Wednesday, July 14, 2010


March 2007
This version contains full text of NSDD 66


[Portions of this article were originally published in the February 2004 issue of the Journal of Civil Defense, Vol. 37 No.2, pp3-6. The Journal is published by the American Civil Defense Association (TACDA), P.O. Box 1057, 118 Court Street, Starke, Florida 32091, Toll-free at 800-425-5397 or direct at 904-964-5397,]


With completion of the first four years of the existence of the Department of Homeland Security created by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub.L. 107-296 (November 25, 2002) it becomes timely to assess whether the legacy of the civil defense programs, functions, and activities authorized by the enactment of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 (pub.L. 81-920) and largely terminated with repeal of that statute by Pub.L. 103-337 in 1994 continue to impact homeland security and homeland defense thinking. (DHS has been in existence since March of 2003.)

It must be remembered that the perceived greatest threat during the life of the civil defense program was strategic nuclear attack by nation states as opposed to WMD threats or employment by non-state terrorists. It is argued in this review, however, that some of the programs, functions, and activities funded or stimulated by the civil defense effort from 1950-1994 and its research have value in the new
milieu of homeland security and homeland defense. And most certainly by the passage of the next 25 years it is certainly conceivable that more than twenty-five nations will have both ballistic missile capability and nuclear weapon capability. Perhaps just as the writings of the Greeks and Romans were saved by Irish monks clinging to the rocks off the coast of Ireland, the research and analysis of the 44 year long civil defense program will have application to future events. An extensive collection of civil defense research and contract scholarship exists in FEMA at the moment but is threatened with dispersal or destruction.


First, from the standpoint of personnel and organization, no current leadership either in DHS or the soon to be reconstituted Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) served in an appointive or civil service capacity in those programs, functions, or activities authorized and appropriated pursuant to Public Law 81-920. * Why? The Civil Defense programs, functions, and activities were housed in the Department of the Army as a civil agency from 1961-1972 when the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency became an independent civil agency in the Pentagon and reported to the Deputy Secretary of Defense instead of the Secretary of the Army.

* The numbering of Public Laws by both the Congress and law number is adopted for this paper although not technically used until the 1960's.

Rather than strengthening the civil defense program, this agency transfer relieved the Secretary of the Army from the advocacy role. In this pre-Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986) period this left program advocacy to a relatively junior executive level appointee, John W. Davis (former Governor of North Dakota). The civil defense program was about to be sorely impacted by the trident of outside events: (1) revision of strategic attack doctrine, specifically MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction); (2) fallout from the Watergate Scandal and Congressional interest prompted by the National Governor's Association in developing so-called "one-stop shopping" for state and local governments obtaining federal disaster aid; (3) and finally newly developed knowledge of the potential of the so-called "Nuclear Winter" effect should the full SIOP (Strategic Integrated Operations Plan) ever be executed by the United States or Soviet Union.

The civil defense program whatever its technical merits was the one continuous link between the military and civil population from its enactment. Now it would leave to the civilian side of government to nurture and protect this linkage. The importance of the civil agencies growing role in crisis management and response and recovery in large-scale catastrophes was about to be tested in Tropical Storm Agnes, at that time the largest civil disaster for which the Federal government took responsibility since the 1927 Mississippi floods written about by John Barry in his book "Rising Tide" although as is obvious the event was riverine event and definitely not a tidal surge event. Tropical storm Agnes was to lead to improved federal disaster legislation when the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (pub.L. 93-288) was enacted in late May 1974. The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 had become law at the end of 1973 and was a major component in the design of the DRA of 1974. A long term impact of the DRA of 1974 was the first authorization for NGO's performing community service to be recipients of federal disaster relief. Throughout its history the civil defense program had been largely staffed by veterans at the federal, state, and local level. Now with the end of the draft and post-Vietnam reductions in the size of the military fewer and fewer former military personnel were to become employees of civil agencies.

As of 1972, DCPA had approximately 1400 personnel and that was down from peak strength of almost 1800 in the late 1960's after the Kennedy build up. Over 200 employees were involved in an elaborate search and rescue program largely terminated in the 1970's and then revived by FEMA during the administration of George H.W. Bush. That program was again almost bureaucratically terminated six weeks before the attack on the Murrah Building at Oklahoma City in 1995. Fortunately it has so-far survived to prosper. In 1974, lack of support from the Gerald Ford administration resulted in an almost total collapse of the civil effort to defend civil defense programs, functions, and authorities in the budget wars. This resulted in RIFs (Reduction-in-Force) for DCPA in 1974 and 1977. By the time FEMA was established and augmented by civil defense assets by OMB determination order and E.O. 12148 (July 15, 1979), less than 1000 FTE's (Full Time Equivalents) were transferred from DCPA to FEMA (note this was still the largest transfer of personnel into FEMA.) Annual appropriations by that time had diminished to just over $100M from slightly over $200M. The FEMA library was terminated and documents were either lost or transferred to CRS.

As far as legal authority, several titles of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 were allowed to lapse as had one title at the end of the Korean War in 1953. Of some historical significance is that the lapsed titles would be incorporated into so-called standby legislation, the so-called "Defense Resources Act" including the cross reference to the Defense Production Act of 1950, a key statute attempting to assist in expediting defense production that still is in effect while at the same time minimizing impacts on the civilian economy. The lapsed titles of the DPA were also included in that draft statute. (This unclassified standby document was briefed to several Congressional committees during the administration of President Ronald Reagan. It should be noted that while some critics believe the DPA authority allows the federal government to reorganize the economy no such authority exists, but it does allow the federal government to go to the head of the line during a production shortfall or disruption.

Primarily through egotism and ignorance in the White House during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the transferred civil defense personnel, even though they dominated the higher ranks of civil servants in FEMA (largely because of the RIFs that had eliminated younger and more junior personnel) were regarded as a budgetary problem because OMB had promised staff savings as a result of the reorganization to Congress, and the defense budget examiners in OMB, particularly those managing the 050 accounts believed that the transfer to word FEMA meant that no defense funds should be used for civil defense. At the time of transfer and until the FY 81 appropriations cycle when civil defense became part of the HUD, VA, Independent Agency Appropriation, the civil defense budget was included in the annual armed services appropriations. Perhaps of some interest is that oversight in Congress of the civil defense budget remained in the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate until the Act was repealed by Pub.L. 103-337 in 1994.

Because of their classification (all since declassified) certain Presidential Directives were not widely distributed and the civil defense build-up under President Reagan was largely to implement President Carter directives. **


PD-41 U.S. Civil Defense Policy (U)
PD-58 Continuity of Government (U)

DIRECTIVES Impacting the Civil Defense Program

  1. NSDD 26 Civil Defense Policy (U)
  2. NSDD 47 Emergency Mobilization Preparedness (U)
  1. NSDD 188 Reorganization of "Emergency Preparedness" Functions (U)
  1. NSDD 259 Civil Defense (U)
  1. NSDD 66 Civil Defense (U)****
Editor's Note:
For text as declassified see "National Security Directives of the Reagan & Bush Administrations- The Declassified History of U.S. Political & Military Policy 1981- 1991" Christopher Simpson (Westview Press, 1995). Also Carter, Reagan, Bush Presidential libraries have online versions of all declassified Presidential and National Security Directives. In the opinion of the editor, NSDD-47 issued in 1982, even though amended in 1985 by NSDD-188 remains a seminal document in the
history of emergency preparedness, mobilization, response and recovery.

Under the major reorganization of FEMA that took place early in the administration of President Reagan a State and Local Programs and Support Directorate was created in the fall of 1981 that lasted until fall of 1993. In that Directorate all civil defense funding of state and local activities was centralized. To the extent that policy arose under the program, the various Presidential Directives attempted to vitiate the civil defense agenda and were largely designed by DOD (Department of Defense) or the NSC (National Security Council) that had retained policy oversight of civil defense in E.O. 12148.

*** The full text of NSDD 66 is an Appendix to this Technical Bulletin.

Editor's Note:
Another controversy the impacted the civil defense program was the so-called "Dual-Use" issue. Although Congress had largely consented to dual-use of civil defense program assets in both natural and attack events, the Ford, and Carter administrations made no adjustment in policy. Then in 1981, Congress amended the Federal Civil Defense Act allowing dual-use as long as it did not detract from attack preparedness. Once again the administration read the word (nuclear) into an adjective modifying attack and little actual adjustment was made in program guidance. To be fair to the Executive Branch, there was little actual response and recovery authority in the civil defense statute and it remained to the end largely a preparedness statute. Juxtaposed to this legislative conundrum, the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 had little in the way of preparedness authority in it except with respect to communication systems. The dual-use debate warped into an all-hazards debate by the earlier 1990's and interesting Congress did address that issue by mandating "all-hazards" as the civil defense approach in 1993 in Pub.L. 103-160. *** Of course one year later the FCDA was repealed except for portions incorporated in to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. Sections 5121 et. Seq.) Oddly the debate absorbed much intellectual capital in the Department of Homeland Security after its formation since from an objective standpoint it was to focus on the threat of "terrorism" and its prevention and response and recovery to its consequences. Of course, as was almost inevitable,
Hurricane Katrina reinforced the notion of "all-hazards."

****Extract from House of Representatives Report 102nd Congress 1st Session

H-Rept.102-60 May 13, 1991

Page 408

"The controversy over the civil defense program stems from the fact that the program has focused on the cause of the disaster [strategic nuclear attack], not on its consequences. Yet, whether a catastrophe is caused by a foreign military attack, terrorism, a technological accident, or nature, the way to deal with the problem is fundamentally the same. A citizen can get the same dose of radiation from a Soviet warhead, a primitive terrorist bomb, a nuclear power plant melt-down, an overturned DOE transport truck or an earthquake hitting a nuclear power plant. The concept of "dual use" of civil defense resources was an effort to bridge the gap between military threats and natural disasters. The committee believes that FEMA should, within its limited funds, maximize its readiness to deal with the types of disasters most likely to occur.
The committee requests that FEMA develop and submit to the committee an outline of the basic emergency resources needed on the Federal level to deal with the types of disasters most likely to occur. This baseline will permit the committee to better assess the sufficiency of the civil defense program."

[Editors note- While copied from the original several editorial highlights have been added to enhance emphasis. It should also be noted that this was the last Presidential Directive or National Security Directive issued to provide guidance on Civil Defense prior to portions of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, as amended being incorporated in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Essentially it mandates all-hazards preparedness and was reflected in a formal statutory amendment of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 by Public Law 103-160 in 1993]
March 16, 1992




The United States will have a civil defense capability as an element of our overall national security posture. The objective of the civil defense program is to develop the required capabilities common to all catastrophic emergencies and those unique to attack emergencies in order to protect the population and vital infrastructure. Civil defense can contribute to deterrence by denying an enemy any confidence that he could prevent a concerted national response to attack. (U)

The civil defense program will support all-hazard integrated emergency management at State and local levels. In so doing, the civil defense program will: (U)
  1. Recognize and respect the primary responsibility of State and local governments to provide for the safety and well being of their citizens in emergencies other than national security emergencies.
  2. Provide a focal point within the Federal government to work with State and local governments on integrated multi-hazard response planning and operations to deal with the consequences of catastrophic emergencies. (U)
  3. Continue to implement a policy of dual use of civil defense resources through the development and use of capabilities at Federal, State and local levels to perform emergency functions to respond to emergencies of all kinds including attack. (U)
  4. Focus on the development,jointly with State and local governments, of the required capabilities common to all catastrophic emergencies and those unique to attack emergencies, thus ensuring that the use of civil defense funds is consistent with, contributes to, and does not detract from attack preparedness. (U)
  5. Provide for the development of a civil defense infrastructure capable of expansion in a national security emergency involving the threat of all forms of attack on the United States which provide
    advanced warning. (U) 
  6. Utilize to the maximum extent the existing capabilities, facilities and resources of all appropriate departments and agencies of the Federal Government, in accordance with Executive Order 122656 and, with their consent, those of the States and political subdivisions thereof, and of private sector organizations and agencies. (U)
Disaster-specific programs such as hurricane or flood relief programs which may be incorporated into the civil defense program and which are currently funded within  domestic discretionary accounts will continue to be budgeted in this manner. In addition, any equipment or programs not needed for the consequence management of national security emergencies will be funded within the domestic discretionary accounts.


The program under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the support of heads of the Federal Departments and agencies, and under the general policy guidance of the National Security Council, will include: (U)
  1. Population protection capabilities, with the Federal Government providing guidance and assistance to enable State and local governments to effectively support the population in all catastrophic emergencies. (U)
  2. State and local government crisis management capabilities to effectively support the population in all catastrophic emergencies. (U)
  3. Information to promote a clear understanding by the public of the civil defense program, all threats which may affect their localities and actions they should take to minimize their effects. (U)
  4. Information to assist U.S. business and industry in taking measures to protect their work forces and physical assets in all catastrophic emergencies and encouragement of the private sector to make maximum use of private sector capabilities. (U)
  5. Voluntary participation by citizens and institutions in community civil defense activities and emphasis on citizen protective actions. (U)
  6. Plans for sustaining survivors, for restoration of critical life support capabilities, and to establish a basis for recovery. (U)
  7. Definition of and an assessment of the base capability necessary to respond to emergencies that do not provide warning, and the development of those base capabilities which are common to all catastrophic emergencies and unique to attack. (U)
  8. Plans for a civil defense surge from the base capability to the total required capability in a national security crisis involving the threat of attack. These plans should assume advanced warning, adequate time to conduct the surge, and the required base capability form which to surge. Total required capability is that operational capability necessary to protect the population and vital infrastructure through preparedness measures common to all catastrophic emergencies and unique to attack emergencies. (U)
The Department of Defense will support civil authorities in civil defense, to include facilitating the use of the National Guard in each state for response in both peacetime disasters and national security emergencies. Subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of Defense, readiness of the armed forces for military contingencies will have precedence and civil authorities should not rely exclusively on military support. Federal military resources will be employed in civil defense missions only if State and Federal civil resources are not sufficient. Nothing in this directive alters or otherwise
affects the chain of command for the armed forces established by the Constitution and laws of the United States. (U)

Nothing in this directive provides for any new Federal responsibilities which are now the responsibility of State and local governments. (U)

National Security Decision Directive 259, dated February 4, 1987, is rescinded. (U)

/signed/ George H.W. Bush