Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tribute To Keith Bea

Well because he is still employed and I hope he stays at CRS forever hoping this blog post does not damage Keith's career in any way.

It is just that from time to time on this blog I intend to document on the record some of the major contributors to the field of EM and HS. Any deficiencies in analysis are solely mine.

I knew of Keith long before he knew of me. While I was employed by FEMA from 1979-1999 it was only after my retirement that Keith contacted me and asked me to brief him and other CRS staff on FEMA issues. I am sure that my reputation as Mr. Document Production helped spur his interest.

Keith has had a very long and productive CRS career and has often shed light into the darkness of government policy, law, and history. He is a national resource and if he does follow through on his threat to retire in January I strongly urge that some think tank employ Keith to continue his productive insights which I consider as appropriate for CRS, both non-partisan and bi-partisan.

But as readers of this blog know, I can never escape from documenting the factual record as I know it even though it may be off base. For many years, Keith was the CRS expert on federal disaster programs but had little or no knowledge of civil-military issues generally, or the role of the "National Security State" and its impacts on domestic policy. In fact that confluence is deliberately made opaque for most except the priesthood that has dedicated its life to trying to understand the relationships involved and organizational cultures. Part of this of course is related to government secrecy and classification and need to know. I highly recommend deceased Senator Daniel Patrick Monyihan's book entitled "Secrecy" as background.

As a sort of Fireman in FEMA OGC during my time there I had an opportunity to delve in FEMA programs, functions, and activities in a broad ranging way. Although like all good bureacrats tried to avoid accountability purely for reasons of career survival I did obtain a fairly good insight into FEMA and its problems. So my briefing of Keith and CRS probably opened a few eyes, but Keith's were already wide open.

One of the reasons FEMA was formed was the concept of Comprehensive Emergency Preparedness and its subsets of dual use and all-hazards coverage. The fact that these concepts were heavily manipulated by the the FEMA leadership and the STATES and their local governments over the years was a result. Part of that history is explained elsewhere on the blog.

Two things I remember from that CRS briefing were the following: The National Security State which like 95% of the nation-states in the world coveted domestic disaster relief, but only in the immediate humanitarian response phase and were totally ignorant of civil preparedness, civil security, mitigation, and recovery. This also has been documented on my blog at least partially so far. And I note that over 500 serving officers and enlisted personnel attended the recent IAEM conference in San Antonio. Would that the combined civil agencies in the Executive Branch had the largesse of the US Armed Forces.

Back to the theme of this post. Specifically the virtues of Keith Bea as analyst at CRS.

I also in a second theme to CRS staff and Keith documented how the federal civil defense program which operated from 1951-1994 under the oversight of the Armed Services Committees of House and Senate, but not the appropriations subcommittee on Armed Services after FY 1981 was not a factor in either national security strategy or other strategic doctrinal fights, and this was especially true after a major FEMA reorginzation in 1981 by the newly arrived Reagan Administration.

It is my understand that Keith did not write about FEDERAL Civil defense efforts but I may be wrong. After its end in 1994 I have tried numerous times and on this blog to defend the civil defense effort against charges that next to Viet Nam it was one of the greatest efforts of the US government to convince its residents and citizens that civil defense was possible even in light of doctrinal development of concepts such as MAD [Mutual Assured Destruction]! What Charles Perrow and Dee Garrison have written about civil defense in recent books is in error in my judgement. Specifically that the federal government and political leadership of the US operated in bad faith as far as civil defense efforts. I was not accountable for that effort directly at any time but watched with great interest and curiousity as the struggle bureacratically for making civil defense relevant was conducted in FEMA until 1994. One example is the research effort of civil defense which assisted in developing a generation of sociologists who did conduct original research on subjects vital to EM as varied as shelter vis a vis evacuation and protection of the general public against ionizing radiation dangers. Another story would be how much of this research was totatlly misunderstood in FEMA.

Anyhow Keith was somewhat surprised to learn from me that the civil defense program was not the portal to the national security state. And that the COG program was separately authorized and funded after the mid-1950's, and not part of Civil Defense as argued by Perrow and Garrison.

But Keith is very very smart. Much smarter than I am so that he was well prepared to see the linkages between EM and HS as it developed and to understanding that the incorporation of FEMA into DHS, with DHS'primary single focus and mission on terrorism (DHS now argues that it is all-hazard but the truth will out)distorted the FEMA all-hazards mission and efforts.

Keith also picked up on the notion of FEMA as a buffer between the civil agencies, including those like EPA and NRC [note the Chemical Demilitarization Program now acronymd CSEEP-Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program) and DOD. Also FEMA as a buffer between DOD and DOJ. Well those stories are to be documented more completely elsewhere.

My point is not that my briefing was so skilled but that the brilliance of Keith made him realize the following key points and that is fully absorbed and expressed in his heroic efforts to explain to Congress these critical relationships:

First the NSC and its minions have involved themeselves heavily with domestic crisis management issues including environmental and disaster response. Not always to beneficial effect. Note the current NSS efforts on resilience.

Second, you cannot understand DHS and FEMA without understanding DOJ and DOD and the National Guard culture and the culture of the Armed Forces of the US.

Third, that DOD through timely interventions in domestic policy has actually prevented the civil agencies from developing successful policies on crisis management and disaster response. Note that if E.O. 12148 is still in effect and not void by operation of law as I believe then NSC and DOD have oversight of some FEMA policies and programs.

Fourth, that the STATES and their local governments want it both ways and all ways and hoping desperately no one will notice how limited their organizational arrangements are to successfully implement crisis management. In fact EM as a discipline largely arose to subject that chaotic situation to some semblance of systemization. The STATES and their local governments desperately want a FEMA around, in part, to deflect blame from their screwups, and of course provide oodles of money.

And Fifth, that the Committee structure in the US Congress was and is devastating to any kind of effective and efficient crisis management in the Executive Branch. The failure of any Committee of Congress to conduct hearings on crisis managementsystems and processes, or the lack thereof, in my time is also something that registered with Keith. Oversight of Katrina failures not withstanding.

My point is that Keith is one of perhaps less than 100 people anywhere in the federal government that understands fully the nuances of these critical relationships and important problems as discussed above, sophmorically of course by this long-retired civil servant.

Bottom line: Please Keith stay another 5 years. I know it will be a sacrifice. But if you leave, the world awaits you and is your oyster because as you taught me and have always known how the oldest and richest democracy (Republic) deals with the real world issues of natural, man-made, accidental and intentional disasters and emergencies will not end any time soon unless that Asteroid arrives sooner than we think.

And Keith, I hope you do receive honors in your own time because your efforts on behalf of the American people have been heroic. Many many thanks!