Friday, June 18, 2010

Civil Defense

I realize in recent posts I had left uncovered an important piece of FEMA history. The federal civil defense program which operated from 1951-1994 under the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 (Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress) has recently been covered in some depth and very erroneously by several major efforts by academics and the Department of Homeland Security itself. First, a disclosure--I never was actually the assigned lawyer in FEMA directly responsible for the interpretation of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950[ hereinafter CDA] and in fact only became directly involved as it ended when then General Counsel John Carey walked into my office and said I want you to work with the Congress on the repeal of the Civil Defense program and its statutory incorporation of any thing necessary still into the Robert T. Stafford Act. Well in short the term "Emergency Preparedness" was substituted for the word "Civil Defense" as portions of the CDA were in fact incorporated into the Stafford Act as a new preparedness title. One overlooked reference to Civil Defense still remains in the otherwise retained language in Title VI of the Stafford Act--in reality a title with its own definitions, broader and more definitive than those controlling disaster relief in the Stafford Act. These should be adopted for the entirety of that statute IMO.

Ronald Reagan and FEMA were burned in the press when REAGAN tried to implement PD-41 issued by President Carter and its creation of the so-called "Crisis Relocation Program"! That document is available from this blogger. In fact however by the time of the Reagan Administration federal civil defense had long been abandoned as a strategic factor in the nation's nuclear war planning. The theory of crisis relocation planning was that the US should not be subject to blackmail by the Soviet Union if during periods of increased tension the Soviet Union started to evacuate its major cities. Oddly, the Soviet Union was more centralized and urban than the US as far as population density but whatever. In fact the crisis relocation program was somewhat incongrous in that various studies of the Soviet Strategic Plan indicated that US strategic forces not cities were its prime target. See for example, NAPB 90 available at the following URL and formerly classified:

What is of interest and should have been long studied and analyzed is the fact that the so-called Continuity of Government Program was never considered to be part of the federal civil defense program and expenditures, funding and authority for it at the federal level were always separate. In fact that program was housed prior to FEMA in the GSA's Federal Preparedness Agency, not DOD's Civil Defense Preparedness Administration [DCPA]. It is true that the concept of COG came primarily out of the brain of a brilliant lawyer named William Harding who was acting General Counsel of DCPA several times. He devised the program to support the continued existence of state government during a nuclear attack. That concept was rapidly adopted by the Eisenhower Administration which realized its importance to the federal level of government. In calculating the expenditures of the Soviet Union on Civil Defense, the US policy makers always included Soviet COG as part of their civil defense effort but never included that component as part of the various charts produced on the federal civil defense program, functions, and activities in the US. Perhaps to some extent that was misleading and untoward but still the fact.

What is important to know however is that recent books by Professior Emeritus Dee Garrison of Rutgers University and Stanley Perrow formerly of Yale University continue to blame the COG program on the civil defense program. They also charge that essentially the federal civil defense program was initiated, developed, and operated in bad faith in an attempt to deceive the American people as to the consequences of execution of a SIOP by the Soviets on the American heartland. I find no evidence of this and am disappointed in their scholarly efforts. Unfortunately, that is at least implied also by a contractor produced document prepared for DHS and available from this blogger entitled " A History of Preparedness" which of course it is not and its not complete in any event. Note that "preparedness" as a term got a push when the JKF created "Office of Emergecny Planning" became the "Office of Emergency Preparedness" both organizations being in the Executive Offices of the White House. And as anyone in DC knows even the slightest association with the WH results in all phone messages by even the lowest of the low--such as GS-7 OMB officals stating at the start of each PHONCON "this is the White House calling" thereby creating the deception that the person calling probably is on a first name basis with any given President. This should be precluded by statute again IMO.

At any rate, Louis O. Guiffrida, Ronald Reagan's first FEMA Director approved in September 1981 a major FEMA reorganization transferring in its entirety except for certain technical communications activities the federal civil defense program to a new Directorate, the STATE AND LOCAL PROGRAMS directorate which was designed to organize and operate all federal grant programs in FEMA to state and local governments including the federal disaster relief effort. Thus federal civil defense was reduced almost totally to a federal grant program by the Republicans who were charged by both Garrison and Perrow in their latest books with decieveing the American people through the federal civil defense efforts. Hey the federal government is compliicated and these so called reorganizations and realignments have big implications for the people of the US.
It is true of course that NO specific announcement of federal civil defense as being just a STATE and LOCAL preparedness grant program was made public and even as late as 1992 in NSDD 66 the National Security Council staff tried to keep civil defense alive (it failed) in issuing a document that was weaker even than the language of the CDA itself. Hey this was all done by the Republicans for those who want to hold someone accountable.

Perhaps the major point should not be lost that funding of STATE and LOCAL emergency prepardness positions at least partially comes from the former Civil Defense program. And of course as readers of this blog know I now advocate funding up to 25% of all Public Saftey efforts at the local level of the 500 largest metropolitan areas on the basis that that is a core national asset in large scale emergencies and needs to be able to be standardized and trained and provided resources and logistics not just for the benefit of each individual jurisdiction but also for the use in mutual aid and EMAC situations and in national level catastrophes (which do seem to be happening more frequently don't they?)!

Well more to follow but just note for the record much research, analysis and effort did go into the federal civil defense effort now almost totatlly lost as FEMA shot itself in the foot by breaking up and dispersing its library. Hey book burning still lives in the US at least at the federal level. One reason of course for this blog, as inarticulate and poorly researched as it is, at least it gives my shot at history which eventually will be important again to US survival.