Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The National Integration Center

PKEMA 2006 provides in part:
(a) IN GENERAL.—There is established in the Agency a
National Integration Center.
(1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator, through the National
Integration Center, and in consultation with other Federal
departments and agencies and the National Advisory Council,
shall ensure ongoing management and maintenance of the
National Incident Management System, the National Response
Plan, and any successor to such system or plan.
(2) SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES.—The National Integration
Center shall periodically review, and revise as appropriate,
the National Incident Management System and the National
Response Plan, including—
(A) establishing, in consultation with the Director of
the Corporation for National and Community Service, a
process to better use volunteers and donations;
(B) improving the use of Federal, State, local, and
tribal resources and ensuring the effective use of emergency
response providers at emergency scenes; and
(C) revising the Catastrophic Incident Annex, finalizing
and releasing the Catastrophic Incident Supplement
to the National Response Plan, and ensuring that both
effectively address response requirements in the event of
a catastrophic incident.
(A) NATIONAL RESPONSE PLAN.—The Secretary, acting
through the Administrator, shall ensure that the National
Response Plan provides for a clear chain of command to
lead and coordinate the Federal response to any natural
disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster.
(B) ADMINISTRATOR.—The chain of the command specified
in the National Response Plan shall—
(i) provide for a role for the Administrator consistent
with the role of the Administrator as the principal
emergency management advisor to the President,
the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary
under section 503(c)(4) and the responsibility of the
Administrator under the Post-Katrina Emergency
Management Reform Act of 2006, and the amendments
made by that Act, relating to natural disasters, acts
of terrorism, and other man-made disasters; and
(ii) provide for a role for the Federal Coordinating
Officer consistent with the responsibilities under section
302(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief
and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5143(b)).
Official (or the successor thereto) shall not—
(A) direct or replace the incident command structure
established at the incident; or
(B) have directive authority over the Senior Federal
Law Enforcement Official, Federal Coordinating Officer,
or other Federal and State officials."
6 USC 319.

Okay so the key assignment to the NIC was the ongoing managment and maintenance of the NIMS and the NRF [National Response Framework] that was the successor to the NRF. And then of course a mandate to the Secretary DHS to have an established chain of command to lead and respond to any natural disaster, act of terrorism, and other
man-made disaster. The new organization created was established and made a part of the National Preparedness Directorate [NPD-NIC]. That organization has subunits labeled as follows:
1. Incident Management System Integration;
2. Emergency Management Institute;
3. Center for Domestic Preparedness;
4. Training and Exercises Integration;
5. National Exercises Division.

Not sure which of these subunits actually has been assigned responsibility to ensure that the statutory charter of the NIC is accomplished.

I find the two statutory choices troubling in a statutory enactment that first of all creates an organizational unit that has as its mandate management and maintenance but no actual line authority so I guess that implies voluntary efforts at collaboration and cooperation with other units of FEMA and DHS and other Executive Branch entities. And then a chain of command mandated presumably to operate government wide and reflect both federalism issues and incorporation of military assistance to civil authorities when absolutely necessary. This is a sophisticated and difficult mission and I assume that it has to have been staffed with many of the best and brightest and most experienced and competent in FEMA. Why? Because if the NIMS or NRF breaks down in detail during any large-scale catastrophe clearly the mandates above will not have been accomplished. It is also clear that this units operations are not limited to Stafford Act declarations since it is not incorporated into the Stafford Act and only indicates how it should be interpreted with respect to that statutory scheme.

Always remember that federal statutes are to the extent possible to be construed and interpreted to mesh, to reinforce and support each other, and only where there are direct conflicts, would rules like "enactment later in time" have to be utilized to resolve that conflict.

Good luck to the head and staff of this unit because it looks like all the problems FEMA had over its years as an independent agency and even in DHS are the focus of this organization and its leaders and staff. It is increasingly odd how Congress and the various Administrations assume that creating an organizational fix can solve the problems of deficient authority either by delegation or statute.

So here is how I would have designed this legislation:

The National Integration Center is established in FEMA. Its staffing shall include permanent liaisons from all federal agencies involved in NIMS and the NRF. These representatives will have the primary mission of focusing on whether the management and operations of this unit implicate current programs, functions, or activities of their departments and agencies. When such implications are identified they will assist their home organizations in transmitting a formal discription of those implication to the head of the Nationa Integration Center with copies to the Secretary DHS, and the FEMA Administrator. Upon receipt of those memorandums if those implications as identified cannot be resolved in 60 days, either because they involve the necessity of statutory or policy or regulatory changes then the Head of the National Integration Center will send out a formal memorandum identifying the failure to resolve and its reasons to all Executive Branch entities. At that time the National Security Council NSS shall convene a Presidential Review Memorandum as to the how this issue should be addressed and resolved. Such memorandum will be circulated for comment to all departments and agencies in the Executive Branch in a classified or unclassified format or both if necessary. After reviewing comments the NSC shall recommend to the President in the form of a document resolution for the President's approval. Such decision shall be reflected in a Presidential decision document, in either or both a classified or unclassified version depending on a determination of the NSC.
The National Integration Center shall have assigned to it a representative from the NSC so that all policies and issues arising that may have national security or homeland security issues may be noted in advance of any NSC action.

Well there you have it. Essentially this organization has the function of the old CDRG established in FEMA under George H.W. Bush Administration and ended under Clinton with the exception it is not able to resolve and issue determinations binding on other departments and agencies as did the CDRG because its administrative authority extends beyond the limitations of the Robert T. Staffard Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This is the real need for this organization. Hope it succeeds. But as currently constituted probably will not.