In 1964 a quite comprehensive federal preparedness plan was issued by the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Under the auspices of the Office of Emergency Planning later the Office of Emergency Preparedness, part of the Executive Offices of the White House, the plan assigned many of the larger Executive Branch entities an Emergency Preparedness tasking.
Realizing that a plan really is not legal authority for action, and in an attempt to provide at least "color of authority" for the various preparedness actions, the Nixon Administration issued Executive Order 11490 to provide the legal authority for those assignments. It purported to be a comprehensive assignment document and picked up on a number of executive orders previously assigning preparedness roles to individual departments and agencies. Thus, there was some history to these assignments prior to that comprehensive executive order.
Almost 20 years later on November 18, 1988, E.O. 12656 and E.O. 12657 were issued. The first revoked E.O. 11490 and replaced it although it was less comprehensive. FEMA in its inception had recognized the need to update E.O. 11490 but its role under E.O. 12656 was much less comprehensive than that even of OEP under E.O. 11490. Also, the attempt to create the non-statutory term "National Security Emergency" which appears no where in the US Code, and its self-limiting provision requiring other authority to conduct the assigned roles, meant that its clout was extremely limited. E.O. 12657 purports to assign, and still does assign, to FEMA a command and control role should the STATES fail to adquately prepare or respond in a nuclear power plant emergency.
The Administration is now circulating a draft revocation document for E.O. 12656.
If that document is revoked two questions are raised! First, what Presidential document gives the various Executive Branch entities their Emergency Preparedness assignments? Do the various Executive Branch entities have clearly assigned Emergency Preparedness statutory responsibilities or is some other form of delegation pursuant to 3 USC Section 301 (the generic statutory authority of the President to delegate his/her authority) in existence to make those assignments or does make those assignments.
All evidence so far indicates that the Obama Adminstration like others before him since the efforts of the Johnson/Nixon era does not get the fact that a domestic civil preparedness, domestic civil crisis management, domestic civil crisis response and recovery system exists. All admit who have studied this agree that such a system is necessary to preclude militarizing the federal response in large-scale catastrophic domestic events. I would argue that even a domestic civil crisis mobilization scheme is also necessary and would look to the text of NSDD-47 for a start on fulfilling that need. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act does not create any such domestic civil crisis management, response, and recovery system! The question becomes should it? Perhaps the revocation of E.O. 12656 will bring forth this question? Revocation will certainly not however provide the answer!