Friday, July 30, 2010


I am hoping that there is some theme to my FEMA history. Several friends have suggested a book but that is not in me for many reasons. I do, however, hope to leave some tracings on this blog before FEMA disappears as an entity within the Executive Branch. A growing likelihood despite the wishes of some past and present. This blog will hopefully explain why that disappearance is possible.

Long before the creation of FEMA three Executive Orders issued in the 1950-1970 time-frame were to generate problems for FEMA Directors and staff for a number of reasons. Executive Order 10450 still unamended and in existence deals with personnel security issues which have already been blogged about on this blog. It is a sign of the incompetence of the Democratic Administrations that have existed since the issuance of that order that it still exists and has not been revised. Its existence indicates that the 'Secrecy' issues identified by deceased Senator Daniel Patrick Monyihan in his book by that name still pervade the Executive Branch. And of course the issue of who gets a clearance and why is still crucial to the success or failure of many Executive Branch organizations and their contractors.

I will be blogging later about the term in office of FEMA Director James Lee Witt, but based on the TREFRY BLUE RIBBON PANEL report available from the FAS website he was able to reduce the number of cleared personnel from over 1800 to less than 1/2 that number in Clinton's first term. FEMA for many reasons, including that reduction, operated more successfully under Director Witt than ever previously. Ah but the seeds of disaster are sometimes sown in a success but more on that later.
The other two Executive Orders that influenced FEMA's fate were E.O. 10480 and E.O. 11490. The first concerned delegations of the Defense Production Act and the second the Emergency Preparedness assignments of the entirety of the Executive Branch. The length of time these two Executive Orders existed is a tribute to the foresight of their drafters. E.O. 10480 was finally repealed by E.O. 12919 issued in June 1994 and still extant. E.O. 11490 was finally repealed in November 1988. The Plan mentioned was the Presidential issued OEP Emergency Preparedness Plan of 1964. That plans evolution into the National Response Framework that currently exists has been described in part on this blog. That evolution is probably a book length story of its own, and is not further discussed here.

It suffices to state that close examination of the FEMA role as stated by implication using OEP in E.O. 10450 as compared to that specifically of FEMA in E.O. 12919, and the same level of comparison of E.O. 11490 as opposed to the FEMA described role in E.O. 12656 indicates that an independent Executive Branch agency, created by the Democrats, and tenous relationships with the White House had much less drafting clout and clout generally than did a EXECUTIVE OFFICES OF THE WH OEP.

FEMA in its formation, the Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 was largely defective on the FEMA portfolio that did NOT involve disaster relief and interaction with the STATE and LOCAL governments. This too will be addressed over time. But it is enough to state that merely granting clearances and access to personnel on a need-to-know basis was not adequate to develop staff with the sophistication and understanding of the modern National Security State. There were some major exceptions which I could name but will not at this point. The influence of personality and events coincided to deprive FEMA of the skilled organizational leadership necessary to compete on any basis from policy making to operations that was necessary given the fact that the agency was largely understaffed and underfunded for its variety of missions the entirety of its years as an independent Executive Branch agency-April 1979-March 2003. The stove-piping within FEMA meant that bureaucrats were free to compete in the absence of the deeply competent leadership necessary to avoid such competition. In many ways I believe leadership is about uniting to achieve organizational objectives, while disunity and competition seemed to rage through much of FEMA's history.

Whatever, the drafting losses however FEMA inflicted on itself or were inflicted upon it by other organizations, it is now approaching two decades that E.O. 12919 has been in existence. Comprehensive changes were provided the WH in 1996 that have never appeared. And now a new drafting round appears to be in progress. That order is in reality a delegation of DPA authority and no longer a much wider scope mobilization order. And over two and one-half decades has seen E.O. 12656 withstand the test of time no matter how inadequate its provisions. There apparently was some effort after 9/11/01 to redraft that order but they were abandoned for many reasons including the desire to ensure that the Carter-created FEMA wither further on the vine.

Perhaps as a parting shot will mention that even the OEP 1964 EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PLAN has despite a brief resurgence as the FRP [Federal Response Plan-1992] and the National Response Plan-also withered. The civil agencies are not prepared for their role in catastrophes as will be discussed further on this blog, but it should suffice that GAO has stated on the record that DOD preparations for WMD are inadequate and the DOJ OIG has stated on the record that DOJ has not a clue as to what to do in a WMD event.