BRIEF HISTORY OF FEMA INVOLVEMENT WITH WMD PREPAREDNESS
From September 1981 until November 1993, a National Preparedness Directorate existed in FEMA. E.O. 12148, in its §2-103 has assigned FEMA the consequences of major terrorist events role. That role was assigned to the State and Local Support Directorate during the period September 1981 to November 1983, since it was viewed as primarily a civil defense function or a disaster response function. FEMA was reorganized in November 1993 but it wasn't until the establishment of a Director of National Security and the drafting and issuance of PDD-39 in April 1995 that FEMA again focused on the terrorism assignment. The Director in a memorandum dated September 9, 1997 created a Terrorism Coordination Unit independent of the Director of National Security function when he issued a memorandum dated October 1, 1997, subject: FEMA's Role in Terrorism and Consequence Management. The new unit had a scheduled life of six months and on June 21, 1998 was subsumed in a new organizational the Office of National Security Affairs reporting to the Director, that also combined the Director of National Security function. This organization now has principal jurisdiction over three new PDDs [62, 63, and 67] signed by the President in May and October 1998. The Acting Chief Information Officer of FEMA has been delegated responsibilities under PDD-63 as the Chief Information Assurance Officer and the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Officer.
A relatively comprehensive Office of General Counsel opinion issued February 21, 1991, subject Application of Section 501(b) of the Stafford Act, addressed the issues raised by the language of the Act “that an emergency exists for which the primary responsibility for response rests with the United States because the emergency involves a subject area for which, under the Constitution or laws of the United States, the United States exercises exclusive or preeminent responsibility and authority . . .” See GCM 91-2-21.
Since the date of that memorandum, it has also been made clear by President Clinton’s issuance of PDD-39 and PDD-62 that any terrorist event or involvement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be considered automatically to involve the Federal government’s “preeminent responsibility and authority.” In GCM-96-11-21, a legal opinion issued to staff of the National Security Counsel, the General Counsel of FEMA concluded that the Attorney General should be included on decisions to use the Stafford Act emergency authority with respect to findings as to areas of Federal preeminent responsibility and authority.
Note this technical note prepared before FEMA incorporated into DHS on March 1, 2003