system was required for the national security community and its assets to respond. NSDD 47 in particular identified a large catastrophic earthquake (the placement of the principal research, development, and manufacturing capability of the nation for the technology sector in California was the specific catalyst) as potentially damaging national security. It therefore concluded that a single response system was necessary and empowered the Emergency Preparedness Mobilization Board [EMPB] to design such as system. By 1985, in NSDD 188 the EMPB was disestablished having completed a plan of action. It should be noted that the Los Angeles Olympics had energized the Department of Justice in the assigned lead role in domestic terrorism and DoJ was increasingly anxious to assert that role. The DoJ had created a concept called “Law Enforcement Emergencies” that was incorporated into the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1984 and is presently implanted in 28 CFR Part 65. Unfortunately, DoJ has not sought funding for implementation of that concept in annual appropriations requests.
In a memorandum dated September 15, 1987, signed by Frank C. Carlucci, Secretary of Defense, on behalf of the National Security Council, the President directed implementation of a national security emergency plan to replace obsolete plans and update standby documents, specifically draft Executive Orders, for various emergencies.
Because of differing coordination systems and mandates, on January 19, 1988, with Presidential approval, the Domestic Policy Council (after 15 months of effort) adopted a National System for Emergency Coordination (NSEC) to provide timely, effective, and coordinated assistance to States and local governments in extreme catastrophic technological, natural or other domestic disasters of national significance.
The NSEC created functional groups in (1) communications; (2) economic affairs; (3) energy; (4) human services; (5) transportation; and other functions as needed. Confusingly, after establishing functional assignments, the system then adopted a lead
Agency approach as follows:
(1) Natural Disasters-FEMA;
(2) Health or Medical-DHHS;
(3) Terrorism (less Airborne Hijacking)-DOJ;
(4) Accident at licensed nuclear power plant-NRC;
(5) Nuclear Weapon, reactor facility accident-DOD or DOE (“owner”);
(8) Economic disruption-Treasury;
A system of appointment of a FCO (Federal Coordinating Officer) was also adopted with the FCO to be from the lead agency.
On April 27, 1988, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Colin l. Powell, assigned seven national security priorities to the civil agencies with the third highest priority the preparation of a National Security Emergency Plan to encompass both mobilization and response. In a memorandum to the President on June 27, 1988, the Secretary of Defense committed to full DOD support to the civil emergency planning process, including mobilization, continuity of government (the role of the President as Chief Executive (civil authority) as juxtaposed with that of Commander-In-Chief (military), and when assigned DOD support to civil agency response planning.
On June 27, 1988, the same day that the Secretary of Defense was pledging renewed cooperation in NSEP (National Security Emergency Preparedness Planning) to the President, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Colin L. Powell, directed that an analogous system for responding to large-scale emergencies that could adversely affect national security be created. The Powell memorandum directed that a National Security Emergency Plan be created with a functionally oriented structure as a companion approach to the Plan for a Federal Response to a Catastrophic Earthquake (adopted in 1987 and predecessor to the Federal Response Plan) that had been mandated in the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977.
Until the promulgation of E.O. 12656, “Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities” on November 18, 1988, [superseding EO 11490 (1969) efforts to create a National Security Emergency Plan continued. At that point the assignment of lead and support functions to the departments and agencies in the Order led to substantial fragmentation of various planning efforts and the hope of unified NSEP died. Interestingly, when offered the lead role on “terrorism” in EO 12656, DoJ insisted instead on being in a support role to other agencies.
It should also be noted that on November 23, 1988, DOD was authorized by statute to act on behalf of the President for a period of up to 10 days when a disaster is imminent (prior to declaration) in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Pub.L.100-707. Of some interest is the DOD but not FEMA was mentioned in the original enactment of the Stafford Act [it should be noted that the Stafford Act modified and supplemented the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, with both codified at 42 U.S.C. Sections 5121 et seq.) Perhaps of some interest is that multiple efforts to amend the Stafford Act to specifically cover acts of terrorism have not succeeded.
It soon became evident that both for natural disasters and national security emergency events, a functional approach indicated substantial overlap in planning and plans. A concept implied in NSDD 47 in 1982. Because of progress in turning the Earthquake Plan into a Natural Hazards Response Plan (eventually the Federal Response Plan) the concept of a separate NSEP was dropped. (Separate COG and telecommunications plans remain, while Mobilization (resource preparedness) plans for the civil agencies with the exception of Defense Production Act authorities have ended (both Clinton and Bush administrations.
For text of NSDD’s see National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations (1981-1991), Christopher Simpson, Westview Press, 1995. Note that a somewhat recent book entitled “BRACING FOR ARMAGEDDON-Why Civil Defense Never Worked” by Dee Garrison (2006, 232 pp.) fails to account for any of the civil defense or mobilization National Security Directives nor the historical separation of COG from the civil defense mission. That book is premised on the supposed but undocumented fact that the bad faith of the U.S. political leadership guided promotion of federal civil defense after the explosion by the Soviet Union of an Atomic Bomb in 1949. A comprehensive discussion of civil defense with a different premise awaits the future.