Thursday, August 19, 2010

Footnotes #1 and #1a of Senate Rept. 94-922, May 28, 1976

Some might ask why such a technical post but in fact my view of this blog is as a "technical" blog meaning other researchers in the fields of EM and HS can find topics worthwhile for further study since in no way do I think I should have the final word on any of the subjects posted. Being human and subject to the normal emotional range [and perhaps subject to fits of ego and hubris also] I reserve the right to include some discussion of topics or personalities over which I feel "rightous indignation"! That stated here goes!
Concerned over activities of the Nixon Administration as revealed by Watergate and other sources, the Senate empanled several special committees. One was the Senate Special Committee on National Emergencies and Delegated Emergency Powers which issued a final report on its mission on May 28, 1976. Now as we close in on 34 years later some of that report, if not all, is still highly relevant to our democracy (Republic) IMO. An extract of that report numbering 16 pages was given by me to the NAPA team in late 1992 that helped lead to their report "Coping With Catastrophe". Also Steve Aftergood has posted that extract on the Secrecy Archive website for FEMA. Thanks Steve.

On page 27 of that Senate report however is an important recitation of its coverage and then in two important footnotes discussion that leads US to today's post and the status of EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS in the US today.
Here is that discussion quoted exactly:
"In its investigations the Special Committee on National Emergencies and Delegated Emergency Powers has concentrated on determining the extent of the emergency power delegated [by Congress and the Constitution] and recommending procedures for the declaration, administration, and termination of emergencies. IT HAS NOT ATTEMPTED TO EVALUATE THE STATE OF EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN THE UNITED STATES. [Capitalization supplied by this blogger] Only in its final days did the Committee probe this question at all, and then only briefly.

The range and complexity of emergency issues make any evaluation extremely difficult. {Ftnte #1} Too often government units, trapped within their particular fragment of the bureaucratic puzzle, fail to examine issues in all their parameters. In its brief probing of emergency preparedness issues, the staff of the Committee attempted to cut across customary lines of fragmentation and to take a broad view. To do this, the staff solicited the views of representatives of Federal emergency agencies. Congressional staff members, and nongovernment experts.

The exploration raised serious questions, and the staff believes that it is time to assess the effects of the 1973 administrative reorganization and to evaluate the operation of the new structure with particular attention to EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS, COORDINATION, PLANNING, AND CIVIL LIBERTIES QUESTIONS. [Again capitalization supplied by this blogger]

To facilitate such a study and to stimulate interest in and awareness of the many issues involved, this report will summarize the findings of the staff's brief survey. {Ftnte #1a}

Footnote #1--To evaluate planning and preparedness efforts in a comprehensive manner, it is useful to develop analytical frameworks whcih will help structure an overview. Two frameworks may be useful to later investigators. One method involves classifying the specific types of emergency that could occur:
Economic: Depression, inflation, strikes, housing, agricultural, commodity trading, municipal or corporate bankruptcies, domestic program failures, etc.
Natural Catastrophe: Drought, agricultureal pests, plagues, climatic changes, famine, floods, earthquakes, etc.
National Security: Defense, civil defense, internal security, hostilities, war, terrorism, embargoes, nuclear threats (peacetime and wartime), etc.

Another method would be to asess: (1) Organizational capabilities, (2) material resources, and (3) manpower availability.

Footnote #1a--This report represents an initial probing of preparedness issues, rather than a final statement on them. The staff was not able to conduct a thorough examination, and its findings must be viewed with caution.

--End of Extract for this post----
Okay on to my analysis! First no such comprehensive studies of EP in the US has ever been conducted which probably accounts for the confused state of EP and EM/HS in the US today.
The Presidential Reorganization Project TEAM that led to Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 that created FEMA had the authority to conduct such an analysis but not the correct staffing or funding to do so. They did have the benefit of a series of brilliant hearings and surveys conducted by the staff and MEMBERS of the Joint Committee on Defense Production which should have been referenced and incorporated more fully into the recommendations of the TEAM that led to the formation of FEMA. Since then only the formation of the Department of Homeland Security was another opportunity but that effort was not based on comprehensive analysis of EP as described above but instead pre-9/11 Commission reports of various types, several of which had recommendations severely misconstrued by the 9/11 Commission and those designing DHS. One specific example of course was the mistaken notion that the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 100-707, which amended in part, revoked in part, and supplemented in part the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 Public Law 93-288, as in fact a comprehensive statute dealing with Executive Branch crisis management and catastrophic response and recovery. That statute has been clearly found wanting many times.
The issuance of the first preparedness report in Janaury 2009 by the departing administration as mandated by Congress certainly in no way purports to be the comprehensive analysis the "Church" Committee which produced the language above would have hoped for being accomplished in the future.

So isn't it about time for a comprehensive study of EP and whether by a Joint Committee of the Congress, a special committee of each house of Congress, GAO or even a Presidential Commission I think the country deserves nothing less. While I can argue both sides of the issue, EP is better off today than in the past, I come down on the side that the nation is less prepared than it was 4 decades ago. Some and perhaps many will disagree but looking forwards to that fight over histor as "they" say.