Thursday, August 26, 2010

All-Hazards Preparedness

Apparently the all-hazard's debate that helped destroy FEMA when incorporated into DHS has ended and now FEMA is restored to official bureau status in DHS with only limited tampering allowed organizationally by the Secretary DHS. N.B. She [Secretary DHS] has formally asked Congress to release her from restrictions on reorganization in DHS. Always more fun to reorganize than actually accomplish something. Now not just the restored FEMA but DHS is doctrinally in favor of all-hazards analysis. Some elements of course have not kept up since presumably all-hazards would encompass WMD prevention, protection, detection, response and recovery. The so-called RADEF program abolished by Director James Lee Witt in the mid-90's over the objections of the National Security Council has yet to be restored anywhere in FEMA or even DHS. A story in itself. The Fire Service of course is officially not an all-hazards culture but it is in fact all-hazards except for hazards that cannot be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or felt which is why it totally rejected the notion of becoming involved in the federal civil defense effort from 1950-1994 when strategic nuclear attack was largely the focus of that program.

Of course, one year prior to its repeal by Public Law 103-337 the CDA of 1950 (Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress) was amended to make it officially all-hazards by Public Law 103-160. Still the Fire Service never saw radiological preparedness and response as part of its portfolio. So we can safely say now in the summer of 2010 that Fire Service training although nominally including terrorism rarely has involved the majority of its personnel in training on various kinds of lethal agents. Some training to be sure. And we also know that few departments have SCBA [Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus] adequate to protect against WMD or CBRNE environments. Still they receive a lot of federal bucks and I believe this capability should be a federal concern and priority even for funding. After all IMO WMD issues are the big one for DHS generally and if there ever is a NUDET and our form of government survives it is certain that the "which" hunt will involve DHS officals and their programs, functions and activities and what was NOT accomplished before the event.
That stated what is the fastest way the OBAMA Administration could in fact make sure that the entirety of the federal Executive Branch was given an all-hazards preparedness focus? Here is my suggestion!

First Executive Order 12656 is under open review throughout the Executive Branch for revision or revocation! That is a fact and not certain what DHS will recommend but looks increasingly likely that FEMA will recommend through DHS or to OMB directly that repeal is in order without further study. There are several complex reasons for this but if you regard the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act,Public Law 100-707, as the FEMA charter this recommendation would make sense. Of course all should know that FEMA is not in fact chartered by the Stafford Act and that statute largely vests authority in the President who can delegate wherever and to whomever he wishes. The references to the Federal Civil Defense Act and the Defense Production Act and the Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958 in the Exective Order 12656 should be replaced as obsolete and erroneous and instead the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, and the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as amended, and 3 US Code Section 301 cited as the new authority.

How should the text of E.O. 12656 be modified. First by incorporation of most of the text of NSDD-47 (1982) the first truly all-hazards Presidential document ever issued. Second, by incorporation of the NSEC [National System for Emergency Coordination] issued January 1988 by the Reagan Administration. And the language of all-hazards should be used to assing specific lead and support roles to each of the various federal executive branch agency's that are necessary in forging a comprehensive federal response. By the way an index to subject matter in E.O. 12656 preparedn under contract by FEMA in mid-90's has been posted on the FAS website for FEMA materials and provides a clue as to what impact outright repeal might have on agency and department accountability for all-hazards preparedness.

Well admittedly this would take substantial work and coordination but then with the huge NSS operation now running national security and homeland security despite several large departments already overfunded and overstaffed, specifically DOD and DHS, this should NOT be impossible.

Hey time for the Administration to step up to the plate since some predict that activity on the San Andreas fault for the "big one" has been underestimated by up to two-thirds of the actual probablity in next 75 years. That assessment indicates a big one every 88 years on average over geologic time. So time to get going!