Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 22, 2009

Jim and Joe write Carl and John

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on August 22, 2009

There is another letter circulating related to Assistant Secretary Stockton’s proposal to put in place a legal basis for federal activation of reserves for disaster response.  See related prior posts here and here.

Below the NGA gives further attention to activating the Council of Governors established by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

See related coverage by Roxana Tiron in The Hill and Megan Scully at govexec.com.


August 20, 2009

The Honorable Carl Levin
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable John McCain
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member McCain:

The nation’s governors oppose efforts to provide the Secretary of Defense with expanded authorities to assist in the response to domestic disasters as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Governors remain concerned regarding proposed changes to the military’s authority to engage independently in domestic emergency response situations. We strongly believe the consideration of any such proposals should be preceded by a discussion regarding the tactical control of forces serving inside a state during a disaster response.

It is our understanding that the Department of Defense (DoD) has asked Congress to grant the Secretary of Defense the authority to order Reserve forces to active duty to assist in disaster response as part of the NDAA conference agreement for Fiscal Year 2010. As you know, a similar provision was included in last year’s House version of the NDAA, but was removed in conference because of governors’ concerns. In the Joint Explanatory Statement that accompanied the bill, Congress made clear that DoD should engage governors to address their concerns before moving the proposal forward:

“The Department of Defense should engage with the community of governors to work out an understanding of unity of effort during domestic terrorist events and public emergencies. This key underlying issue must be addressed to allow this and other promising proposals to be enacted.”

Recent outreach by officials at DoD to correspond with governors regarding their proposal is not sufficient to engender governors’ support or justify moving ahead with the proposal at this time. As set forth in the attached letter we sent recently to Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, governors welcome the opportunity to work with DoD to discuss unity of effort and tactical control during disasters and to identify legislative and operational opportunities to improve our response to such events. These discussions, however, should not be done hastily and should be designed to address concerns and forge understanding between governors and the department.

Fortunately Congress created the appropriate forum for discussing this issue when it called for the creation of the Council of Governors as part of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2008. We’ve encouraged DoD and the Administration to establish the Council of Governors to facilitate consultation and coordination between the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and governors on issues critical to homeland defense and emergency response. Your support in ensuring the Council of Governors is quickly established would help facilitate the dialog that must take place before any legislation regarding these issues moves forward.


Governor James H. Douglas
Governor Joe Manchin III
Vice Chair

The Honorable Ike Skelton, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
The Honorable Buck McKeon, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 22, 2009 @ 11:41 am

In the 20 years working for FEMA and 5 years before that at HUD (total 25-1974-1999)several times better prepared STATES basically told FEMA or FDAA (Federal Disaster Assistance Administration)we don’t need FEMA technical assistance or resources, just give us (the STATES) the money. Just a refresher, few STATES actually have any response capability or technical ability as STATES to deal with crisis management, disasters or emergencies. What they do have as the recipient of FEMA grantees is the ability to process the funding of disaster grants to local government. But let’s have a quick reminder of what they do with the grant money they receive. Under OMB Circular A-87 they are allowed to rake off of each federal grant an amount equal to the G&A on a federal contract. But in fact often because of violations of things like the Cash Management Improvement Act and other statutes they deposit the funds in STATE accounts and take not just those funds equivalent to G&A but the float. Often they also take a large percentage of the grant. What they (the STATES)do not want is to have to do the following: (1) mass care including sheltering; (2) temporary housing; (3) family assistance; (3) community mental health; and etc. etc. Thus they continue to want to control funding even while slowing down the response and having very limited emergency funds of their own. Is snow removal really a disaster cause and effect? Maybe! How about other normally routine events for which the feds pay out disaster funds? Okay so where is this comment going? The STATES already do almost nothing financially to support the NG they state they so desperately need. And in fact they do need it both for humanitarian assistance and law enforcement back up! Now it seems to me that the STATES which are the weakest link in the federal system during a crisis of almost anykind now want to control the active forces and activated reserves even though they do nothing to train, equip or pay for them. And in many ways the STATES that do the least are rewarded the most by federal disaster relief. Oh! I forgot the new responsibility the STATEs want to duck after Katrina! EVACUATION! So let’s look hard to see which STATES have any capability and which actually have contingency funding and a crisis management system. Note the letter in the post! It does not say WE (the STATES) will do it and don’t need the military but instead indicate that it is everyone else’s job to be prepared and then turn over funding and control to the STATES! IMO even with all that the STATES want in crisis management and disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery their reach continues to exceed their grasp.

And remember a contractor conducted evaluation in Spring 2008 revealed 56% of the STATEs (possibly 63%) had not met the 1996 planning standards set out in SLG-101. That review failed to include the terrorism specific planning guidance Attachment G to SLG-101 issued in June 2001. Now CPG-101 issued in September 2008 is the new FEMA planning guidance. Doubtful if 20% of the STATES meet planning guidance much less have fully operational cadre and equipment and systems that meet that new guidance. This who debate is again a classic shell game with the first responders starved for assets at the local level while the grantsmen/women at the STATE level offer their grant expertise but not much else to a federal system that is designed to be supplemental to the STATES. With total expenditures by STATES now paid for in excess of 50% by the feds something is screwy. Not all of it is the STATES fault. Medicaid and Unemployment Insurance should be fully federalized and administered. And the STATES should be willing to recognize they could have crisis of various types caused by mother nature and other causes and be prepared. We are not a resilient nation. And the current H1N1 will demonstrate that fully. And it will demonstrate how silly it is that 50 states should be designing their own Public Health system. And Congress is to blame and the Executive Branch for not sorting out the key federalism issues now that we are in the 21st Century. I would not just not STATIZE the active duty forces and activated reserve working on humanitarian relief in disasters, but I would offer 25% of the costs of the Public Safety sector of the largest 400 municipal governments in return for federal standards and training and the right of the federal government to federalize them in a national emergency. The activation system of the SEARCH &RESCUE TEAMS funded by FEMA might provide some examples. Oh!a And by the way the STATES don’t want to be involved in Search & Rescue either. The constant effort to shift direction and control to one level of government but avoid funding accountability will really end up destroying our federal system and accountability for the federal fisc.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 23, 2009 @ 4:21 am

After doing more research it does appear that the “tactical” control issue is paramount with the Governor’s position. My position is that I know of virtually NO governor that I would want to trust with so-called “tactical” control of the any of the Armed Forces of the United States including those funded principally by the US including the NG except when in a strictly defined “humanitarian” mission. Too often I have seen Governors employ the NG supposedly as a humanitarian force when in fact they are conducting law enforcement activities and as documented by excellent reports by the CRS some of these have been exclusively to quell legitmate dissent. Please always remember KENT STATE SHOOTINGS and the inquiring that followed. This piece of American History is important when organized violence has been left the perogative of the government. Just as we don’t expect the cop on the beat not to have to be a Constitutional scholar, we should not expect the NG forces or even Armed Forces either. But we also need to make sure that those who employ them understand completely the 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech and/or the Right of the People to peacably to assemble. It will be of great interest historically now that this President has decided to continue the AF-PAK war, why there were no massive protests of deployment of the voluntary military and NG to far off shores. Perhaps no draft? Perhaps the view that these forces are mercenaries? Perhaps because the US now employes private armies? These should all be worthy of academic study and Congressional oversight whatever their merits.

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