Monday, October 11, 2010

The National Emergency System

Okay so having in the past on this blog hammered the STATES and their local governments for failures in preparedness, prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery and resilience generally time to take a whack at the various federal agencies.

First a brief historical look at the original charge to FEMA on working with the other federal agencies [OFA] as currently operating.

FEMA was to observe the following Executive Order 12148 paradigm:

"2-202. Assignments of civil emergency functions shall, whenever

possible, be based on extensions (under emergency conditions) of

the regular missions of the Executive agencies."

Ever wonder exactly what the daytime jobs of the various Executive Branch organizations are and whether they accomplish their missions and goals efficiently and effectively. Well first always remember federal programs are designed to deal with political problems first and not necessarily and almost never to be efficient and effective.

For example, the charter statute of the Department of Housing and Urban Development included the mandate to provide decent, safe, sanitary housing for all Americans. It did not mandate that the housing sector could be shredded by the dominance of special interests with almost no practical regulatory input over business creations like the largely unregulated mortgage bankers that now have jeopardized the actual ownership claims of many Americans through failure to legally issue mortgages or to make sure that actual title was conveyable. Hey the notion that ownership of improved real estate is at the heart of American prosperity and US style capitalism is now pretty much dead with only the playing out of the funeral to ensure that all understand that failure.

But look at the role assigned HUD in Executive Orders like E.O. 12656 now under study for revision or revocation.

"PART 9---Department of Housing and Urban Development

Sec. 901. Lead Responsibilities. In addition to the applicable responsibilities covered in Parts 1 and 2, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall;
(1) Develop plans for provision and management of housing in national security emergencies, including: (a) Providing temporary housing using Federal financing and other arrangement; (b) Providing for radiation protection by encouraging voluntary construction of shelters and voluntary use of cost-efficient design and construction techniques to maximize population protection;
(2) Develop plans, in cooperation with the heads of other Federal departments and agencies and State and local government, to restore community facilities, including electrical power, potable water, and sewage disposal facilities, damaged in national security emergencies."

Well how exactly has HUD leadership decided to develop, implement, and operate this task. Well of course they largely have ignored the tasking signed in writing by President Ronald Reagan. Only by arguing that some of HUD's programs, functions, and activities indirectly accomplish the specific tasking is there a glimmer that HUD could fulfill its role.

In November 2006, almost 4 years ago, the OIG community published a guide to analysis of Executive Branch Emergency Preparedness roles and their implementation. This 55pp document is useful but it certainly did not include listing all the EP roles assigned by STATUTE and EXECUTIVE ORDER such as the one for HUD above. In fact almost no OIG in any Executive Branch organization, whether a formal statutory IG under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, or the non statutory IG's have ever examined the EP roles, missions, and goals of their respective organizations. FEMA in the 20 years I was there--1979-1999-was always almost grateful when operating under the Robert T. Stafford Act or its predecessor the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 when another Executive Branch organization was willing to take on a mission assignment, even when often being charged excessive overhead rates by the mission assigned organization, such as USACOE. And certainly FEMA was no ingrate and carefully avoided ever examining exactly what capabilities existed in OFA.

Well the result is that 9/11/01 events did not change anything. The last thing that DHS/FEMA would ever produce is a detailed examination of where the so-called EP safety net has holes in it. And oddly no one else has identified those holes either. Congress certainly has no clue. So it awaits a major catastrophe to audit for those gaps.

Now it looks as though E.O. 12656 and other efforts to upgrade civil preparedness of the nation and its resilience will be fixed by elimination of any specific assignmnets of responsibilities. Just compare the watering down of the language of E.O. 12656 as compared to its 1969 predecessor E.O. 112490.

The passage of time does NOT equate to improvement as far as Executive Branch EP capabilities. More to follow as I work through each federal agency. Apologies of course for picking on HUD where I earned a salary from July 1, 1974 to September 10, 1979, before being hired [like all HUD GC staff not moved by determination order of OMB]by the newly created FEMA.