Sunday, March 13, 2011

A FEMA Leaning Forwards? Japan?

Well FEMA's international efforts are controlled by its relationship with OFDA {Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance] which are often iffy on one side or the other.

So it is uncertain as to how FEMA might be utilized in the current crisis in Japan. There we are seeing what a tightly coupled culture and economy can do to help its people when there is a catastrophe.

From here it looks like food, shelter, energy, medical care and monitoring and decontamination will be huge issues over the next 30 days and perhaps much much long!

Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt when interviewed this AM on TV stated that the New Madrid earthquake might well present similar issues for FEMA and the state of US preparedness. That scenario is scheduled to be played in NLE 2011 next month.
Strangely, James Lee Witt after several visits to Japan as Director of FEMA found him quite interested in that country. He was highly regarded and respected in Japan in part because he did NOT display the usual know-it-all attitude and was helpful to the Japanese leadership and in no way critical of their response and recovery from the KOBE earthquake.
FEMA is no longer the technical and funding lead for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program [NEHRP]having lost that role to NIST by statute in 2004. There is no dedicated Earthquake or Tsunami office in FEMA but the Insurance and Mitigation Office/Directorate does its best.

Strangely in 1980 as Mt. St. Helens lit off, FEMA got a Presidential tasker to its role as emergency preparedness advisor to the NSC [National Security Council]! President Carter and his National Security Advisor when flying over the devastation of Mt. St. Helens started a discussion about the impacts of natural disasters on National Security. They dicussed the "big one" that might impact Silicon Valley and the California defense industry. This resulted in a tasking to NSC and FEMA for a discussion of the impacts and both a classified and unclassifed study of the issue were prepared. FEMA's unclassified version was published as a document which if memory serves had the coding of M&R 20. I am sure that no one in FEMA still has a copy--the FEMA library destroyed by the book burners in the Bush 43 Administration no longer exists--but perhaps it could be found. My belief is that no copies of the classifed version, a much more interesting document still exist and that all are destroyed. Why? Well no President of the USA will allow the "big one" to take place on his or her watch.

But I am beginning to wonder about the National Security implications of the current catastrophic event in Japan, a tightly coupled culture and economy. FEMA ability to economic model was totally destroyed in the REAGAN adminstration which "knew" that nuclear war would never impact its administration.

So here is a hypothetical! What if CHINA knowing that Japan was out of the national security picture for up to two years decided it was time to takeover Taiwan? Or North Korea deciding the same for both Japan and US and trying to take over the territory of S. Korea? Hoping neither of these things occur of course. But it will be interesting to see how other East Asian countries decide to help Japan.

Right now the basics are needed in Japan for the next 90 days so perhaps FEMA can lend OFDA blankets, and meals ready to eat, and dosimeters. Or that's right FEMA lost its dosimetry capability and program under Director James Lee Witt. Over the objections of the NSC staff by the way. But hey perhaps President Clinton was busy with other things and he also "knew" that nuclear war would not occur on his watch.

So FEMA let's just see how you can help OFDA help Japan?