Executive Branch Continuity of Operations (COOP): An Overview
CRS Report for Congress
Executive Branch Continuity of Operations
(COOP): An Overview
Updated February 2, 2005
R. Eric Petersen
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Executive Branch Continuity of Operations (COOP): An
In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, subsequent biological
weapon incidents, and occasional warnings of potential terrorist incursions,
policymakers have given renewed attention to continuity of operations (COOP)
issues. COOP planning is a segment of federal government contingency planning
that refers to the internal effort of an organization, such as a branch of government,
department, or office, to assure that the capability exists to continue essential
operations in the aftermath of a comprehensive array of potential operational
interruptions. It is related to continuity of government (COG) planning. COG plans
are designed to ensure survival of a constitutional form of government and the
continuity of essential federal functions. This report does not discuss COG planning
beyond any direct relationship to COOP planning.
Government-wide, COOP planning is critical because much of the recovery
from an incident, which might include the maintenance of civil authority, and
infrastructure repair, among other recovery activities, presumes the existence of an
ongoing, functional government to fund, support, and oversee actions taken. In the
executive branch, COOP planning can be viewed as a continuation of basic
emergency preparedness planning, and a bridge between that planning and efforts to
maintain continuity of government in the event of a significant disruption to
government activity or institutions. Because the number and types of potential
interruptions are unknown, effective COOP planning must provide, in advance of an
incident, a variety of means to assure contingent operations.
This report discusses the background of COOP planning. Subsequent sections
address authorities for COOP planning; the roles of the National Security Council,
the Homeland Security Council, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in
COOP planning; COOP planning objectives, elements, and essential functions;
potential issues for Congress, including matters of the status of agency preparedness,
maintaining COOP preparedness, congressional committee oversight of COOP
activity, and funding for contingency planning.
This report is one of several CRS products related to government contingency
planning, and will be updated as events warrant. Executive branch COOP issues that
Congress might consider during the 109th Congress are discussed in CRS Report
RL32752, Continuity of Operations (COOP) in the Executive Branch: Issues in the
Congressional Continuity of Operations (COOP): An Overview of Concepts and
Challenges. Contingency planning in the federal judiciary is discussed in CRS
Report RL31978, Emergency Preparedness and Continuity of Operations (COOP)
Planning in the Federal Judiciary. CRS Report RL31739, Federal Agency
Emergency Preparedness and Dismissal of Employees, discusses pre-COOP
activities relating to the safeguarding of federal personnel and evacuation of federal
buildings. For a more comprehensive analysis of continuity of government (COG),
see CRS Report RS21089, Continuity of Government: Current Federal
Arrangements and the Future.
In troduction ......................................................1
Executive Branch COOP Planning Authority............................4
Executive Order 12656.........................................5
Presidential Decision Directive 67.................................7
Enduring Constitutional Government..........................8
Continuity of Government...................................8
Continuity of Operations....................................9
Executive Order 13286.........................................9
Role of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA..............9
COOP Planning Objectives, Elements, and Essential Functions.............10
National Essential Functions................................13
Priority Mission Essential Functions..........................14
Secondary Mission Essential Functions........................15
Defining Essential Functions of Departments and Agencies............15
COOP Policy Issues...............................................17
COOP Planning Authority......................................17
Executive Branch COOP Budgeting..............................19
Level of COOP Preparedness...................................20
Congressional Committee Jurisdiction............................22
Related CRS Products.............................................25
Continuity of Operations.......................................25
Continuity of Government......................................25
Executive Branch Continuity of Operations
(COOP): An Overview
In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, subsequent biological1
weapon incidents, and occasional warnings of potential terrorist incursions,
policymakers have given renewed attention to continuity of operations (COOP)
issues. Broadly, federal government contingency planning grows out of two major
streams. One stream, identified as continuity of government (COG), typically2
focuses on preserving government leadership and officials. The preservation of
staff, facilities, technology systems, and data comprises the second stream and is
usually the focus of COOP planning. Depending on the scope of an operational
interruption, COOP and COG plans could be initiated independently or in concert
with one another. Due to security concerns, current government contingency plans
are not public information. This secrecy, coupled with the wide variety of potential
operational interruptions, make a firm delineation between COOP and COG activities
that could be generalized across all circumstance are all but impossible to specify.
The history of contingency planning suggests, however, that it is reasonable to
assume that contingency planning for government leaders, their staffs, and the
facilities that support government operations are closely interrelated. Taken together,
COOP and COG are designed to ensure survival of a constitutional form of
government and the continuity of essential federal functions.
COOP planning refers to the internal effort of an organization, such as a branch
of government, department, agency, or office, to assure that the capability exists to
continue essential operations in response to a comprehensive array of potential
operational interruptions. While much of the renewed impetus for COOP planning
focuses on responding to potential attack, operational interruptions that could
necessitate the activation of a COOP might also include routine building renovation
or maintenance; mechanical failure of heating or other building systems; fire; and
inclement weather or other acts of nature. Other events which may interrupt
government activity include failure of information technology (IT) and
telecommunications installations due to malfunction or cyber attack.3
1 Dan Eggen, “FBI Told of 2003 Ricin Letter After 6 Days,” Washington Post, Feb. 5, 2004,
2 Government-wide continuity of government planning is discussed in CRS Report
RS21089, Continuity of Government: Current Federal Arrangements and the Future, by
Harold C. Relyea.
3 A cyber attack is an incursion on a range of IT facilities, and can range from simply
penetrating a system and examining it for the challenge, thrill, or interest, to entering a
Government-wide, COOP planning is critical because much of the response to
an incident might include the maintenance of civil authority and infrastructure repair,
among other recovery activities. Such a response presumes the existence of an
ongoing, functional government to fund, support, and oversee recovery efforts. In
the executive branch, COOP planning can be viewed as a continuation of basic
emergency preparedness planning, including evacuation planning,4 and serves as a
bridge between that planning and efforts to maintain continuity of government in the
event of a significant disruption to government activity or institutions.5 In the
aftermath of an incident, initial efforts typically focus on safeguarding personnel and
securing the incident scene. Subsequently, attention focuses on reestablishing critical
agency operations according to a COOP plan. Because the number and types of
potential interruptions are unknown, effective COOP planning must provide, in
advance of an incident, a variety of means to assure contingent operations.
Arrangements for the contingent operation of the executive branch in the event
of a national emergency, catastrophe, or other operational interruption are specified
in law, executive order, and agency plans. These sources identify a number of
matters that agency COOP planners must incorporate into their planning. In practice,
the specialized nature of the various agencies of the executive branch results in
COOP planning that is highly decentralized, with each agency developing specific
plans6 appropriate for maintaining its operations in an emergency. COOP planning
is also driven in part by growth and change of mission critical needs, personnel, and
information systems within an agency.
The next section of this report discusses the background of COOP planning.
Subsequent sections address authorities for COOP planning; the roles of the National
Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency and executive branch departments and agencies in COOP
planning; and COOP planning objectives, elements, and essential functions. The
final two sections address potential issues for Congress, and policy questions,
including matters of the status of agency preparedness, maintaining COOP
preparedness, congressional committee oversight of COOP activity, and funding for
system for revenge, to steal information, extort money, cause deliberate localized harm to
computers, or damage to a much larger infrastructure, such as telecommunications facilities.
See CRS Report RL30735, Cyberwarfare, by Steven A. Hildreth and CRS Report RL31787,
Information Warfare and Cyberwar: Capabilities and Related Policy Issues, by Clay
4 See CRS Report RL31739, Federal Agency Emergency Preparedness and Dismissal of
Employees, by L. Elaine Halchin.
5 When an incident occurs, COOP or COG plans may be activated independently or in
concert, depending on the type and severity of the event.
6 Although elements of COOP plans are available for some agencies, full plans detailing all
potential responses are not public information, given their sensitive, contingent status.
7 Executive branch COOP issues that Congress might consider during the 109th Congress
Continuity of operations planning grows out of efforts established during the
Cold War to preserve the continuity of government in the event of a nuclear attack
on the United States. At the time, executive branch COG planning focused on
preserving the line of presidential succession, by safeguarding officials who would
succeed the President. Also, COG plans reportedly included locating and evacuating8
the officials in the line of succession, along with the other senior leaders of cabinet
departments, and leaders of the independent agencies, such as the Federal Reserve.
In the event of an imminent nuclear attack, the plans called for the relocation of these
individuals to secure, alternative operational facilities outside of the District of9
As COG plans evolved, it was recognized by emergency planners that it would
be necessary to support the country’s senior leadership and to carry out critical
functions in the aftermath of an attack, regardless of the need to evacuate and relocate
government officials. Consequently, COOP planning became a unifying element that
integrated support functions in situations where the lack of such basic support
elements as personnel, alternative operational facilities, or records, posed serious
disruption to agency operations and the ability of the government to carry out its
constitutional and statutory duties.
In the period following the end of the Cold War, attention to contingency
planning reportedly decreased in response to the perception of diminished risk of
widespread interruption to government operations as a result of an intercontinental
nuclear attack. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World
are discussed in CRS Report RL32752, Continuity of Operations (COOP) in the Executiveth
Branch: Issues in the 109 Congress, by R. Eric Petersen.
8 Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, as amended (61 Stat. 380, 3 U.S.C. 19),
the current line of presidential succession passes from the President to the Vice President,
Speaker of the House of Representatives, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Secretaries
of State, the Treasury, and Defense, the Attorney General, and the secretaries of the Interior,
Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban
Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, and Veterans Affairs. For more
information on presidential succession, see CRS Report RL31761, Presidential and Vice
Presidential Succession: Overview and Current Legislation, by Thomas H. Neale.
9 See Edward Zuckerman, The Day After World War III, (New York: Viking, 1984), pp. 44-
66, 211-238; Ted Gup, “The Doomsday Plan,” Time, Aug. 10, 1992, pp. 32-39; and Bruce
G. Blair, John E. Pike and Stephen I. Schwartz, “Emergency Command Posts and the
Continuity of Government,” in Stephen I. Schwartz, Atomic Audit: The Costs and
Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Washington: Brookings Institution
Press, 1998), pp. 210-214.
Similar contingency plans were reportedly developed for Congress and the Supreme
Court. See Ibid.; Ted Gup, “The Last Resort,” Washington Post Magazine, May 31, 1992,
pp. 11, 13-15, 24-27; Kenneth J. Cooper, “Hill Leaders ‘Regret’ Reports on Bomb Shelter
Site,” Washington Post, May 30, 1992, pp. A1. For an overview of congressional COOP
planning, see CRS Report RL31594, Congressional Continuity of Operations (COOP): An
Overview of Concepts and Challenges, by R. Eric Petersen and Jeffrey W. Seifert.
Trade Center and the Pentagon, federal government facilities in Washington, DC,
were evacuated. The government resumed normal operations on September 12. As
a result of that experience, some federal agency leaders recognized that if they were
prevented from reentering their facilities for longer periods of time, existing
contingency plans, based on Cold War era assumptions that included a period of
warning before an attack, were inadequate protection in a threat environment
characterized by potential sudden, localized terrorist attacks that could include the
use of weapons of mass destruction.10
Executive Branch COOP Planning Authority
Three presidential documents currently govern contingency planning activity.
The oldest of these, Executive Order (E.O.) 12656, Assignment of Emergency
Preparedness Responsibilities, issued in 1988 remains valid, although it arose from
the context of the Cold War. The more recent Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)
67, Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations
and Executive Order 13286, Amendment of Executive Orders, and Other Actions, in
Connection With the Transfer of Certain Functions to the Secretary of Homeland
Security, were prepared in 1998 and 2003, respectively, within the context of
terrorism. Lending further detail to COOP planning is Federal Preparedness Circular11
(FPC) 65, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2004.
Three executive branch entities appear to oversee COOP planning. Under E.O.
12656, the National Security Council (NSC) oversees consideration of national
security emergency preparedness policy. The Homeland Security Council (HSC) was
created by executive order12 in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001
attacks and was established as a statutory entity of the Executive Office of the
President (EOP) in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.13 The President, the Vice
President, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Secretary
of Defense, and such other individuals as designated by the President comprise the
membership of HSC. The council’s statutory mandate includes the oversight and
10 See Dipka Bhambhani, “Crisis Proves a Need for Disaster Planning,” Government
Computer News, Sept. 24, 2001, p.1; Dana Milbank, “Worst-Case Scenarios: The U.S. Has
None; Constitutional Crisis, Chaos Foreseen if Top Leaders Killed,” Washington Post, Dec.
10, 2001 p. A1; and Sue Anne Pressley and Start S. Hsu, “A 2-Front War on Terror at
Home,” Washington Post, Mar. 16, 2003, p. A1.
11 A more detailed discussion of the requirements of E.O. 12656, PDD 67, and E.O. 13286
is available in CRS Report RL31857, Continuity of Operations (COOP) in the Executive
Branch: An Overview, by Harold C. Relyea.
12 E.O. 13228, October 8, 2001, 66 FR 51812-51817.
13 P.L. 107-296, Nov. 25, 2002, 116 Stat. 2135. A brief discussion of the of HSC prior to
enactment of the Homeland Security Act is available in CRS Report RL31357, Federal
Interagency Coordinative Mechanisms: Varied Types and Numerous Devices, by Frederick
M. Kaiser, p.12.
review of the homeland security policies of the federal government.14 E.O. 12656
mandates the Director of FEMA to “serve as an advisor to the National Security
Council on issues of national security emergency preparedness, including ...
continuity of government, technological disasters, and other issues, as appropriate.”
While it is not a directive issued by the President, Federal Preparedness Circular 65
identifies PDD 67 as the authority establishing FEMA as the lead agency for
executive branch COOP activities.
Executive Order 12656
E.O. 12656, Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities was
issued November 18, 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.15 It assigns national security
emergency preparedness responsibilities to federal departments and agencies.
E.O.12656 defines a national security emergency as “any occurrence, including
natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that
seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.16
Although the order does not explicitly refer to continuity of operations, it specifies
preparedness functions and activities to include the development of policies, plans,
procedures, and readiness measures that enhance the ability of the U.S. government
to mobilize for, respond to, and recover from a national security emergency.
Under the order, agencies are required to have capabilities to meet essential
defense and civilian needs in the event of a national security emergency. This
capability is to be developed according to a three step planning process which
encompasses identification of functions that would have to be performed by an
agency during a national security emergency; the development of plans for
performing those functions; and development and maintenance of the capability to
execute those plans.
E.O. 12656 designates the National Security Council (NSC) as the principal
forum for consideration of national security emergency preparedness policy. The
order also requires the director of FEMA to “serve as an advisor to the National
Security Council on issues of national security emergency preparedness, including
mobilization preparedness, civil defense, continuity of government, technological
disasters, and other issues, as appropriate.” FEMA is also required to assist in the
implementation of preparedness policies by coordinating with the other federal
departments and agencies and with state and local governments.
14 6 U.S.C. 494.
15 53 FR 47491; Nov. 23, 1988.
16 While the order defines “national security emergency” broadly, subsequent language
excludes “those natural disasters, technological emergencies, or other emergencies, the
alleviation of which is normally the responsibility of individuals, the private sector,
volunteer organizations, State and local governments, and Federal departments and agencies
unless such situations also constitute a national security emergency.”
Section 201 of the order charges the head of each federal agency to
!be prepared to respond adequately to all national security
!consider national security emergency preparedness factors in the
conduct of regular agency functions;
!appoint a senior policy official as emergency coordinator, with
responsibility for developing and maintaining a multi-year, national
security emergency preparedness plan for the agency;
!design preparedness measures to permit a rapid and effective
transition from routine to emergency operations;
!base national security emergency preparedness measures on the use
of existing authorities, organizations, resources, and systems, to the
maximum extent practicable;
!identify areas where additional legal authorities may be needed to
assist management and, consistent with applicable executive orders,
take appropriate measures toward acquiring those authorities;
!make policy recommendations to the NSC regarding national
security emergency preparedness activities and functions of the
!coordinate with state and local government agencies and private
sector organizations, when appropriate;
!assist state, local, and private sector entities in developing plans for
providing services that are essential to a national response;
!cooperate in compiling, evaluating, and exchanging relevant data
related to all aspects of national security emergency preparedness;
!develop programs regarding congressional relations and public
information that could be used during national security emergencies;
!ensure a capability to provide, during a national security emergency,
information concerning official government documents17 to the
official or agency designated to maintain the Federal Register in an
17 These documents include Acts of Congress, presidential proclamations, executive orders,
regulations, and notices of other actions.
!develop and conduct training and education programs that
incorporate emergency preparedness and civil defense information
necessary to ensure an effective national response;
!ensure that plans consider the consequences for essential services
provided by state and local governments, and by the private sector,
if the disbursement of federal funds is disrupted; and
!consult and coordinate with the director of FEMA to ensure that
agency emergency preparedness activities and plans are consistent
with NSC guidelines and policies.
Section 202 of E.O. 12656 requires the head of each federal department and
agency to “ensure the continuity of essential functions in any national security
emergency by providing for: succession to office and emergency delegation of
authority in accordance with applicable law; safekeeping of essential resources,
facilities, and records; and establishment of emergency operating capabilities.”
Whenever possible, the order based emergency planning on extensions of the regular
missions of the departments and agencies. Subsequent sections require each
department to carry out specific contingency planning activities in its areas of policy
Presidential Decision Directive 67
PDD 67, Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government
Operations, was issued by the Clinton Administration on October 21, 1998,19 and has
18 For example, Section 301(1) requires the Department of Agriculture to “develop plans
to provide for the continuation of agricultural production, food processing, storage, and
distribution through the wholesale level in national security emergencies, and to provide for
the domestic distribution of seed, feed, fertilizer, and farm equipment to agricultural
producers.” Section 801(1) requires the Department of Health and Human Services to
“develop national plans and programs to mobilize the health industry and health resources
for the provision of health, mental health, and medical services in national security
19 PDD 67 replaced George H. W. Bush’s National Security Directive (NSD) 69, “Enduring
Constitutional Government” issued June 2, 1992, which in turn succeeded NSD 37
“Enduring Constitutional Government” issued April 18, 1990. National Security Decision
Directives (NSDD) 47 “Emergency Mobilization Preparedness,” issued July 22, 1982, and
NSDD 55, “Enduring National Leadership,” issued September 14, 1982, by President
Ronald Reagan, included consideration of continued government operations planning. See
Christopher Simpson, National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations:
The Declassified History of U.S. Political and Military Policy, 1981-1991 (Boulder, CO:
Westview Press), pp. 59, 71, 102-104, and 158-178. Earlier national security directives
relating to continuity of government include Presidential Directive (PD) 58, “Continuity of
Government,”issued June 30, 1980, by President Jimmy Carter; two National Security
Decision Memoranda (NSDM) issued by President Richard Nixon, NSDM 201,
“Contingency Planning,” issued January 5, 1973, and NSDM 8, “Crisis Anticipation and
Management,” issued March 21, 1969, and two National Security Acton Memoranda
been classified by the NSC. An unclassified fact sheet on the directive, prepared by
HSC staff,20 describes contingency planning efforts as “a top national security priority
... to ensure all three branches of government, individually and collectively, continues
(sic) to preserve the capability to govern; to continue leadership; to perform essential
functions and services required to meet essential defense and civilian needs; and, if
necessary, to reconstitute themselves against the entire range of evolving post-Cold
The PDD 67 fact sheet describes a program designed to ensure survival of
constitutional government and continuity of essential federal functions, centered
around three policy concepts: enduring constitutional government (ECG), continuity
of government (COG), and COOP.
Enduring Constitutional Government. The PDD 67 fact sheet describes
ECG as “a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative and judicial branches
of government, coordinated by the President, to preserve the capability to execute
constitutional responsibilities in a catastrophic emergency.” The endurance of the
constitutional framework under which the nation is governed in the face of severe
interruption is described as the overarching goal of contingency planning activities.
To accomplish that goal, ECG requires orderly succession, appropriate transition of
leadership, and the performance of essential functions by all three branches of
government. The PDD 67 fact sheet notes that ECG is dependent on effective
branch-level continuity of government and continuity of operations plans and
Continuity of Government. The PDD 67 fact sheet describes COG as “a
coordinated effort within each branch to ensure the capability to continue its
minimum essential responsibilities in a catastrophic emergency.” COG activities
involve ensuring the continuity of minimum essential branch functions through plans
and procedures governing:
!succession to office;
!emergency delegation of authority;
(NSAM) issued by President John F. Kennedy, NSAM 166, “Report on Emergency Plans
and Continuity of the Government,” issued June 25, 1962, and NSAM 127, “Emergency
Planning for Continuity of Government,” issued February 14, 1962. The initial national
security document establishing continuity programs appears to be NSC 5521, “NSC
Relocation Plan,” issued some time in 1955, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
20 “Unclassified Provisions of PDD-67 (Enduring Constitutional Government and
Continuity of Government Operations),” Homeland Security Council fact sheet, undated.
No widely available official summary or other information about PDD 67 has been released.
Some information regarding the directive may obtained from the Federation of American
Scientists (FAS) Intelligence Resources Program, which provides declassified materials and
summaries of some current national security documents through the Internet. The FAS
summary for PDD 67 is available at [http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd/pdd-67.htm],
visited Feb. 3, 2005.
!safekeeping of vital resources, facilities and records;
!improvisation or emergency acquisition of vital resources necessary
for the performance of minimum essential functions;
!capability to relocate essential personnel and functions to alternate
work sites; and
!performance of minimum essential functions at the alternate work
site until normal operations can be resumed.
The PDD 67 fact sheet indicates that COG is dependent on effective COOP plans and
Continuity of Operations. COOP is described in the PDD 67 fact sheet as
“an internal effort within individual components of the executive, legislative and
judicial branches of government to assure the capability exists to continue”
operations in response to “a wide range of potential emergencies, including localized
acts of nature, accidents, and technological and/or attack-related emergencies. In the
fact sheet, COOP plans and capabilities are described as covering the same functional
objectives of COG, making COOP an integral part of ECG as well a “good business
practice,” and “part of the fundamental mission of Federal departments and agencies
as responsible and reliable public institutions.” The PDD 67 fact sheet notes that all
executive branch departments and agencies, including those within the Executive
Office of the President (EOP), are to establish a viable COOP capability.
Executive Order 13286
E.O. 13286 was issued by President George W. Bush on February 28, 2003.21
The order specifies the transfer of authorities to the Secretary of Homeland Security
in a variety of policy areas, including those preparedness responsibilities assigned to
the director of FEMA in E.O. 12656.
Role of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA
As the lead agency for COOP planning, FEMA has the responsibility to
formulate guidance for agencies to use in developing viable, executable COOP plans;
facilitate interagency coordination as appropriate; and oversee and assess the status
of COOP capability across the federal executive branch. Federal Preparedness
Circular (FPC) 65, issued by FEMA on June 15, 2004, identifies PDD 67 as the
authority establishing FEMA as the “as the lead agency for federal executive branch
COOP.”22 According to the circular, this authority was transferred to the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 1, 2003, and then delegated to the Emergency
21 68 FR 10619, Mar. 5, 2003.
22 Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of
National Security Coordination, Federal Preparedness Circular 65, “Federal Executive
Branch Continuity of Operations (COOP),” June 15, 2004, available at
[http://www.fema.gov/onsc/docs/fpc_65.pdf], visited Feb. 3, 2005.
FEMA. FEMA’s Office of National Security Coordination (ONSC) has been
designated as the department’s lead agent for the executive branch COOP program.
FPC 65 describes FEMA’s responsibilities to include formulating guidance and
establishing common standards for executive branch agencies to use in developing
viable, executable COOP plans; facilitating interagency coordination; and overseeing
and assessing the status of COOP capabilities in executive branch agencies. The
circular notes that each executive branch agency is responsible for appointing a
senior federal government executive as an emergency coordinator to serve as the
program manager and agency point of contact for coordinating agency COOP
activities, which include planning, programming, and budgeting for a viable and
executable COOP program that conforms to FEMA guidance. The circular does not
appear to carry authority for FEMA to compel action by other executive branch
COOP Planning Objectives, Elements,
and Essential Functions
Although the specific details of a COOP plan will vary by agency, FEMA
guidance attempts to establish common standards for agencies to use in developing
viable, executable COOP plans; facilitate interagency coordination as appropriate;
and oversee and assess the status of COOP capabilities of federal executive branch
agencies. FPC 65 establishes several COOP planning objectives, which include
!ensuring the performance of an agency’s essential functions and
operations during a COOP event;
!reducing loss of life;
!executing, as required, successful succession to office in the event
a disruption renders agency leadership unable, unavailable, or
incapable of assuming and performing their authorities and
responsibilities of office;
!reducing or mitigating disruptions to operations;
!ensuring that agencies have alternate facilities from which to
continue to perform essential functions during a COOP event;
!protecting essential facilities, equipment, vital records, and other
!achieving a timely and orderly recovery from an emergency and
reconstitution of normal operations that allows resumption of
essential functions for both internal and external clients; and
!ensuring and validating COOP readiness through a dynamic,
integrated test, training, and exercise program to support the
implementation of COOP plans.
To achieve the planning objectives FEMA specifies several elements that
comprise a viable COOP capability. When implemented, a COOP plan will provide
for continued performance of an organization’s essential functions under all
circumstances. According to Federal Preparedness Circular 65, elements of such a
plan require agencies to, at a minimum:
!identify essential functions and activities, agency interdependencies,
and the resources needed to perform them;
!establish orders of succession to key agency positions;
!establish and maintain current roster(s) of fully equipped and trained
COOP personnel with the authority to perform essential functions;
!provide for the identification and preparation of alternate operating
facilities for continuity operations;
!outline a decision process for determining appropriate actions in
implementing COOP plans and procedures;
!provide procedures for the notification and relocation of COOP
personnel to one or more alternate operating facilities;
!provide procedures for the orientation of COOP personnel and for
conducting operations and administration at alternate operating
!provide for operational capability at the COOP site as soon as
possible with minimal disruption to operations, but in all cases
within 12 hours of activation;
!establish reliable processes and procedures to acquire resources
necessary to continue essential functions and sustain operations until
normal business activities can be reconstituted, which could be up
to 30 days;
!provide for the ability to coordinate activities with non-COOP
!provide for reconstitution of agency capabilities, and transition from
continuity operations to normal operations.
The sensitive nature of contingency planning, and the specialized nature of
government agencies are factors in the lack of publicly available detailed agency-by-
agency information regarding the extent of COOP planning. In the winter of 2001-
2002, however, President George W. Bush issued several executive orders providing
for an order of succession in the executive departments and the Environmental
Protection Agency.23 In addition, some agencies within departments have also
established leadership succession contingencies as part of their COOP planning.24
COOP planners suggest that identification and prioritization of essential
functions is a prerequisite for COOP because such an effort establishes the planning
parameters that drive an agency’s efforts in all other planning and preparedness areas.
Essential functions are those that the executive branch agencies must be able to
perform without significant interruption. Homeland Security Council guidance
mandates the development of procedures that must be in place to enable each
function to be performed regardless of the disruption that is occurring or has
occurred.25 If COOP plans are activated, continuous performance of essential
functions should enable agencies to provide vital services, exercise civil authority,
maintain the safety and well being of the general populace, and sustain the industrial
economic base of the nation in an emergency.
Executive branch COOP planners identify three levels of essential government
functions that are subject to continuity planning: national essential functions (NEF),
priority mission essential functions (PMEF), and secondary mission essential
functions (SMEF). In the event of an emergency that necessitated the activation of
COOP or COG plans, NEF would be the primary concern of the President and the
23 E.O. 13241, “Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Agriculture,”
Dec. 18, 2001, 66 FR 66258; E.O. 13242, “Providing an Order of Succession Within the
Department of Commerce,” Dec. 18, 2001, 66 FR 66260; E.O. 13243, “Providing an Order
of Succession Within the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Dec. 18, 2001,
66 FR 66262; E.O. 13244, “Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of the
Interior,” Dec. 18, 2001, 66 FR 66267; E.O. 13245, “Providing an Order of Succession
Within the Department of Labor,” Dec. 18, 2001, 66 FR 66268; E.O. 13246, “Providing an
Order of Succession Within the Department of the Treasury,” Dec. 18, 2001, 66 FR 66270;
E.O. 13247, “Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Veterans Affairs,”
Dec. 18, 2001, 66 FR 66271; E.O. 13250, “Providing an Order of Succession Within the
Department of Health and Human Services,” Dec. 28, 2001, 67 FR 1597; E.O. 13250,
“Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Health and Human Services,”
Dec. 28, 2001, 67 FR 1597; E.O. 13251, “Providing an Order of Succession Within the
Department of State,” Dec. 28, 2001, 67 FR 1599; and E.O. 13261, “Providing an Order of
Succession in the Environmental Protection Agency and Amending Certain Orders on
Succession,” Mar. 19, 2002, 67 FR 13243. There does not appear to be a similar executive
order specifying succession in the Department of Homeland Security.
24 See United States, Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration,
NAP-2, “Establishment of Line of Succession for the Administrator, National Nuclear
Security Administration,” May 21, 2002, [http://www.nnsa.doe.gov/docs/NAP-2.htm],
visited Feb. 3, 2005.
25 Homeland Security Council, “Background Paper on Essential Functions Concept and
Implementation and Recommended Guidelines for Submitting Department/Agency Priority
Mission Essential Functions Information,” Jan. 10, 2005.
national leadership. Priority mission essential functions would comprise those
department and agency activities that directly support NEF. SMEF responsibilities
lie in departments and agencies. Depending on the nature and duration of the event,
some secondary functions would generally support agency PMEF, while others could
support some NEF.
National Essential Functions. The Homeland Security Council defines
national essential functions as those necessary to lead and sustain the country during
an emergency, and that must be supported through department and agency continuity
capabilities. These functions are expected to be the primary focus of the President
and the national leadership during and following an emergency. National essential
functions might be performed by one or more department or agency, and are not new
authorities, requirements, or functions, but those that are routinely carried out during
normal operating conditions. The Homeland Security Council identifies eight
national essential functions that must be supported throughout an operational
interruption.26 These include the capacity to
!preserve the constitutional form of government. Department and
agency functions should include activities that respect and
implement checks and balances among the three branches of the
federal government. An example is the preservation of essential
communications between the executive, legislative, and judicial
branches of government during an incident.
!provide leadership visible to the nation and the world, and to
maintain the trust and confidence of the American people.
Executive branch departments and agencies are expected to
demonstrate that the federal government is viable, functioning, and
effectively addressing the emergency. Activities in support of this
function could include communicating with the American people
and providing information to state and local governments, or
communicating with foreign leaders.
!defend the country against all enemies, foreign or domestic, and
to prevent or interdict future attacks. In addition to the protection
and defense of the worldwide interests of the United States against
foreign or domestic enemies, departments and agencies are to honor
security agreements and treaties with allies, and maintain military
readiness and preparedness in furtherance of national interests and
!maintain and foster effective relationships with foreign nations.
Departments and agencies are responsible for ensuring the ability of
the federal government to communicate and interact with foreign
governments; share intelligence and identify threats in cooperation
with foreign governments; and bring to justice perpetrators of crimes
26 National essential functions definitions and examples are based on Homeland Security
Council, “Background Paper on Essential Functions Concept and Implementation.”
or attacks against the United States, its citizens or interests.
Examples identified by the Homeland Security Council include
maintaining the security of the nation’s borders against unlawful or
hostile entry; ensuring the safety of commercial transportation; and
conducting law enforcement investigations of federal crimes.
!provide rapid and effective response to and recovery from the
domestic consequences of an attack or other incident. In the
event of an incident, departments and agencies are to implement
response and recovery plans, including, but not limited to, the27
National Response Plan (NRP). Agency actions could include the
collection and dissemination of incident and threat related
information, or the provision of medical care to populations affected
by the attack or incident.
!protect and stabilize the nation’s economy, and to ensure
confidence in financial systems. It is essential that department and
agency functions minimize the economic consequences of an attack
or other incident both nationally or internationally. Relevant
executive branch department or agency activities could include
coordinating the re-opening of financial markets, or facilitating the
movement of goods and services across borders to support economic
!provide for critical federal government services that address the28
health, safety, and welfare needs of the nation. The activities of
departments and agencies must ensure that the critical national needs
of the nation are met during an emergency. Examples could include
maintenance of the safety and efficiency of the nation’s food supply,
air traffic continuance, or the provision of timely and accurate severe
storm warning information to the public.
Priority Mission Essential Functions. Unlike the national essential
functions, priority mission essential functions are to be identified by departments and
agencies respectively. The guidance provided by the Homeland Security Council
directs that primary mission essential functions must be performed to support or
implement national essential functions before, during, and in the immediate aftermath
of an emergency. Generally, these functions are to be uninterrupted, or resumed,
27 According to the Department of Homeland Secuirty, The National Response Plan
(mandated by 6 U.S.C. 312 (6)) establishes a comprehensive all-hazards approach to
enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents. The National
Response Plan is available from the department’s website at
[http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/interapp/editorial/editorial_0566.xml], visited Feb. 3, 2005.
28 HSC guidance notes that “this NEF is strictly limited to critical functions of the federal
government with a national level consequence; it not does apply to general well-being and
welfare of the nation.”
during the first 24-48 hours after the occurrence of an emergency and continued
through full resumption of all government activities.29
Each executive branch department and agency is responsible for identifying its
priority mission essential functions based on the eight national functions; describing
those functions succinctly; determining the associated national essential functions for
each; establishing a minimum time period for performing the function during an
emergency; and identifying other departments and agencies upon which they depend
in order to perform their functions.
Secondary Mission Essential Functions. Those activities that a
department or agency determines must be performed in order to bring about full
resumption of its normal functions, but that are not primary mission essential
functions, are defined as secondary mission essential functions. According to
Homeland Security Council guidelines, resumption of secondary functions “may
need to occur within a very short period of time or only after several days, depending
on the nature of the agency mission and the nature of the disruption to normal agency
functions.” As with priority mission essential functions, secondary mission essential
functions are identified by each executive branch department or agency. They are to
be used within their respective organizations for continuity and related planning.
Agency-identified secondary functions will not be collected, reviewed, or approved
at the national level.30
Defining Essential Functions of Departments and Agencies
In FPC 65, FEMA states that the “identification and prioritization of essential
functions is a prerequisite for COOP because it establishes the planning parameters31
that drive the agency’s efforts in all other planning and preparedness areas.” The
Homeland Security Council has provided guidance on identifying sources of
executive branch department and agency-essential functions, and has provided
several examples of resources that agencies might use to identify their primary- and32
secondary-mission essential functions. These include the following:
!agency strategic plans that directly support national essential
29 Primary mission essential function definitions and examples are based on Homeland
Security Council, “Background Paper on Essential Functions Concept and Implementation.”
31 Department of Homeland Security, Federal Preparedness Circular 65, “Federal Executive
Branch Continuity of Operations (COOP),” p. 5.
32 Homeland Security Council, “Background Paper on Essential Functions Concept and
Implementation,” unnumbered. Also, examples of potential primary and secondary mission
essential functions are found in materials provided in the Essential Functions Workshop,
presented by the Homeland Security Council, FEMA, and Interagency COOP Working
Group staff, Jan. 12, 2005.
!lines of business33 as defined in the business reference model
materials agencies submitted to the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) in conjunction with its federal enterprise architecture
!submissions provided to various authorities under the Government
Performance Results Act (GPRA);35
!critical infrastructure protection plans prepared pursuant to
Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 7;36
!presidential decision directives, executive orders, particularly E.O.
! legi slation.37
Several observers suggest that in addition to these resources agency-essential
functions could derive from statutory language that establish agencies and define or
modify programs and functions carried out by the agencies, or committee or
conference report language accompanying annual legislation appropriating agency
funds.38 Congress could ultimately act to consider legislative options intended to
establish clearer understandings of the essential functions of executive branch
departments and agencies related to COOP planning.
33 OMB uses the term “lines of business” to refer to the activities carried out by a
department or agency. External lines of business describe the services and products the
government provides to its customers and stakeholders, while internal lines of business
describe the inter-and intra-agency administrative and support activities that enable the
government to operate.
34 Generally, enterprise architecture refers to a blueprint of the business functions of an
organization and the technology needed to support them. According to its website, the OMB
“is developing the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA)” as “a business-based framework
for Government-wide improvement,” see [http://www.feapmo.gov/fea.asp]. The business
reference model is the first component of FEA. “OMB Releases New Business Reference
Model to Improve Agency Management,” July 24, 2002, [http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/
pubpress/2002-50.pdf]. Both sites visited Feb. 3, 2005.
35 P.L. 103-62; 107 Stat. 285.
36 Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7, Critical Infrastructure Identification,
Prioritization, and Protection, Dec. 17, 2003, available at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/
news/releases/2003/12/20031217-5.html], visited Feb. 3, 2005.
37 Resources for identifying agency mission essential functions are based on materials
provided in the Essential Functions Workshop, Jan. 12, 2005.
38 See Martha Derthick, Policymaking for Social Security (Washington: The Brookings
Institution, 1979); I. M. Destler, “Delegating Trade Policy,” in Paul E. Peterson, ed., The
President, The Congress and the Making of Foreign Policy (Norman, OK: University of
Oklahoma Press, 1994), pp. 228-246; and CRS Report 98-558, Appropriations Bills: What
is Report Language?, by Sandy Streeter.
COOP Policy Issues
Policy questions and issues will likely arise as Congress examines the status of
COOP planning within the executive branch and the implications of that planning for
overall agency emergency preparedness. Some of the issues regarding COOP
!executive branch authority to carry out COOP activities;
!the extent of COOP preparedness;
!congressional committee jurisdiction; and
!the perceived immediacy of contingency planning.
COOP Planning Authority
The authorities governing executive COOP planning raise several issues that
might be examined by Congress. These include the capacity of existing executive
authorities to effectively govern COOP planning and the implementation of such
Authorities governing COOP activities, E.O. 12656, PDD 67 and E.O. 13286
have been issued by three different presidential administrations. Some observers
suggested that each policy directive was issued at different times in response to
disparate threat conditions. For example, E.O. 12656 is a continuation of Cold War-
era contingency policies that assume a nuclear confrontation with a single state, the
former Soviet Union. A continuity planning assumption from this era is the potential
for a decapitating strike on the national leadership, including the President, cabinet,
and congressional leaders.
By contrast, observers note that, when PDD 67 and E.O. 13286 were issued, the
threat environment was evolving from a single state model to one characterized by
the advent of threat from hostile states and loose organizations of non-state actors
with the capacity to launch small scale attacks using non-traditional weapons. Such
attacks may not disrupt senior leadership in its entirety, but have the potential to
impair the operations of key government functions and programs. The PDD 67 fact
sheet, as well as guidance issued by FEMA in Federal Preparedness Circular 65,
recognize the enhanced threat of potential attack by hostile states or terrorists, as well
as hazards occasioned by potential natural and technological disasters. A document
that defines the potential threat environment, and that legally compels executive
agencies to prepare plans to withstand such incursions, however, is not evident.
Moreover, it is not clear from publicly available documents what legal authority
exists to implement COOP plans. E.O. 13286 is silent on the matter; section 102 (b)
of E.O. 12656 notes explicitly that the order does not authorize the implementation
of COOP plans, and that any such plans “may be executed only in the event that ...
such execution is authorized in law.”39 The PDD 67 fact sheet notes that “with
warning, the National Security Council process shall be used to reach deliberate
decisions regarding the alerting or activation of government-wide COOP and COG
plans and capabilities.” The fact sheet does not, however, identify the legal authority
under which such a process could be initiated, or by which COOP plans could be
Observers of presidential powers and authorities suggest that such an
authorization could be found in broad national emergency powers that have been
exercised by the President in times of crisis.. Typically, national emergency powers
have been invoked in response to threats of the loss of life, property, or public
order.40 Following the attacks on Washington and New York on September 11, 2001,
federal government COG and COOP plans were reportedly activated.41 It does not
appear, however, that declarations of emergency pursuant to the National
Emergencies Act42 would necessarily actuate statutory provisions granting the
President the authority to activate COOP plans in response to threats or attack against
government, or detailing the ability of the executive branch to carry out its statutory
missions and programs.43
Finally, experts in public administration and management might suggest that the
attenuated stream of authorities governing executive branch COOP planning could
lead to confusion regarding which agencies of the executive branch oversee planning
activities. E.O. 13286 requires that the Director of FEMA and the heads of
departments and agencies must ensure that their preparedness plans and activities are
“consistent with current presidential guidelines and policies.” Under E.O. 12656, the
NSC was responsible for establishing guidelines and policies. Following the creation
of the Homeland Security Council, it appears that, while the NSC retains broad
national security responsibilities, including those related to COOP, as specified in
PDD 67,44 executive branch COOP activities now are overseen primarily by the HSC.
Notably, guidelines related to essential COOP functions, described above, have
recently been approved by Homeland Security Council staff. The council has
communicated those guidelines directly to executive departments and agencies,45 and
through FEMA. No publicly identifiable document explicitly vesting the council
with such authority over COOP planing has been identified.
39 53 FR 47492.
40 See Harold C. Relyea, “Emergency Powers,” in Katy J. Harriger, ed., Separation of
Powers: Documents and Commentary (Washington: CQ Press, 2003), pp. 80-97.
41 “The Armageddon Plan,” Nightline, ABC News, originally broadcast Apr. 7, 2004,
transcript retrieved through nexis.com.
42 50 U.S.C. 1601-1651.
43 A list of declared national emergencies invoked under the National Emergencies Act is
available in CRS Report 98-505, National Emergency Powers, by Harold C. Relyea
44 For example, the National Security council is the classifying authority for PDD 67.
45 Frances Fragos Townsend, “Continuity Policy/Department and Agency Essential
Functions,” memorandum for distribution from the Assistant to the President for Homeland
Security, Jan. 10, 2005.
The sensitive nature of government contingency planning likely precludes a
public discussion of the criteria for implementing COOP plans. Enactment of
statutory authority to establish an entity to oversee and implement such plans,
however, might address concerns regarding the apparent lack of clear authority to
activate such plans. Any such authority would likely vest the lead executive branch
entity with overall programmatic responsibility. Further, any such authority would
likely be carried out in a timely manner appropriate to the threat environment.
Finally, implementing authority could be publicly available through access to an
executive order or statute. Congress might opt to consider legislative options to
establish clear authorities for the formulation, management, and implementation of
executive branch COOP planning.
Executive Branch COOP Budgeting
The current budgetary environment is characterized by limited resources,
coupled with an increased demand for a variety of homeland security protective
measures, including executive branch COOP planning. Homeland Security Council
and FEMA staff have suggested that, as a consequence of the multi-disciplinary
nature of COOP planning, executive branch agency expenditures for COOP activities
are sometimes spread across several departmental or agency accounts, and data are
not readily available to demonstrate agency COOP funding levels.
On August 6, 2004, OMB issued a budget data request46 that requires executive
branch departments and agencies to submit a summary table for COOP programs that
includes the department or agency name, account title and number, activity, and
budget authority for the enacted and request levels, as appropriate. In addition,
departments and agencies are required to submit a narrative background summary of
their COOP plan and activities as well as an explanation of how the plan, and
resources committed to it, adequately support established COOP standards. OMB
has announced that it will review agency COOP program budget submissions as part
of the FY2006 budget process, in conjunction with the Homeland Security Council.47
A potential consequence of this data gathering is that Congress might consider
specific COOP program expenditures in the FY2006 authorization and appropriations
cycles. Relatedly, Congress might request the Congressional Budget Office to
prepare and analyze data similar to that specified in the budget data request.
46 Generally, OMB uses budget data requests to identify budgetary and management
information related to the programs and functions for which departments and agencies are
responsible. According to OMB, the Aug. 6, 2004 budget data request will support review
of executive branch homeland security and overseas combating terrorism funding, and will
be used in developing the President’s FY2006 Budget. The timing of the data submissions
was to be determined in consultation between the departments and agencies and their OMB
47 Office of Management and Budget, “Homeland Security (HS)/Overseas Combating
Terrorism (OCT.) Funding Estimates, including Agency Continuity of Operations Program
(COOP) Activities,” Budget Data Request No. 04-41, Aug. 6, 2004.
A possible effect of the acquisition of technology, infrastructure, and supplies
to be held in reserve for use in an emergency, is the likelihood that such an allocation
might reduce resources available for routine operations. To the extent that COOP
facilities and infrastructure are integrated into daily agency operations, this matter
might be less salient. Access to specific COOP program expenditure data might
provide Congress with tools to determine the utility of executive branch COOP
programs and their integration into routine agency activities.
Level of COOP Preparedness
A report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO; formerly
named the General Accounting Office) in February 2004 found that some agencies
had created COOP plans that did not include all of the elements of a viable plan as
defined by previous versions of Federal Preparedness Circular 65.48 Consequently,
GAO concluded that agency efforts to provide services during an emergency could
be impaired. Additionally, GAO found that FEMA did not
!provide specific criteria through FPC 65 for identifying essential
functions, or address interdependencies between agencies;
!review the essential functions identified in its assessments of COOP
planning, or follow up with agencies to determine whether they
addressed previously identified weaknesses; or
!conduct tests or exercises that could confirm that the identified
essential functions were correct.
During the 108th Congress, the House Committee on Government Reform held
an oversight hearing on the GAO report.49 In response to questions from Members,
a GAO representative suggested that the plans departments and agencies had in place
at the time of the study were not fully compliant with the requirements of Federal
Preparedness Circular 65. Consequently, GAO concluded that there is no assurance
that executive branch departments and agencies are prepared for an emergency.50
In his opening statement to the committee, Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary
for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security,
acknowledged that FEMA was designated the lead agency to provide guidance and
assistance to the other Federal departments and agencies for COOP by Presidential
48 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Continuity of Operations: Improved
Planning Needed to Ensure Delivery of Essential Government Services, GAO-04-160, Feb.
49 The proceedings of the hearing are available in U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Government Reform, A Status Report on Federal Agencies’ Continuity of Operations Plans,thnd
available at [http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=108_house_
hearings&docid=f:95423.pdf], visited Feb. 3, 2005.
50 Ibid., p. 30.
guidance.51 The Under Secretary also noted that FEMA guidance requires executive
branch departments and agencies to develop COOP plans to support their essential
functions. Through working relationships with other departments and agencies, and
new and ongoing COOP initiatives, he indicated that FEMA was working to ensure
improved coordination and provide enhanced planning guidance.52
The GAO report was based on COOP plans and materials of several agencies
which were in place on October 1, 2002, and were evaluated on the basis of an earlier
version of FPC 65, issued in July 1999. Some executive branch COOP planners
suggest that the report failed to take into consideration ongoing changes made to the
executive branch COOP program. Moreover, these observers suggest that GAO
failed to acknowledge that FEMA’s advisory role is accompanied by little or no
authority to compel action by other executive branch agencies.
Since the release of the GAO report, the Department of Homeland Security has
sponsored Forward Challenge ‘04, a full-scale, interagency COOP exercise in the
spring of 2004. The exercise was designed to involve all federal executive branch
departments and agencies. It afforded the participants an opportunity to
!execute alert and notification procedures;
!establish operational capability at agency alternate facilities;
!implement agency succession plans and delegations of authority;
!test interoperable communications capabilities; and
!test procedures for receiving, processing, analyzing, and
disseminating information from internal agency assets and from
An after-action report on the exercise issued by FEMA in August 2004 reported
that 45 agencies encompassing more than 300 sub-entities, mobilized to their
alternate COOP locations, or other designated sites, to test the continuation of
essential government services during a national security emergency. Approximately
3,500 – 4,000 staff from participating agencies took part in the exercise, which
required them to move to more than 100 alternate site locations. The FEMA report
concluded that the executive branch had demonstrated its capability to alert and
notify departments and agencies in the National Capital Region of a COOP event.
FEMA found that the exercise improved overall readiness, increased awareness by
senior leadership of succession plans and their responsibilities, and prepared
51 PDD 67.
52 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, Can Federal Agencies
Function in the Wake of a Disaster?, pp. 36-37.
53 Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Exercise
Forward Challenge ‘04: Interagency After Action Report (Washington: 2004), p. iii.
departments and agencies to provide essential services in the event of an emergency
or disaster, regardless of cause.54
FEMA issued an updated FPC 65 in June 2004. Efforts by FEMA and the
Homeland Security Council to provide guidance regarding the specification of
essential functions continue, and include training to support the development of
clearly defined, and mutually understood essential functions for all agencies.55 Until
those actions are completed, and systematic oversight of COOP activities is
established, however, GAO’s conclusion that agencies are likely to continue to base
their COOP planning on ill-defined assumptions that could limit the effectiveness of
resulting plans, might still be salient.
Congressional Committee Jurisdiction
Government operations in the executive branch are generally overseen by the
House Committee on Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs. In the 109th Congress, the House committee has
jurisdiction over government management measures, including the “management of
government operations and activities,”56 which would appear to give it a role in
COOP oversight across the executive branch. At the start of the 109th Congress, the
House converted the Select Committee on Homeland Security into a standing
committee and transferred some, but not all, related legislative jurisdiction to it from
other standing committees. The House Committee on Homeland Security has both
oversight and legislative responsibility regarding the Department of Homeland
Security, including “domestic preparedness for and collective response to terrorism,”
as well as “broad oversight authority over government-wide homeland security
matters.”57 In the Senate, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental
Affairs has jurisdiction over matters relating to the Department of Homeland
Security, with certain limitations,58 as well as “organization and reorganization of the
executive branch of the government.”59 This would appear to give both panels some
government-wide role in overseeing the guidance and implementation of COOP
planning related to potential interruptions due to attack or other incursion.
Different approaches to homeland security in the House and Senate have
resulted in different committees having different jurisdictions and internal structures.
The Senate, pursuant to S.Res. 445 of the 108th Congress directed its Appropriations
Committee to reorganize its subcommittees to accommodate the creation of the
54 Ibid., pp. 1, 31.
55 See section on FEMA Guidance and Essential COOP Functions, above.
56 House Rule X (h).
57 House Rule X (i) (D).
58 CRS Report RS21955, S.Res. 445: Senate Committee Reorganization for Homeland
Security and Intelligence Matters, by Paul S. Rundquist and Christopher M. Davis. The
limitations do not appear to prevent the committee from exercising jurisdiction over
executive branch COOP programs.
59 Senate Rule XXV (1) (k) (1) (10).
Department of Homeland Security. What action the Senate panel will take, and
whether the House Committee on Appropriations takes similar action is not yet clear.
Ongoing bicameral coordination of congressional legislative, oversight, and
investigative roles over homeland security might affect congressional attention to
COOP activities in the 109th Congress. Also, the potential publication of COOP
expenditures by OMB in annual budget proposals might encourage authorizing
committees and appropriations subcommittees to provide more oversight of COOP
activities in the departments and agencies they oversee.
As the memory of dramatic disruptions, such as the September 11, 2001, attacks
and biological agent incidents, fade, attention to administrative operations like COOP
planning may receive lower priority attention from agency planners. Emergency
preparedness observers note that the success of contingency planning is dependent
on current planning and regular drills, simulations, or other testing. Prior to the
attacks, executive branch COOP management by the National Security Council and
FEMA and guidance for other executive branch agencies were all in place, and that
guidance included requirements for agency-wide staff education, as well as the
testing and drilling of COOP plans. Nevertheless, on September 11, 2001, some
federal employees reportedly were unaware of these plans, and some agencies found
they had no way of accounting for, or communicating with, evacuated staff.
The apparent disparity between the level of planning by senior officials and the
level of readiness and awareness by line managers and agency lead some observers
to maintain that continual drills and educational awareness efforts will be necessary
to achieve and maintain an appropriate degree of COOP capability. The current
relatively low state of alert could offer an opportunity to test readiness during a non-
crisis situation. Congress might elect to prevent miscommunications that occurred
in September 2001 in future events by conducting oversight and exploring potential
legislative options to establish such training.
Executive branch COOP planning raise several questions related to underlying
policy matters. Some of these question include:
!Under what legal authority are COOP plans implemented?
!What are the roles of the NAtional Security Council, and Homeland
Security Council in COOP planning?
!How are COOP plans maintained? Where are they physically, and
what provisions are in place for accessing plans in the event of an
!Government-wide, what is the current general level of preparedness
to carry out COOP plans?
!What plans do departments and agencies of the executive, branch
have in place to ensure that they can continue to carry out their
constitutional and statutory duties in the event of an incident that
could potentially disrupt those operations for undetermined periods
of time? Which agencies have established effective COOP
programs? How have those plans been implemented or exercised
!How have various plans been upgraded in the aftermath of the
autumn 2001 attacks, or in response to new guidance issued by the
Homeland Security Council or FEMA? Have those plans been
evaluated? By what organizations?
!Because COOP plans are typically customized to preserve an
agency’s unique operational needs, how can effective COOP
planning be evaluated? What standards are imposed?
!What are the costs of establishing offsite facilities for use as
emergency offices, alternate computing facilities, or securing office
equipment and supplies in an emergency? What budgetary authority
to agencies have to procure such facilities, services, or supplies in an
!What has been the effect of COOP planning on day-to-day personnel
and technological management?
!What are the implications of COOP planning in relation to record
keeping and archiving of paper-based and electronic information?
!Have the National Security Council, Homeland Security Council, or
FEMA been effective in supporting agencies as they develop their
COOP plans? What are the consequences of potentially dated
guidance and unclear authority for government-wide COOP
management and administration?
!Is legislation needed to clarify the roles of the National Security
Council, Homeland Security Council, or FEMA with regard to
In considering issues related to conducting oversight of executive branch COOP
planing, Congress may examine strategies that could balance congressional
responsibilities while maintaining the operational security of executive COOP plans.
Some of the options for pursuing oversight include the potential use of the
authorization and appropriations processes, or congressional staff to conduct
evaluation and investigation; holding congressional hearings after determining
whether such hearings should be open or closed to the public; and the possible utility
of regularly updating the findings of widespread audit and program evaluation of
COOP planning carried out by the Government Accountability Office.
Related CRS Products
Continuity of Operations
CRS Report RL32752, Continuity of Operations (COOP) in the Executive Branch:
Issues in the 109th Congress, by R. Eric Petersen.
CRS Report RL31594. Congressional Continuity of Operations (COOP): An
Overview of Concepts and Challenges, by R. Eric Petersen and Jeffrey W.
CRS Report RL31978. Emergency Preparedness and Continuity of Operations in
the Federal Judiciary, by R. Eric Petersen.
CRS Report RL31739. Federal Agency Emergency Preparedness and Dismissal of
Employees, by L. Elaine Halchin.
Continuity of Government
CRS Report RS21089. Continuity of Government: Current Federal Arrangements
and the Future, by Harold C. Relyea.
CRS Report RL31394. House Vacancies: Selected Proposals for Filling Them After
a Catastrophic Loss of Members, by Sula P. Richardson.
CRS Report RL31761. ,Presidential and Vice Presidential Succession: Overview and
Current Legislation, by Thomas H. Neale.
CRS Report RL31542. Homeland Security — Reducing the Vulnerability of Public
and Private Information Infrastructures to Terrorism: An Overview, by Jeffrey
CRS Report RL31787. Information Warfare and Cyberwar: Capabilities and
Related Policy Issues, by Clay Wilson.
AARAfter Action Report
BDRBudget Data Request
COGContinuity of Government
COOPContinuity of Operations
CWGInteragency COOP Working Group
DHSDepartment of Homeland Security
ECGEnduring Constitutional Government
EOPExecutive Office of the President
FASFederation of American Scientists
FC04Forward Challenge ‘04
FEAFederal Enterprise Architecture
FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency,
Emergency Preparedness and Response
Directorate, Department of Homeland Security
FPCFederal Preparedness Circular
GAOGovernment Accountability Office (formerly
General Accounting Office)
GPRAGovernment Performance Results Act
HSCHomeland Security Council
HSPDHomeland Security Presidential Directive
NCRNational Capital Region
NEFNational Essential Function
NSCNational Security Council
OMBOffice of Management and Budget
ONSCOffice of National Security Coordination,
PDDPresidential Decision Directive
PMEFPrimary Mission Essential Function
SMEFSecondary Mission Essential Function