Saturday, August 21, 2010

Secretary DHS memo on Exercises to Adminstrator FEMA

NOTE TO READERS: I may have been in error on some of this post but also meant to emphasize that return to biennial format for NLE was significant and probably a welcome change.
So don't bet your last dollar on this post until I have corrected a few things and finished the series. Thanks for your patience.
Because of its importance this will be a three part post with the first post being reference to the memorandum of Secretary DHS to Administrator FEMA concerning NLE exercises and exercises generally dated August 17, 2010. See Extract from page 3 of the memo below:

"4) As the cornerstone of an effective preparedness system, an exercise program provides the evaluation of the validity and efficacy of doctrine, planning, training, as well as capability. The National Exercise Program should include a comprehensive system of performance assessment and tracking of the implementation of issues identified for remediation.
5) I also direct FEMA to begin working immediately with the National Security Staff to examine and revise where necessary the interagency governance system for the National Exercise Program including partnership and cooperation with state local and tribal governments and interagency planning bodies. This structure should be designed and established to support the National Exercise Program and facilitate the interagency and intergovernmental roles in developing exercises rooted in the requirements of senior levels of the various agencies and governments. The interagency governance structure should be organized in such a way to expedite the review and publication of after-action reports and track the implementation of corrective actions."

As far as I am concerned this statement of exercise philosphy and the goals of exercises is terrific and should be memorized by all.

What many do not know is that a major effort to deconstruct the NLE [National Level Exercise] program has occured since the inception of the Obama Adminstration including cancellation of NLE 10. Arizona as a state of course was extremely well funded for doing almost nothing even if that exercise had been held. Again an example of how the STATES have fed off of FEMA programs, functions, and activities as they visit their respect fiscal downturns [with some exceptions of course] that is leading to overall increases in diminishment of preparedness in the United States. My guess is that a 10-20% reduction in overall capability has occurred since January 20, 2009! Perhaps no ones direct fault but the consequences could be horrendous. Just check on Pakistan and Haiti.

The NLE is a statutory mandate from PKEMA 2006 and replaced the TOPOFF series of exercises which started with TOPOFF 2000 at the end of the Clinton Administration. Unfortunately, AARs [After Action Reports] are apparently not available even for the TOPOFF series for which I credit Congressman Christopher Schays (R. Conn.) no longer in Congress who was appalled to find out that so few senior appointees in the Clinton Adminstration had even the vaguest understanding of their roles in crisis management and catastrophic response. If you want a quick and dirty description of those roles go to the EP [Emergency Preparedness] assignments to each department and agency in E.O. 12656 now under active review by this Administration. If you would like a subject matter index to that Executive Order please contact this blogger off line at Also will provide full text of the memo underlying this post.
My bottom line[hate the term but don't have an alternative] is that the War on Exercises waged by the Obama Administration since its taking office is now officially over. But again maybe just my basic optimism that allows me to reach that conclusion and its premature. More on exercises over next several days on this blog.
And by the way the last full scale nuclear power plant exercise was Zion Nuclear Power Station outside of Chicago and none has been held since then. Once scheduled for 1993 was cancelled by James Lee Witt who really hated large scale exercises of any kind. To be discussed later on this blog.