Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 15, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 15, 2014

On this date in 2007 an 8.0 earthquake in the Pacific off Peru devastates several coastal communities killing more than 500 and injuring more than a thousand.

On this day in 1935 Wiley Post and Will Rogers were killed in the crash of a private airplane. (Sort of interesting that spill, fire, explosion, and other search terms mostly found individual car crashes and other transportation-related accidents. Nothing really big.)

On this day in 1998 a car bomb exploded in Omagh, Northern Ireland killing twenty-nine and injured more than 200.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2014 @ 12:50 am

30th Anniversary of repeal of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 approaching. P.L. 93-337 repealed Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress but also translated some of the latter’s language into a new Title VI of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act enacted in 1988 as P.L. 100-707 and revising in part, supplementing in part, and rescinding in part P.L. 93-288, the Disaster Relief Act of 1974.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2014 @ 1:19 am

Correction: P.L. 103-337 repealed the Civil defense Act.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2014 @ 1:20 am


With the approaching 12th anniversary of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296 (November 25, 2002) it becomes timely to assess whether the legacy of the civil defense programs, functions, and activities stimulated by the enactment of the Federal Civil Defense Act [Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress], in the early 1950’s has continued to impact current homeland security thinking. It is also important to understand the legacy of that Act’s programs, functions, and activities in order to be able to capture what is and is not useful in the long-term struggle against terrorism and prevention and threats of employment of weapons of mass destruction. It must be remembered that the perceived greatest threat during the life of the FCDA was strategic nuclear attack as opposed to WMD threats or employment by terrorists. It is argued, however, that some of the programs, functions, and activities of the civil defense structure and its research have value in the current milieu. It might even make for greater clarity of both administration and public perceptions if the current organizational title of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was renamed the Department of Civil Defense.

First, from the standpoint of personnel and organization, no current leadership either in DHS or elsewhere exists that served in an appointive or civil service capacity in civil defense programs, functions, or activities authorized and appropriated pursuant to Public Law 81-920. Why? Originally an independent Executive Branch civil agency those programs, functions and activities became housed in the Department of the Army until 1972 when the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency became an independent civil agency within the Pentagon reporting to the Secretary of Defense as opposed to the Secretary of the Army.

Rather than strengthening the advocacy of civil defense, this represented the abandonment by the Secretary of the Army (pre-Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986) for the civil defense advocacy role. Left to advocacy by a relatively junior executive level appointee, John Davis (former governor of North Dakota), the civil defense programs, functions and activities were impacted by the fallout from the Nixon Watergate scandal. Thus, one of the most important civil-military links was now left to the civilian side of government to nurture and protect. Perhaps this breach could even be analyzed in having fallout for current military operations in MENA [middle-east and N. Africa]. A subject for discussion elsewhere.

As of 1972, DCPA had approximately 1400 personnel down from its peak strength of about 1700 in the late 1960’s. In 1974, lack of support from the Ford administration resulted in a significant collapse in the effort to defend civil defense in the budget wars. The result was a significant RIF (Reduction in Force) for DCPA in 1974 and 1977.

Significantly, several titles of the Civil Defense Act lapsed in the 1970’s. In the early 1980’s these lapsed titles would be incorporated into standby emergency legislation along with lapsed titles of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as a standby legislative package called the “Defense Resources Act” and briefed to the Congress. This draft legislation was never formally submitted to Congress although it was played in major REX-ALPHA and BRAVO exercises from 1981-88. These were major Pentagon mobilization exercises designed to test civil-military interface and for other purposes.

By the time FEMA was augmented pursuant to President Carter’s Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 by civil defense assets (July 15, 1979) in Executive Order 12148, civil defense personnel transferred by OMB determination order numbered less than 1000 (still the largest transfer of personnel and the most senior in the new agency). Funding annually which had never exceeded $250M had diminished to just over $100M.

Primarily through egotism and ignorance in the White House, the transferred civil defense personnel, even though they dominated the higher civil service positions in FEMA, were regarded as a budgetary problem because of the prejudice of the defense budget examiners in OMB, particularly those managing the 050 accounts and this prejudice was also reflected in the President’s reorganization project team that worked the FEMA reorganization (Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978).

Further, in the fall of 1981, with the formation in FEMA of the State and Local Programs Directorate (which lasted until November 1993) the civil defense program was largely considered as a preparedness grant program that could be used to assist state and local governments. This change has been largely ignored by academics who fail to understand that federal continuity of government programs were not considered part of the civil defense effort [as opposed to the Soviet Union]. With almost no standards and no enforcement of rules these civil defense grants were largely treated by many states as general revenue sharing. And under OMB A-87 many states raked off 80% of the grant outlays to support overhead.

To the extent that policy drivers existed in the FCDA, as amended, various Presidential Decision Directives or National Security Directives were issued in an attempt to vitiate the civil defense agenda. These failed. The amendment of Public Law 920 in 1981 had authorized so-called “dual use” of civil defense assets for both nuclear attack planning and natural disaster preparedness. It also specifically authorized program assets to be utilized in enhancing offsite safety in privately owned and operated nuclear power stations.

The Armed Services Committees of the Congress had given DCPA administrative discretion to adopt “dual use” as early as 1975 but the administration had chosen not to pursue this concept aggressively. Even now, “dual use” transformed into a debate over whether DHS should be “all-hazards” has absorbed much intellectual capital in DHS. In 1993, one year before repeal of Public Law 920, it was amended by P.L. 103-160 to mandate “all-hazards” the transformed term from “Dual use”.

No standby Executive Orders (PEAD’s) or other emergency actions except the standby legislation mentioned above were predicated on Public Law 920 after FEMA began operations in April 1979. Various National Security Directives were issued by President’s Carter, Regan, and Bush (41) in an effort to correlate civil defense with strategic doctrine, but these essentially were watered down versions of the civil defense statute as it existed prior to the loss of the earlier titles. Since only OMB and Congressionally budgeted programs, functions, and activities (not unfunded actions by the National Security Council and its staff), had significance the potential of the civil defense programs, functions, and activities diminished. Some of these documents and other reports and history of civil defense appear at:


Perhaps, the fact that the civil defense budget was made part of the VA-HUD appropriations bill in 1980 and no longer part of the DOD appropriation was additional reason for DOD to have diminished interest in civil defense. Also, up until repeal of the Act by P.L. 103-337, at least one Associate Director of then independent FEMA was subject to Senate confirmation hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee. After repeal, no Associate Director had their nomination reviewed by the Senate Armed Services. Additionally, repeal led to lapse of any direct oversight by the Armed Services Committees of oversight of FEMA.

It also ended the annual rite of a senior DOD official testifying on behalf of civil defense authorizations in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. A Congressionally mandated report asking that the Executive Branch thoroughly analyze and provide any needed modifications to the civil defense program resulted in a March 1992 report entitled “Disaster Preparedness” that led to the statutory enactment of “all-hazards” use of the FCDA in Public Law 103-160 in fall 1993 and then the repeal a year later in Public Law 103-337 with incorporation of some language in new Title VI of the Robert T. Stafford Act with language largely substituting the term “emergency management” for “civil defense.”

The Clinton Administration [January 1993-January 2001] used the change in oversight to redirect the primary energies of FEMA to natural disasters. This redirection seems to have not prevented the end of FEMA’s role as an independent agency post 9/11 by its incorporation into the Department of Homeland Security by Public Law 107-296 November 25, 2002.

Homeland Security is defined in statute as the prevention of terrorist acts, the reduction in the consequences of those events on people and property, and the response and recovery from those terrorist events.

Civil Defense is a broader approach and reinforces the fact that DHS is a civil agency and not a para-military operation that might impinge on fundamental rights of citizens and residents of the U.S.A.

Comment by E. Earhart

August 15, 2014 @ 4:23 am

Mr. Cumming,

Thanks for the informative post. Perhaps with the recent items in the news re militarization of law enforcement and civil liberty violations, the time is right for a little executive order changing the name of DHS to DCD? Or what about Department of Civil Protection, DCP?

Comment by E. Earhart

August 15, 2014 @ 4:24 am

FBI: 80 Percent of Police Officers are overweight

Researchers have said law enforcement personnel are 25 times more likely to die from weight related cardiovascular disease than the actions of a criminal.


Comment by E. Earhart

August 15, 2014 @ 4:58 am

Wheels of Justice grind slowly . . .

Seamus Daly charged and arrested earlier this year (2014) for the murder of 29 individuals.

“Saturday, 15 August 1998, was the final day of Omagh’s annual carnival week. The streets were packed with shoppers taking advantage of the summer sales and buying uniforms ahead of the new school year.

At 3.10pm, a massive car bomb containing 225kg of explosives detonated in a vehicle parked in the middle of Omagh’s main street. A warning had been called in 40 minutes earlier, but had wrongly indicated the location of the car containing the bomb.

Police had begun to evacuate the area, but were actually shepherding people towards the site of the explosion. Those who thought they had reached safety were instead caught up in the most devastating single atrocity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

The death toll of 29 included nine children and three generations of one family. Avril Monaghan had taken her mother, Mary Grimes, on a shopping trip to celebrate her 66th birthday. With them was Avril’s daughter Maura, at 18 months the youngest victim. Avril was also heavily pregnant with twins. All of those killed were civilians. They were Catholic, Protestant and Mormon, man, woman and child, ranging in age from one to 66. Over 200 people were injured, some left without limbs, others blinded or disfigured.”


Comment by John Comiskey

August 15, 2014 @ 5:32 am

HLS ubber alles and obesity too.

Clearly law enforcement (LE) is part of HLS. LE and HLS could and should be more professional

Gardner and Shulman (2005) found that physicians, lawyers, architects, and engineers are generally accepted as professionals. Nurses, social workers, and teachers are generally considered to be professionals but less so than the aforementioned first tier. Several other practitioners may also have some claim to professional status. Professions are subject to their times, from the growing reach of new technologies to fiscal realities.

Palin (2010) found that homeland security may be an emerging new profession. Claiming the core characteristics of a profession is how homeland security could best serve the public interest.

Gardner and Shulman (2005) identified six characteristics of professionals:
• A commitment to serve in the interests of clients in particular and the welfare of society in general;
• A body of theory or specialized knowledge with its own principles of growth and reorganization;
• A specialized set of skills, practices, and performances unique to the profession;
• The developed capacity to render judgments with integrity under conditions of both technical and ethical uncertainty;
• An organized approach to learning from experience, both individually and collectively, and thus growing new bodies of knowledge from the context of practice, and;
•The development of a professional community responsible for the oversight and monitoring of quality in both practice and professional education.

(con >)

Comment by John Comiskey

August 15, 2014 @ 5:33 am

The Office of Domestice Preparedness (2002) [A DHS predecessor that was housed in DOJ] identified 10 key disciplines that should be trained to respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction: emergency management agencies, emergency medical services, firefighters, governmental administrators, hazardous materials personnel, law enforcement, public health, health care, public safety communications, and public works.

I argue that each of these disciplines is represented in the homeland security enterprise. All should be trained and educated to prevent/mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and help the nation recover from homeland security events that do occur. Each discipline, to varying degrees, satisfies Gardner and Shulman’s (2005) professional criteria.

As members of the homeland security enterprise, practitioners at all levels may be faced with homeland security versions of what Krulak (1999) referred to as three block wars wherein strategic corporals make critical decisions that decide the outcomes. Three block wars are tactical engagements with strategic implications. Strategic corporals are entry-level and first-line supervisors that are trained to make critical decisions. The heroic and tactical actions and decisions made by numerous first responders during the events of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the Boston Marathon Terror attacks in 2013 demonstrate clearly that members of the homeland security enterprise can, and do make critical decisions that decide the outcomes.

Homeland security’s strategic corporals, entry-level and first-line supervisors, require the knowledge and professional skills that were once reserved for mid-level managers and executives. For most members of the homeland security enterprise, the requisite knowledge and skills and hence professionalization will come from organizational training and undergraduate education.

(con >)

Comment by John Comiskey

August 15, 2014 @ 5:34 am

LE officials must be educated as the public trust imperative. Law enforcement officers must navigate the warfighter-humanitarian transition continuum. They must detect, deter, and suppress the worst criminal/terrorist element in society whilst they provide safe school crossings and a Andy Griffith-like sense of community. They must be professional

I mostly agree, LE officials do not need military camo to do their jobs. [Game warderns and certain backwoods operations may be exceptions].

Long guns, military tanks and armored cars should be displayed/used with the “utmost discretion” Canines were grossly misused during the civil rights movement. The result is a reluctance to use a valuable tool.

One related issue is HLS grant funding that encourages the over militarization of the police departments.

Law enforcement is a reflection of society. In my strongest opinion, law enforcement must be held to higher moral, physical, and professional standards.

I have often said that the police are doctors, lawyers, and Indian Chiefs. People call 9/11 and expect the police to fix things or at least make them better. The same can be said about members of the homeland security enterprise.

Krulak, (1999). The strategic corporal: Leadersip in the three block war. Retrieved from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/strategic_corporal.htm

Gardner, H. & Shulman, L. (2005). The professions in America today: Crucial but fragile. Daedalus. 134(2). Retrieved from

Office for Domestic Preparedness WMD training strategy (2002). U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Domestic Preparedness.

Palin, P. J. (2010). Homeland security: An Aristotelian approach to professional development. Homeland Security Affairs, 6(2). Retrieved from http://www.hsaj.org/?article=6.2.2

Comment by Quin

August 15, 2014 @ 6:19 am


Thanks for that quick history! I can tell you for a fact, I’m the only person in all of FEMA that has actually spent the time to read the legislative history of the FCDA, and try and figure out what Title VI means. You left out that in 1993, Congress inserted “all hazards” for “attacks” so that for one year President Clinton could have used its “in case of emergency, break glass” provisions for a hurricane! LOL.

Reading the debate from 1950 is pretty interesting, including at one point, one Congressman stating they are giving the head of the FCDA more power than the President!

Unfortunately, Title VI might provide some useful tools, especially in the cases of a real catastrophe, but there’s pretty much zero institutional curiosity, or initiative to care.

I actually plan on writing a journal article in the next year on it. Something about Title VI as a legal coelacanth. It’s been there all this time, but no one knows about it.

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