The National Security Council [NSC]was to be an influential Executive Branch entity with respect to FEMA during its years of independence and IMO a brief summary of that interface is important.
The only linkage considered important during the Carter Administration under which FEMA opened its doors was the Federal Civil Defense Program established under Public Law 920 in the 81st Congress. This program terminated in 1994 but long before it had turned into a program to help fund STATE and LOCAL EM activity and personnel. Carter's PD-41 in essence established the policy for civil defense and that policy carried into the Reagan Administration including the controversial "Crisis Relocation" program previously discussed on this blog. The COG and COOP programs inherited by FEMA from the Federal Preparedness Agency established in 1975 in GSA had a separate source of authority, staffing, and funding although many continue to believe this was a civil defense effort and it was certainly considered part of the civil defense buildup by the Soviet Union when arguing for increased civil defense appropriations which never really occurred under FEMA. That program was designed to protect the leadership of the US and the President both in his Commander-In-Chief role and Chief Executive role and the best description of that program still is contained in Professor Paul Bracken's book "Command And Control" published in 1982 or 1983.
The President signed a memorandum in 1982 followed by NSDD-47 that same year establishing the Emergency Preparedness Mobilization Board, a truly all-hazards document, mandating a single civil/military approach to large-scale civil crisis events of a catastrophic nature with respect to logistics and other system. FEMA was appointed lead and with Colonel Oliver North as the NSC rep to the EMPB [he was in FEMA Hq's 44 times] NSC staff was an active participant. The plan that resulted was never implemented however. The efforts of FEMA to lead the EMPB were worthwhile and interestingly when a FOIA request came in for the EMPB records to NSC it was forwarded to FEMA as being a FEMA activity, not an NSC activity. That of course was a fiction.
Ultimately, Ronald Reagan's NSC advisor, Bud McFarlane was led to seek the abolition of FEMA for its attempts to be a policy players in NSC activities. Publication of NSDD-188 made clear that NSC was the big dog and FEMA was the puppy. Throughout the 80's however in a struggle to give the civil defense program some relevance as part of the national security policy a series of NSDDs followed, including NSDD-26, NSDD-259, and finally NSDD-66. Of course this effort failed and ultimately the FCDA was repealed. In its last evolution it was far more of an effective statute than in earlier years and in fact in 1993 in Public Law 103-160, almost exactly one year before its repeal was made a truly all-hazards statute. And by the way the McFarlan memo to Jim Miller (Miller-Lite?) of OMB was answered in a terse note back saying breaking up FEMA was not worth the effort. This response was drafted for Miller by FEMA's long time budget examiner Jim Jordan, the same Jim Jordan who had laughingly picked April Fool's Day 1979 for FEMA to open its doors.
Director Louis O. Guiffrida had announced publically in his arrival at FEMA that he had attended a White House meeting when he was asked did he know that "FEMA was a rebuttable presumption" which actually referred to FEMA's role in the REP activity (Radiological Emergency Preparedness around nuclear power plants)!
Well from 1985 on FEMA was assigned only three tasks of some significance. There were some communications assignments also --see NSDD-97--but they will be discussed later on this blog. The updating of EO 10480 and EO 11490! And the development and implementation of a Graduate Mobilization Response program to deal with periods of rising tension where adequate warning existed for conventional war with the Soviet Union. Of course, DOD had already shifted in reality to a "Come As You Are" philosophy which burned brightly until Desert Shield and Desert Storm documented that policies problems. Apparently DOD has now repudiated its two simulataneous region conventional war doctrine even as it faces that possibility in Iran and N. Korea. Well that is another story. FADS are FAMOUS as far as Pentagon Doctrine and now the bare shelves of an underfunded and poorly thought out COIN strategy in Afghanistant is about to be revealed over the next few years.
At any rate, EO 10480 was replaced finally by EO 12919 in June 1994. And EO 12656 replaced EO 11490 in November 1988.
Thus you could argue that the FEMA/NSC interface was successfully ended by publication of the GMR (Graduated Mobilization Response) reg in the early 90's!
Yet you would be wrong. Why? The Oklahoma City bombing and the growing realization of the Clinton Adminstration that both state-sponsered terrorism and non-state actors were increasingly focusing on the "Great Satan" as a threat could not be ignored. In fact of course as the document posted on this blog by FAS--the ARGONNE National Lab chronology of FEMA's role is consequences of terrorism demonstrates this effort was running all along.
Richard Clarke of course was the driver on Clinton anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism policy and the issuance of PD-39 in 1995 was an important milestone in the Clinton Administration vision of counter terrorism and consequences management. The CONOPLAN on responding to domestic terrorism published in January 2001 (and apparently still in effect) was the last gasp of the Clintonians in this arena. Still the NSC and FEMA did interface in a significant way over terrorism in the middle 90's and that also led to FEMA's failing to grasp the policy and programmatic baton offered by NSC. Today of course there is virtually no NSC direct interface with FEMA except on the Defense Production Act. See EO 12919.
It should be noted that the Federal Civil Defense Administration which ended its life under Reorganization Plan No. 1. of 1978 and became part of the Federal Civil and Defense Mobilization Agency did have a seat on the NSC by statute. That seat was lost in various reorganizations leading up to FEMA not having that seat despite the efforts which failed of General Guiffrida to regain that statutory seat. Perhaps that loss was the real tell-tale of how the wind was blowing, but at the time it did not seem significant. Now of course all NSC relationships are the perogative of the Secretary DHS and it is still opaque to me exactly how this is accomplished. WE do know that John Brennan has almost 30 people working resilence issues which seems a logical DHS task, and even FEMA post enactment of PKEMA of 2006. It would also be of interest to know exactly how FEMA and DHS interact with this group and how policy and issue development gets input from FEMA and DHS.
What is obvious, is that FEMA is largely excluded from contact with NSC and DHS does not have a clue as to how the newly combined NSS [national security staff] of the NSC could determine DHS's success or failure on a number of issues. International security arrangements would certainly require NSC interface as an example. And to be effective DHS does need a highly competent international operation including personnel with linguistic and cultural knowledge of a number of other critical countries.