Federal Emergency Management and Homeland Security Organization: Historical Developments and Legislative Options
CRS Report for Congress
Federal Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Organization: Historical Developments
and Legislative Options
Updated August 1, 2006
Henry B. Hogue
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Federal Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Organization: Historical Developments and
Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi
on August 29, 2005, resulting in severe and widespread damage to the region. The
response of the federal government, especially the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA), in the aftermath of the storm has been widely criticized. Some of
the criticism has focused on the organizational arrangements involving FEMA and
its parent, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
One month prior to the hurricane, in July 2005, Secretary of Homeland Security
Michael Chertoff announced plans for a reorganization of DHS, including FEMA.
Known as the “Second Stage Review,” or “2SR,” the reorganization transferred
emergency preparedness functions from FEMA to a new Preparedness Directorate,
among other changes. The Administration began implementation of the
reorganization on October 1, 2005. In response to Administration requests,
congressional support for the proposal was provided through approval of the FY2006
In the aftermath of the Katrina disaster, administrative structure issues remain
a matter of contention. Pending legislation before Congress (H.R. 3656, H.R. 3659,
H.R. 3816, H.R. 3685, H.R. 4009, H.R. 4493, S. 1615, S. 2302, H.R. 4840, H.R.
5316, H.R. 5351, H.R. 5441 — which includes much of the text of S. 3595 by
amendment — H.R. 5759, and S. 3721) would make further changes. The release
of reports by the House, Senate, and White House on the response to Hurricane
Katrina may lead to further examination of the issues. This report provides
background information on the establishment and evolution of federal emergency
management organizational arrangements since the end of World War II and briefly
summarizes the legislative proposals.
A comparison of the pending legislation is found in CRS Report RL33522,th
FEMA Reorganization Legislation in the 109 Congress. More detailed information
and analysis concerning this topic may be found in CRS Report RL33064,
Organization and Mission of the Emergency Preparedness and Response
Directorate: Issues and Options for the 109th Congress, by Keith Bea. For more
information on the Chertoff initiative generally, see CRS Report RL33042,
Department of Homeland Security Reorganization: The 2SR Initiative, by Harold C.
Relyea and Henry B. Hogue.
This report will be updated as events warrant.
Current Organizational Arrangements..................................2
Evolution of Organizational Arrangements..............................4
Early Federal Assignments of Responsibility........................5
Natural Disaster Relief......................................5
Civil Emergency Preparedness...............................6
White House-Centered Era......................................9
Decent r al i z at i o n ..............................................12
Centralization in an Independent Agency..........................13
FEMA Developments and Evaluations........................14
Homeland Security Developments................................18
Department of Homeland Security...........................20
Hurricane Katrina Implications..................................23
Legislative Activity, 109th Congress..................................26
Bill Approved by the Senate (H.R. 5441)..........................26
Bills Ordered Reported by Committee.............................27
List of Figures
Figure 1. U.S. Department of Homeland Security FEMA (Organizational
Chart, January 2006)...........................................3
List of Tables
Table 1. Federal Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Organization: Major Developments, 1947-2005....................39
Federal Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Organization: Historical
Developments and Legislative Options
Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama, and
Mississippi on August 29, 2005, resulting in severe and widespread damage to the
region. The response of the federal government, especially the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), in the aftermath of the storm has been a matter of
considerable controversy among elected officials and in the media. Some of the
criticism has focused on FEMA’s organizational arrangements at the time of the
disaster. Prior to these events, in July 2005, Secretary Michael Chertoff had
announced a reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
including FEMA. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Administration1
proceeded with the reorganization initiative after Congress signaled its approval.
As a result of concerns about the effectiveness of the federal response after
Hurricane Katrina, Congress is continuing to rethink the organizational arrangements
for carrying out federal emergency management functions. The release of reports by
the House, Senate, and White House on the response to Hurricane Katrina may lead
to further examination of these issues. Legislation has been introduced in Congress
bearing upon these arrangements. As of July 17, 2006, 15 such bills had been
introduced. Prior to its incorporation into DHS in 2003, FEMA was an independent
agency, and eight of the 15 bills would reestablish FEMA as such. The seven
remaining bills would reorganize emergency management functions within DHS,
bringing preparedness and response functions under one directorate, as they were
prior to the 2SR reorganization. This report provides background information about
the establishment and evolution of federal emergency management and related2
homeland security organization since 1950. Post-Katrina assessments of current
arrangements by Congress and the White House are also discussed. Finally, the
report provides a brief summary of related legislation that had been introduced as of
July 17, 2006.
1 For more information on the Chertoff initiative generally, see CRS Report RL33042,
Department of Homeland Security Reorganization: The 2SR Initiative, by Harold C. Relyea
and Henry B. Hogue. For relevant statements by congressional appropriations conferees,
see U.S. Congress, Committee on Conference, Making Appropriations for the Department
of Homeland Security for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006, and for Otherthst
Purposes, report to accompany H.R. 2360, 109 Cong., 1 sess., H.Rept. 109-241
(Washington: GPO, 2005), p. 30.
2 More detailed information and analysis concerning this topic may be found in CRS Report
RL33064, Organization and Mission of the Emergency Preparedness and Responseth
Directorate: Issues and Options for the 109 Congress, by Keith Bea.
Current Organizational Arrangements
The current organizational arrangements for federal emergency management
functions were implemented beginning on October 1, 2005, under the reorganization
initiated by Secretary Chertoff in July 2005. These functions are presently centered
in two components of DHS. FEMA, which was previously headed by an under
secretary as the chief component of the Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and
Response, is now a freestanding unit, headed by a director, within the department.
The FEMA Director, who also holds the title of Under Secretary for Federal
Emergency Management, reports directly to the Secretary and directly oversees three
divisions (Response, Mitigation, and Recovery) and numerous offices. Figure 1
shows FEMA’s organizational chart, as of January 23, 2006.
Preparedness functions previously delegated to FEMA are now vested in a
newly formed Preparedness Directorate, which is headed by an under secretary who
reports to the Secretary. Major components in the new directorate include the
Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, the Chief
Medical Officer of DHS, the Office of Cyber Security and Telecommunications, the
U.S. Fire Administration, the Office of the National Capital Region Coordination,
and elements of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and
The present organization of federal emergency management functions is the
latest development in a more than 50-year effort to find the most economical,
efficient, and effective arrangements for protecting the nation from, and responding
to, disasters. This evolution is discussed in the next section.
Figure 1. U.S. Department of Homeland Security FEMA (Organizational Chart, January 2006)
Department of Homeland Security.
Evolution of Organizational Arrangements
Homeland security is an outgrowth of decades of emergency preparedness and
civil defense arrangements. Since the end of World War II, Congress and Presidents
have debated, formulated, and revised administrative responsibilities for emergency
management. The major organizational developments of that period are shown in
Table 1 in the Appendix. Some of the issues debated during the past 60 years have
included the following:
!What should be the boundaries or limitations of the matters subject
to the jurisdiction of the agency, department, or office charged with
the management of emergencies? Should certain emergencies (e.g.,
nuclear facility incidents, transportation accidents, hazardous
material spills) be the jurisdiction of agencies with specialized
!Is it necessary to distinguish between natural threats (floods,
earthquakes, etc.) and those caused by human action or inaction?
Are all attacks on the United States, whether by military action or
terrorist strikes, “emergencies” that require a coordinated response
from agencies other than the Department of Defense or the
Department of Justice?
!How should federal policies be coordinated with state policies?
What are the boundaries between federal responsibilities and those
held by the states under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution?
!How should responsibility for new or emerging threats be
established? Are federal statutory policies sufficient to enable the
President and Administration officials to address adequately the
unforeseen emergency conditions?
These and other questions have regained currency as some have argued that the
failures associated with the response to Hurricane Katrina reflected an inability of
DHS to balance competing policy matters. For example, one former FEMA official
reportedly stated that federal, state, and local natural disaster response capabilities
have “been weakened by diversion into terrorism.”3 In testimony before Congress,
former FEMA Director Michael Brown agreed with this position. On the other hand,
Secretary Chertoff and other Administration officials contend that DHS and FEMA
continue to adhere to an “all-hazards” mission that enables federal agencies to
respond to natural disasters as well as terrorist attacks and accidents.
3 Seth Borenstein, “Experts Blast Federal Response,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 1, 2005,
Early Federal Assignments of Responsibility
Natural Disaster Relief. From the early years of the republic to 1950,
Congress enacted legislation that directed federal disaster relief, largely on an ad hoc
basis. Laws unique to each disaster authorized the amount of funds to be distributed,
the type of federal equipment to be sent, or the personnel to be allocated to stricken
areas.4 For the most part, federal emergency assistance consisted of disaster relief5
authorized to provide specific relief to victims after disasters occurred. Departments
and agencies holding resources and personnel most pertinent to the given emergency
(often the Armed Forces or federal financing entities) were charged by Congress with
providing disaster assistance. As a general rule, the Office for Emergency
Management (OEM) in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) provided advice
to the President on emergency responsibilities.6
The federal approach changed when the Disaster Relief Act of 19507 became the
first comprehensive federal disaster relief law. The act authorized federal agencies,
“[i]n any major disaster ... when directed by the President, to provide assistance” to
states and localities by lending federal equipment, supplies, facilities, personnel, and
other resources; “by distributing, through the Red Cross or otherwise, medicine, food,
and other consumable supplies”; by donating surplus federal property; and “by
performing ... protective and other work essential for the preservation of life and
property, clearing debris and wreckage,” repairing and temporarily replacing
damaged or destroyed local public facilities, and providing grants to states and
localities for these purposes. After the President determined that a natural
catastrophe had overwhelmed state and local capabilities, federal aid was to be
provided. The act authorized the President to coordinate related agency activities,
prescribe related rules and regulations, and “exercise any power or authority
conferred on him [by the act] either directly or through such Federal agency as he
may designate.” The President and agencies were also given budget flexibility with
regard to the repair or reconstruction of damaged or destroyed federal facilities.
Several months after the enactment of this statute, in March 1951, President
Harry S Truman issued an executive order delegating to the Housing and Home
Finance Administrator (HHFA) emergency management authorities that had been
4 Michele L. Landis, “Let Me Next Time Be Tried by Fire: Disaster Relief and the Origins
of the American Welfare State 1789-1874,” Northwestern University Law Review, vol. 92,
spring 1998, pp. 967-1034. A list of disaster legislation enacted by Congress from 1803
through 1943 may be found in Rep. Harold Hagen, Statement for the Record, Congressional
Record, vol. 96, Aug. 7, 1950, pp. 11900-11902.
5 The exception to this general statement concerns flood prevention policies enacted since
the late 19th century. See CRS Report RL32972, Federal Flood Insurance: The Repetitive
Loss Problem, by Rawle O. King.
6 The Office for Emergency Management was established in the EOP by an administrative
order of May 25, 1940, pursuant to Executive Order 8248, Federal Register, vol. 4, Sept.
7 64 Stat. 1109. The act is also sometimes referred to as P.L. 875 after its public law
number, P.L. 81-875.
delegated to the President under the Disaster Relief Act.8 These authorities included
directing federal agencies to provide assistance and agency resources during any
major disaster, coordinating these activities, proposing to the President related rules
and regulations for his issuance under the act, and proposing to the President annual
and supplemental reports for his transmittal to Congress as provided for in the act.
The HHFA administered disaster relief authorities until 1953, when the functions
were turned over to the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), as discussed
Civil Emergency Preparedness. Although civil defense was perceived to
be a state responsibility during World War II, federal organizations evolved in
response to several war-related concerns. These included the following:
!continuity of government;
!adequacy of critical resources and capacities such as food, medicine,
communications, and transportation;
!industrial mobilization for military response needs in time of war
and national security emergency; and
!civil defense — localized emergency protective and response
measures in the event of an attack.
The governmental capacities called for to address these concerns overlap with, but
often have been distinct from, those necessary to prepare for and respond to natural
Federal civil defense functions were housed in several different organizations
in rapid succession in the aftermath of World War II. First they were handled by the
Army, then by the Office of Civil Defense Planning in the Department of Defense,
and then by the National Security Resources Board (NSRB), which was established9
by the National Security Act of 1947. Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1949 transferred
the board to the EOP.10 NSRB was given the responsibility to advise the President
on a variety of matters, such as the coordination of military, industrial, and civilian
mobilization, including the use of manpower and resources; the establishment of
reserves of strategic and critical materials; the strategic relocation of industrial and
other activities; and the continuity of government.
8 Executive Order 10221, Federal Register, vol. 16, Mar. 6, 1951, p. 2051.
9 61 Stat. 499.
10 At that time, under the Reorganization Act of 1949, as amended, reorganization plans
submitted by the President went into effect unless either chamber of Congress passed a
resolution of disapproval. For more on the history of presidential reorganization authority,
see CRS Report RL30876, The President’s Reorganization Authority: Review and Analysis,
by Ronald C. Moe.
In 1950, concern about “the potential damage of devastating modern weapons”11
in the United States occasioned the creation of a separate civil defense organization
directly linked to the White House. President Truman established the Federal Civil
Defense Administration (FCDA) by executive order. The new agency was headed
by a presidentially appointed administrator and located within OEM.12 The new
entity was directed, among other functions, to “prepare comprehensive Federal plans
and programs,” to coordinate with the states and neighboring countries, to conduct
or arrange for research “to develop civil defense measures and equipment” and
establish related standards, to disseminate civil-defense-related information, to
conduct or arrange for civil defense training programs, to provide for civil-defense-
related communications, and to “[a]ssist and encourage” the development of mutual
aid agreements across political divisions. FCDA was to take on certain activities
previously performed by NSRB.
Several weeks after establishing FCDA in the EOP, President Truman signed
the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950,13 which moved the organization out of the
EOP and established it as an independent agency headed by a presidentially
appointed, Senate-confirmed administrator. FCDA remained in existence until
1958.14 The statutory mission of FCDA was to minimize the potential effects of any
attacks, taking such measures in advance of, during, or after such attacks. The
Federal Civil Defense Act gave FCDA functions similar to those Truman had
bestowed by executive order. But, under the new law, FCDA’s responsibilities and
authorities were more extensive and detailed. In addition to its previous functions,
the agency was to delegate appropriate civil defense responsibilities to federal
departments and agencies, and to review and coordinate their civil defense activities
with each other and the states and other countries. It was further directed to “procure
..., construct, lease, transport, store, maintain, renovate or distribute materials and
facilities for civil defense,” to sell or dispose of unneeded property, and to make
civil-defense-related grants to the states. The Federal Civil Defense Act also
provided for additional powers (“emergency authority”) that could be exercised by
the President and the FCDA administrator in the event that the President, or
Congress, by concurrent resolution, had proclaimed “the existence of a state of civil
defense emergency,” either in general or “with respect to any designated geographic
area or areas.”15
In addition to the Disaster Relief Act and the Federal Civil Defense Act, a third
statutory component of federal emergency authority was added in 1950. After the
11 Harry S. Truman, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 1950 (Washington:
GPO, 1965), p. 641.
12 Executive Order 10186, Federal Register, vol. 15, Dec. 5, 1950, p. 8557.
13 64 Stat. 1245.
14 The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 also established a Civil Defense Advisory Council,
which had 12 presidentially appointed members and continued until 1973.
15 64 Stat. 1251.
Korean War began, Congress enacted the Defense Production Act of 1950.16
Although primarily focused on ensuring the availability of industrial resources for
military needs, the act could also be used to ensure adequate civil defense capacity.
Among other outcomes, the act led to the establishment, by executive order, of the
Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) in the EOP.17 As suggested by the name, the
President vested in ODM direction, control, and coordination of the mobilization
activities of the executive branch.
In 1952, FCDA was given a key role in assisting federal agencies with planning
for service provision and continued functioning during emergencies (now referred to
as “continuity of operations”). President Truman issued an executive order directing
federal departments and agencies to consult with FCDA and to “prepare plans for
providing [their] personnel, materials, facilities, and services ... during ... a civil
defense emergency” and plans for maintaining continuity of government during such
Early in 1953, certain disaster relief and civil defense functions were brought
together under the same agency. President Truman, by executive order,19 redelegated
emergency management authorities to FCDA that had previously been delegated to
the Housing and Home Finance Administrator in 1951. In addition, the order
directed FCDA to coordinate “suitable plans and preparations” by federal agencies
“in anticipation of their responsibilities in the event of a major disaster.” FCDA was
further directed, to the degree authorized by the Disaster Relief Act, to “foster the
development of such State and local organizations and plans as may be necessary to
cope with major disasters.”
In April 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower submitted Reorganization Plan
No. 3 to Congress. When it went into effect on June 12 of that year, a new ODM was
established with all of the functions of the old ODM, as well as those of NSRB,
which was then abolished.20 Over time, ODM was given additional related
responsibilities. In 1955, for example, President Eisenhower issued an executive
order21 authorizing and directing the Director of ODM, in the event of an enemy
attack on the continental United States and in the interest of national defense, to order
that the General Services Administration release strategic and critical materials from
existing stockpiles. In 1956, the President established the National Defense
Executive Reserve “to be composed of persons selected from various segments of the
civilian economy and from government to be trained for employment in executive
positions in the Federal Government during periods of emergency.”22 This program
was instituted and administered by ODM. As noted in one study, “by the middle of
16 64 Stat. 798.
17 Executive Order 10193, Federal Register, vol. 15, Dec. 19, 1950, p. 9031.
18 Executive Order 10346, Federal Register, vol. 17, Apr. 19, 1952, p. 3477.
19 Executive Order 10427, Federal Register, vol. 18, Jan. 20, 1953, p. 407.
20 See footnote 10.
21 Executive Order 10638, Federal Register, vol. 20, Oct. 13, 1955, p. 7637.
22 Executive Order 10660, Federal Register, vol. 21, Feb. 18, 1956, p. 1117.
the 1950’s, there had been centralized in ODM the responsibility for coordination of
all major Federal civil emergency preparedness programs except civil defense.”23
Thus, by the end of 1953, most emergency management functions were housed
in two establishments — ODM, which was located in the EOP, and FCDA, an
White House-Centered Era
The decentralization of some emergency functions lasted five years.
Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958 went into effect on July 1 of that year, vesting
emergency management authorities in the President and establishing the locus of
related activities in the EOP.24 The plan transferred the functions of ODM and
FCDA to the President, and it consolidated these two organizations into the Office
of Defense and Civilian Mobilization (ODCM) in the EOP. The plan further
provided that this new agency would be led by a director, deputy director, and three
assistant directors, with appointments to each made by the President with the advice
and consent of the Senate. The Civil Defense Advisory Council and its functions
were also folded into the new office.
In his message accompanying the 1958 reorganization document, President
Eisenhower stated, “Under the plan, the broad program responsibilities for
coordinating and conducting the interrelated defense mobilization and civil defense
functions will be vested in the President for appropriate delegation as the rapidly
changing character of the nonmilitary preparedness program warrants.” President
Eisenhower issued an executive order redelegating functions and authorities,
previously delegated to the two consolidated offices (ODM and FCDA) by earlier
orders, to the new office.25 This executive order also established a Defense and
Civilian Mobilization Board, chaired by the Director of ODCM and otherwise
composed of the heads of departments and agencies as designated by the director.
Congress later renamed ODCM the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization
(OCDM) by enacting a law amending the plan.26 President Eisenhower amended his
order to reflect this change.27
By 1961, OCDM had encountered organizational and functional difficulties.
President John F. Kennedy, when introducing his appointee to head OCDM,
remarked that, “OCDM as presently constituted is charged with the staff function of
mobilization planning and, at the same time, with the operating functions of civilian
defense.” He considered it “imperative that [the entity] be organized and performed
with maximum effectiveness,” and he directed his appointee and the Director of the
23 Office of Management and Budget, President’s Reorganization Project, Federal
Emergency Preparedness and Response Historical Survey (Washington: 1978), p. 11.
24 See footnote 10.
25 Executive Order 10773, Federal Register, vol. 23, July 3, 1958, p. 5061.
26 72 Stat. 861.
27 Executive Order 10782, Federal Register, vol. 23, Sept. 10, 1958, p. 6971.
Budget to conduct “a thoroughgoing review of our nonmilitary defense and
mobilization programs.”28 As a result of this review, many operational civil defense
functions were transferred to the Defense Department. By executive order,29
President Kennedy redelegated to the Secretary of Defense certain functions
contained in the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, and vested in the President by
Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958. These functions included the development and
execution of a fallout shelter program; a chemical, biological, and radiological
warfare defense program; arrangements for warning or alerting federal military and
civilian authorities, state officials, and the civilian population; various other
communications functions; post-attack emergency assistance to states and localities;
continuity of government plans; and funding for state civil defense needs. The
Secretary of Defense was further tasked with planning for, and undertaking, post-
attack damage and hazard assessments and with arranging for the donation of federal
surplus property as provided for in law. The Secretary of Defense established the
Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to administer these functions.
Although many operational civil defense functions were transferred to the
Defense Department, the role of “coordinating ... civil defense preparations with
other non-military defense preparations” remained in OCDM.30 Under E.O. 10952,
OCDM was to “advise and assist the President” with
(i) determining policy for, planning, directing, and coordinating the total civil
(ii) reviewing and coordinating the civil defense activities among federal
agencies and between federal agencies and the states and other countries;
(iii) determining appropriate civil defense roles of federal agencies and gaining
state and local participation, mobilizing national support, evaluating
program progress, and reporting to Congress on civil defense matters;
(iv) promoting and facilitating interstate civil defense compacts and reciprocal
civil defense legislation; and
(v) assisting states with arranging for mutual civil defense aid with
The order also charged OCDM with developing plans, conducting programs, and
coordinating preparations related to continuity of federal, state, and local
governments in the event of an attack.
28 John F. Kennedy, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 1961 (Washington:
GPO, 1962), p. 5.
29 Executive Order 10952, Federal Register, vol. 26, July 22, 1961, p. 6577.
30 John F. Kennedy, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 1961 (Washington:
GPO, 1962), p. 525.
One month after issuing this executive order, President Kennedy issued another
executive order redelegating additional duties from OCDM. He delegated to the
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Secretary of Agriculture,
respectively, certain medical stockpile and food stockpile functions contained in the
Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, and vested in the President by Reorganization
Plan No. 1 of 1958.31
In late September 1961, Congress renamed OCDM (the Office of Civil and
Defense Mobilization) again, this time as the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP).32
Neither the duties nor the mission of the agency were changed by Congress, but the
new name reflected the responsibilities of the office in the wake of the changes
initiated by the President.
In 1962, at a time of increased international tension related to the Soviet military
buildup in Cuba, President Kennedy reaffirmed and expanded the advisory and
management functions of OEP.33 The agency’s responsibilities included certain
functions related to general emergency planning and preparedness, agency
coordination, development of an emergency decision-making system, emergency
resource control and distribution, emergency preparedness research, dispersal and
protection of private and public facilities, stockpiling of survival food and medical
supplies, advising and guiding states and localities on emergency preparedness and
continuity of government, planning emergency federal government organizational
arrangements, preparation of emergency legal authorities, continuity of government,
preparation for post-attack recovery, defense production, strategic and critical
materials stockpiling, investigation of national security threats related to imports,
disaster relief, and emergency telecommunications.
During the Johnson Administration, relatively minor changes were made in the
organization of emergency management functions. In 1964, OCD was moved from
the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the Department of the Army. According to
a Department of Defense explanation, the move was made because the functions of
OCD were essentially operational and therefore better suited to one of the military
departments.34 In 1968, Congress renamed OEP as the Office of Emergency
Preparedness, reflecting the broader scope of its responsibilities.35
31 Executive Order 10958, Federal Register, vol. 26, Aug. 16, 1961, p. 7571.
32 75 Stat. 630.
33 Executive Order 11051, Federal Register, vol. 27, Oct. 2, 1962, p. 9683.
34 Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense Program in Historical
Perspective (Washington: FEMA, 1981), p. 377.
35 82 Stat. 1194.
The gap between civil defense and natural disasters narrowed during the
Administration of President Richard M. Nixon. The Disaster Relief Act of 1969
expanded the federal government’s disaster relief responsibilities.36 President Nixon
delegated to OEP the administration of many of these provisions.37 Under the order,
OEP was given the authority to allocate road repair and reconstruction money; to
provide timber-removal grants to states; to provide assistance, including grants, to
states to develop relief plans and programs; to appoint a federal coordinating officer
for a major disaster area; to provide temporary housing for displaced persons; to
provide assistance to individuals who had lost employment due to a major disaster;
to make grants and loans to states for fire suppression; to make grants to states and
localities for debris removal; and to prescribe rules and regulations as needed. The
order delegated authority related to the distribution of food and food coupons to the
Secretary of Agriculture.
Driven primarily by calls to reduce the size and reach of the EOP, in 1971,
President Nixon proposed the establishment of four new departments with broad
areas of responsibility. These departments would have subsumed many of the
functions of existing federal departments and agencies. One of the proposed
departments, the Department of Community Development, would have incorporated
federal disaster assistance functions, but not the civil defense functions then being
performed by OCD.38 Congress held hearings, in 1972, on legislation to implement
this plan, but the legislation was not enacted.
The reorganization concept, however, did not die with the legislation. The
Nixon Administration subsequently pursued more limited reorganizations, including
those in Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1973. The plan, which went into effect on July
1, 1973, transferred certain functions out of the EOP.39 Among other provisions, the
plan abolished OEP, and nearly all functions previously vested in that office or its
director were transferred to the President. The plan also abolished the Civil Defense
Advisory Council, which had been established in 1950.
In his message accompanying the plan, President Nixon stated his intent to
delegate the transferred functions to the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the
Department of the Treasury, and he did so by executive order40 at the time the plan
went into effect. Functions delegated to HUD included those relating to preparedness
for, and relief of, civil emergencies and disasters. The Federal Disaster Assistance
36 83 Stat. 125.
37 Executive Order 11495, Federal Register, vol. 34, Nov. 20, 1969, p. 18447.
38 For information on this initiative, see U.S. Executive Office of the President, Office of
Management and Budget, Papers Relating to the President’s Departmental Reorganization
Program: A Reference Compilation (Washington: GPO, 1971).
39 See footnote 10.
40 Executive Order 11725, Federal Register, vol. 38, June 29, 1973, p. 17175.
Administration (FDAA) was established in HUD to administer disaster relief. GSA
was given responsibilities related to continuity of government in the event of a
military attack, to resource mobilization, and to management of national security
stockpiles — duties assigned to the Office of Preparedness, later renamed the Federal
Preparedness Agency, within GSA. The Treasury Department was given
responsibility for investigations of imports that might threaten national security.
Also during the Nixon Administration, civil defense responsibilities moved. In
1972, the Secretary of Defense abolished the Office of Civil Defense, then located
in the Department of the Army, and established, within the Office of the Secretary
of Defense, the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA). As the Nixon
Administration pursued a policy of detente with the Soviet Union, the leaders of the
Department of Defense and DCPA envisioned a role in assisting states and localities
with preparations for both any possible nuclear attack or natural disaster.41
Centralization in an Independent Agency
The dispersal of emergency functions among federal agencies did not resolve
administration challenges. In fact, the 1973 plan exacerbated problems, according
to many who had to work in the decentralized environment. Most notably, a National
Governors’ Association (NGA) study, conducted in 1977, reported, among other
findings, that emergency preparedness and response functions were fragmented at the
state and federal levels. It recommended a more comprehensive approach to
emergency management that would include, in addition to preparedness and
response, mitigation of hazards in advance of disasters and preparations for long-term
recovery. In addition to calling for such comprehensive emergency management at
the state level,42 NGA endorsed organizational changes at the federal level that would
promote a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to emergency
management. It adopted, on February 28, 1978, a policy position that called for
“consolidation of federal emergency preparedness and disaster relief responsibilities
into one office [to] make the management and operation of the federal effort more
effective and efficient.” The NGA paper urged that the director of this new agency
be charged with “additional responsibility for coordinating the efforts of all federal
agencies that deal with emergency prevention, mitigation, any special preparedness
and disaster response activities in other federal agencies, and short and long-term
Using existing statutory presidential reorganization authority, President Jimmy
Carter submitted to Congress, on June 19, Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978, which
proposed the merger of five agencies from the Departments of Defense, Commerce,
and Housing and Urban Development, as well as GSA, into one new independent
41 Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield, chapter 7.
42 See, for example, National Governors’ Association, Comprehensive Emergency
Management: A Governor’s Guide (Washington: GPO, 1979).
43 National Governors’ Association, “National Governors’ Association Policy Position A. -
17: Emergency Preparedness and Response,” 1978 Emergency Preparedness Project: Final
Report (Washington: GPO, 1979), pp. 363-364.
agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).44 The statutory
authority45 for such a reorganization plan provided for expedited congressional
consideration and action, and, under that process, Congress allowed the plan to go
On March 31, 1979, President Carter issued an executive order putting
Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 into effect.47 FEMA was established as an
independent agency, as of April 1, and some transfers were completed at that time.
The order transferred certain functions to FEMA from the Department of Commerce
(fire prevention and control, certain Emergency Broadcast System functions); the
Department of Housing and Urban Development (flood insurance); and the President
(other Emergency Broadcast System functions).
In July, the President issued a second executive order that transferred to FEMA
additional functions from the Departments of Defense (civil defense) and Housing
and Urban Development (federal disaster assistance), GSA (federal preparedness),
and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (earthquake hazards reduction).
The order also authorized FEMA to coordinate “all civil defense and civil emergency
planning, management, mitigation, and assistance functions,” in addition to dam
safety, “natural and nuclear disaster warning systems,” and “preparedness and
planning to reduce the consequences of major terrorist incidents.” In addition, the
order mandated establishment of the Federal Emergency Management Council,
composed of FEMA and Office of Management and Budget Directors, and others as
assigned by the President.48
FEMA Developments and Evaluations. By 1983, four years after its
creation, FEMA was reportedly still struggling with becoming a cohesive, effective
organization. A General Accounting Office (GAO)49 report evaluated the evolution
of FEMA’s management and administrative support systems and found that
44 U.S. Congress, House, Message from the President of the United States Transmitting A
Reorganization Plan to Improve Federal Emergency Management and Assistance, Pursuantthnd
to 5 U.S.C. 903 (91 Stat. 30), H.Doc. 95-356, 95 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: GPO, 1978).
45 This reorganization authority is provided for in Chapter 9 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code.
Portions of this chapter were amended in 1980 and 1984. The authority has since become
46 At that time, under the Reorganization Act of 1977, reorganization plans submitted by the
President went into effect unless either chamber of Congress passed a resolution of
disapproval. Such a resolution had to be introduced, at the time the plan was submitted by
the President, by the chairs of the House Government Operations Committee and the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee. In this case, the House, on Sept. 14, rejected the
resolution of disapproval, and the Senate, on Sept. 18, postponed the resolution indefinitely,
by unanimous consent. For more on the history of presidential reorganization authority, see
CRS Report RL30876, The President’s Reorganization Authority: Review and Analysis, by
Ronald C. Moe.
47 Executive Order 12127, Federal Register, vol. 44, Apr. 3, 1979, p. 19367.
48 Executive Order 12148, Federal Register, vol. 44, July 24, 1979, p. 43239.
49 Now known as the Government Accountability Office.
“reorganization startup problems adversely affected FEMA management; ...
fragmentation impaired management of FEMA programs and resources; ... [and]
administrative support function deficiencies compounded management problems.”50
Assessments of the organization at the end of the 1980s suggested that the
agency had improved, but shortcomings remained. Following criticism of FEMA in
the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, a 1991
GAO study found that, media coverage notwithstanding, “FEMA generally fulfilled
its statutory obligations to supplement state and local efforts” to respond to the
disasters.51 Nonetheless, the report identified shortcomings in emergency
management by federal, state, and local actors, including FEMA. It noted that FEMA
was “not prepared to take over the state’s role as immediate responder” when the
state’s resources were overwhelmed and had placed little emphasis on preparing for
long-term recovery in the aftermath of a disaster. Some of FEMA’s actions during
the response to the two disasters were criticized in the report as inefficient and
In April 1992, the Federal Response Plan (FRP), developed in response to
criticism of FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo and based upon a 1988
catastrophic earthquake plan developed by the agency, was completed. The plan
assigned roles to 27 federal agencies and the American Red Cross in the event of a
Later in 1992, from August 24 through 26, Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida
as a Category 4 hurricane and the central Louisiana coast as a Category 3 hurricane.
The FRP received its first full-scale test just months after it was published.53 The
storm caused 23 deaths and $26.5 billion in damage in the United States.54 The vast
majority of damage occurred in south Florida. FEMA’s response was criticized, as
“[t]housands of homeless Floridians searched days for food, water and help while
relief efforts lagged.”55 In an attempt to address the deficient response, President
50 U.S. General Accounting Office, Management of the Federal Emergency Management
Agency — A System Being Developed, GAO Report GGD-83-9 (Washington: Jan. 6, 1983),
51 U.S. General Accounting Office, Disaster Assistance: Federal, State, and Local
Responses to Natural Disasters Need Improvement, GAO Report RCED-91-43
(Washington: Mar. 1991), p. 66.
52 Thomas W. Lippman, “Hurricane May Have Exposed Flaws in New Disaster Relief Plan,”
Washington Post, Sept. 3, 1992, p. A21.
53 For a discussion of the first implementation of the plan, see U.S. Federal Emergency
Management Agency, Federal Response Plan (Washington: 1992).
54 U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), “Hurricane Andrew,” available at [http://www.noaa.gov/hurricaneandrew.html],
accessed Apr. 12, 2006.
55 Bob Davis, “Brewing Storm: Federal Relief Agency Is Slowed by Infighting, Patronage,
Regulations — FEMA Is Widely Criticized for Hurricane Response, and It’s Part of a
Pattern — ‘Political Dumping Ground’,” Wall Street Journal, Aug. 31, 1992, p. A1.
George H.W. Bush bypassed FEMA and sent in a task force led by Secretary of
Transportation Andrew H. Card, Jr., to coordinate the response.
Perceptions of poor performance by FEMA in response to Hurricane Andrew
led to calls by some Members of Congress for reassessment and reform of the
agency. In September, Congress instructed FEMA, in an appropriations conference
committee report, to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration
(NAPA) for “a comprehensive and objective study of the Federal, state, and local
governments’ capacities to respond promptly and effectively to major natural
disasters occurring in the United States.”56
The congressionally mandated NAPA report was issued in February 1993.57
The report addressed the viability of FEMA, calling the following conditions
essential for its success:
development of a competent, professional career staff and appointment of
a career executive director.
2. Access to, and support of, the President through the creation of a Domestic
Crisis Monitoring Unit in the White House.
3. Integration of FEMA’s subunits into a cohesive institution through the
development of a common mission, vision and values; an integrated
development program for career executives; and effective management
4. Development of structure, strategy and management systems to give agency
leadership the means to direct the agency.
response, and recovery from emergencies and disasters of all types.
6. Joint assessment teams and a gradated response scale for more timely and
effective responses to disasters, including catastrophic.
The NAPA report also made recommendations with regard to the respective
roles of the civilian federal government, military, states, and localities in disaster
56 U.S. Congress, Conference Committee, Making Appropriations for the Departments of
Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and for Sundry Independent
Agencies, Commissions, Corporations, and Offices for the Fiscal Year Ending September
57 National Academy of Public Administration, Coping with Catastrophe: Building an
Emergency Management System to Meet People’s Needs in Natural and Manmade Disasters
(Washington: Feb. 1993).
58 Ibid., p. ix.
response. Furthermore, the report stated that “[e]mergency management and FEMA
are overseen by too many congressional committees, none of which has either the
interest [in] or a comprehensive overview of the topic to assure that coherent federal
policy is developed and implemented.” To be successful, the agency, or its
successor, would need “a more coherent legislative charter, greater funding
flexibility, and sustained support for building an effective agency and a national
emergency management system.”59
Following months of testimony on the issue, GAO issued a July 1993 report
recommending that, in order to “underscore the commitment of the President,
responsibility for catastrophic disaster preparedness and response should be placed
with a key official in the White House.”60 In addition, GAO said that “a disaster unit
is needed to provide the White House and the Director of FEMA with information,
analysis, and technical support to improve federal decision-making on helping state
and local governments before, during, and after catastrophic disasters.”61 The report
also noted that “the FEMA Directorates whose resources would form the disaster unit
— National Preparedness and State and Local Programs and Support — have
historically not worked well together,” and it suggested that a major reorganization
On September 7, 1993, Vice President Al Gore submitted the initial report of
the National Performance Review (NPR) to President William J. Clinton. The
report, which reviewed myriad government programs and issues, included four
recommendations related to FEMA. It called for shifting FEMA’s resources and
focus from preparedness for nuclear war to preparation for, and response to, all
disasters; developing “a more anticipatory and customer-driven response to
catastrophic disasters”; creating “results-oriented incentives to reduce the costs of
disaster”; and developing “a skilled management team among political appointees
and career staff.”63
59 Ibid., pp. xii-xiii.
60 U.S. General Accounting Office, Disaster Management: Improving the Nation’s Response
to Catastrophic Disasters, GAO Report RCED-93-186 (Washington: July 1993), p. 2.
62 Ibid., p. 7.
63 Office of the Vice President, From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That
Works Better & Costs Less. Report of the National Performance Review (Washington: Sept.
7, 1993), p. 140. See also Office of the Vice President, From Red Tape to Results: Creating
a Government That Works Better & Costs Less: Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Accompanying Report of the National Performance Review (Washington: Sept. 1993).
Shortly after taking office, and considering the preceding studies, FEMA
Director James L. Witt reorganized the agency, in accordance with many of the
NAPA and GAO recommendations.64 The National Preparedness Directorate, the
entity concerned with national security emergencies, was eliminated. Three
functional directorates were established to correspond to major phases of emergency
management — the Mitigation Directorate, the Preparedness, Training and Exercises
Directorate, and the Response and Recovery Directorate.65
This reorganization was not the only FEMA-related change initiated under the
Clinton Administration. Years after the reorganization, during remarks before a
meeting of the National Emergency Management Association, on February 26, 1996,
President Clinton announced that he was “extending Cabinet membership for the first
time in history to FEMA and to James Lee Witt.”66 This development lasted for the
remainder of Witt’s tenure. When forming his Cabinet in 2001, President George W.
Bush elected not to include the FEMA Director among its members.67
Homeland Security Developments
By the end of the Clinton Administration, FEMA had improved in many ways.
Rather than suffering constant criticism from the media and political leaders, the
agency was cited as a source of best practices in agency transformation in one study.
Although the agency was credited with significant improvements, however, it was
not free from challenges. In the final year of the Clinton presidency, the same study
identified financial management and the disaster declaration process as two areas in
need of improvement.68
64 Aaron Schroeder, Gary Wamsley, and Robert Ward, “The Evolution of Emergency
Management in America: From a Painful Past to a Promising but Uncertain Future,” in
Handbook of Crisis and Emergency Management, edited by Ali Farazmand (New York:
Marcel Dekker, 2001). The adoption of the NPR recommendations appears to have been
more gradual. In December 1994, GAO found that two NPR recommendations had been
partially implemented and two had not been implemented at all. (U.S. General Accounting
Office, Management Reform: Implementation of the National Performance Review’s
Recommendations, GAO Report OCG-95-1 (Washington: Dec. 1994), pp. 130-136.) NPR’s
own Sept. 1995 assessment said that all of the recommendations had been implemented and
most had been “completed.” (Office of the Vice President, Common Sense Government
Works Better & Costs Less (Washington: Sept. 1995), p. 99.) For more on FEMA and NPR,
see Saundra K. Schneider, “Reinventing Public Administration: A Case Study of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency,” Public Administration Quarterly, vol. 22, spring 1998,
65 James L. Witt, Memorandum for All FEMA Employees, “Organizational Structure and
Management,” Nov. 5, 1993.
66 U.S. President (Clinton), “Telephone Remarks to the National Emergency Management
Association Meeting,” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, vol. 32, Feb. 26,
67 Ken Herman, “Bush Ponders Slimming Down His Cabinet,” Austin American Statesman,
Feb. 24, 2001, p. A1.
68 R. Steven Daniels and Carolyn L. Clark-Daniels, Transforming Government: The Renewal
Although the administration of FEMA during the 1990s was perceived to be an
improvement over past efforts, some recognized gaps in emergency management
policies and practices. In mid-1998, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st
Century (USCNS/21), co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren B.
Rudman, began a comprehensive reexamination of U.S. national security policies and
processes in view of the changed international environment and technological, social,
and intellectual changes of the late 20th century. This panel, which was chartered by
the Department of Defense and also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, issued
three reports beginning in September 1999. The last of these, released on February
Second among the commission’s recommendations was a proposal to create a
Cabinet-level National Homeland Security Agency (NHSA). The new agency would
have been given “responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating various
U.S. government activities involved in homeland security.” FEMA would have been
“a key building block in this effort.”70 Under the proposal, FEMA would have been
the core of an Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate. The Coast Guard,
Border Patrol, and Customs Service, among other entities, would also have been
transferred to the newly formed NHSA. Among other rationales for creating NHSA,
the commission envisioned building on what it perceived as FEMA’s strengths:
FEMA has adapted well to new circumstances over the past few years and has
gained a well-deserved reputation for responsiveness to both natural and
manmade disasters. While taking on homeland security responsibilities, the
proposed NHSA would strengthen FEMA’s ability to respond to such disasters.
It would streamline the federal apparatus and provide greater support to the state
and local officials who, as the nation’s first responders, possess enormous
expertise. To the greatest extent possible, federal programs should build upon
the expertise and existing programs of state emergency preparedness systems and71
help promote regional compacts to share resources and capabilities.
On March 21, 2001, during the 107th Congress, Representative Mac Thornberry
introduced H.R. 1158, the “National Homeland Security Agency Act.” This
legislation would have established an NHSA similar to that recommended by Hart-
Rudman Commission. Hearings were held that April, but no further action was taken
on H.R. 1158.72
and Revitalization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Washington:
PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for The Business of Government, 2000). For an
additional assessment of FEMA under the Clinton Administration, see Schneider,
“Reinventing Public Administration,” p. 35.
69 U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, Road Map for National Security:
Imperative for Change (Washington: 2001).
70 Ibid., p. 15.
71 Ibid., p. 21.
72 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on
Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, and House
Upon taking office in January 2001, the Bush Administration reorganized
FEMA. In contrast with the Clinton Administration’s decision to eliminate the
National Preparedness Directorate, President Bush directed FEMA Director Joe M.
Allbaugh, in May, to form an Office of National Preparedness (ONP). On June 5,
Allbaugh announced a functional realignment of FEMA. He reported his finding that
“the existing organization is not the best fit for the evolving mission of the Agency
nor does it support President Bush’s restructuring and streamlining goals.” The goals
he sought to achieve in the reorganization were to “flatten the organization where
possible; reduce the number of organizations reporting directly to the Office of the
Director; and consolidate like functions.”73 The realignment created several new
organizations, including ONP, and combined and modified other organizations.
Department of Homeland Security. Following the Hart-Rudman
Commission report and the events of 9/11, Congress passed the Homeland Security
Act of 2002. On November 25 of that year, President Bush signed the legislation into
law.74 The act established the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which
included the Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Directorate. Title V of
the act transferred the functions, personnel, resources, and authorities of six existing
entities, the largest of which was FEMA, into EPR. Section 507 of the act
specifically charged FEMA with “carrying out its mission to reduce the loss of life
and property and protect the Nation from all hazards by leading and supporting the
Nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program.” Although
all of FEMA was transferred into the new department, it was not defined as an
autonomous or distinct entity within its parent organization. The act explicitly gave
the President and Secretary significant discretion in reorganizing the department,
FEMA functions were transferred to DHS on March 1, 2003.76 The following
January, Secretary Tom Ridge used his reorganization authority to consolidate
organizational units and reallocate functions within DHS. Among other changes,
“select grant award functions [then] exercised by the Under Secretary for Emergency
Preparedness and Response,” under Sections 502 and 503 of the Homeland Security
Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs,
and International Relations, Combating Terrorism: Options to Improve the Federalthst
Response, joint hearings, 107 Cong., 1 sess., Apr. 24, 2001 (Washington: GPO, 2001).
73 Joe M. Allbaugh, Memorandum to All FEMA Employees, “Functional Realignment,”
June 5, 2001.
74 P.L. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135.
75 See CRS Report RS21450, Homeland Security: Scope of the Secretary’s Reorganization
Authority, by Stephan R. Vina.
76 U.S. White House Office, “Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan,”
(Washington: Nov. 25, 2002), Washington, DC, available at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/
news/releases/2002/11/reorganization_plan.pdf], accessed Feb. 23, 2006.
Act, were consolidated within the Office of State and Local Government
Coordination and Preparedness, an office that would report directly to the Secretary.77
The organizational components changed again in 2005. Upon his appointment
as Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff launched a “systematic
evaluation of the Department’s operations, policies and structures.”78 This initiative,
which came to be known as the Second Stage Review (2SR), led to a department-
wide reorganization, which Chertoff announced on July 13, 2005. As part of this
reorganization, effective October 1, 2005, most preparedness functions housed in the
EPR Directorate were to be transferred to a newly created Preparedness Directorate.
Specifically, Chertoff announced that he intended to
separate preparedness resources from response and recovery and combine them
in the [Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection] Directorate, which
will be renamed the Directorate for Preparedness. [This] Directorate ... will
contain the [Office of State and Local Government Coordination and
Preparedness] preparedness programs and key preparedness programs of EP&R.
... [The] Directorate will include the following components: Infrastructure
Protection; a new Chief Medical Officer; the unified Office of Cyber Security
and Telecommunications; [FEMA’s] U.S. Fire Administration; the Office of the
National Capital Region Coordination; and elements of the Office of State and
Local Government Coordination and Preparedness that are responsible for grants,
training and exercises .... Other [FEMA] functions to be transferred include the
hazardous materials training and assistance program, the chemical stockpile
emergency preparedness program, the radiological emergency preparedness79
program and the BioShield program.
The remaining components of EPR and FEMA (the names were used inter-80
changeably) were to focus on response and recovery, not on preparation.
Chertoff implemented the reorganization proposal, but it was not universally
accepted. For example, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA),
composed of state emergency directors, criticized the proposed reorganization of
DHS in a July 27, 2005, letter to House and Senate committees. The association said
it would be a mistake to separate disaster planning from response, and that it would
“result in a disjointed response and adversely impact the effectiveness of
77 Letter from Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Jan.
78 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Secretary Michael Chertoff, U.S. Department
of Homeland Security Second Stage Review Remarks,” Ronald Reagan Building,
Washington, DC, July 13, 2005, available at [http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/
display?theme=44&content=4597], accessed Feb. 24, 2006.
79 Letter from Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to House Committee on
Homeland Security Chairman Christopher Cox, July 13, 2005, pp. 4-5.
80 For more on the reorganization plan, see CRS Report RL33064, Organization and Mission
of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate; and CRS Report RL33042, The
departmental operations.”81 The director of Florida’s Division of Emergency
Management said the plan would recreate the fragmentation that occurred prior to
1979 when FEMA was formed.82 On August 22 and 23, state emergency
management directors from across the country met with Chertoff and his senior staff
in Washington to discuss the proposed DHS reorganization. The directors were
especially concerned about the increased separation between the preparedness,
response, and recovery functions.83
Although the 109th Congress has not enacted legislation changing the structure
of the department or FEMA, it addressed the Administration’s reorganization plan
during the FY2006 appropriations process, which was underway at the time
Chertoff’s initiative was announced. The Administration submitted to congressional
appropriators a budget amendment requesting a modification of the appropriations
structure to align appropriations with the newly organized department. In response,
“[f]or the most part, the conferees ... complied with these requests.”84
On April 4, 2006, Secretary Chertoff once again used his reorganization
authority, this time to elevate the status of the head of FEMA and to clarify that this
official would be appointed through the advice and consent process. His notification
to Congress stated
DHS plans to replace the title of the office and position of the Under Secretary
of Emergency Preparedness and Response with the title, “Under Secretary for
Federal Emergency Management.”
In my July 13, 2005 letter to Congress ..., I stated I would seek legislation to have
[FEMA] report directly to me. Through the Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations
Act, Congress effectively provided for this direct reporting relationship.
So that FEMA will have a Senate-confirmed officer at its head, and in light of
Section 1513 of the [Homeland Security Act], which abolished all Senate-
confirmed positions at FEMA upon its transfer to DHS, the position previously
titled Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response will be used.
To reflect the more focused mission of the position and office, I intend to rename85
81 Letter from NEMA President David E. Liebersbach to Honorable Susan M. Collins and
Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman, July 27, 2005.
82 Cory Reiss, “FEMA Weathers Battles: Proposed Restructure Looms as Agency Faces
Sharp Criticism,” Herald Tribune, Aug. 22, 2005.
83 National Emergency Management Association, “Directors Meet with Secretary Chertoff,”
available at [http://www.nemaweb.org/dynamic/previous_News/index.cfm?
Date=09/06/2005], accessed Oct. 4, 2005.
84 U.S. Congress, Committee on Conference, Making Appropriations for the Department of
Homeland Security for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006, and for Other Purposes,thst
report to accompany H.R. 2360, 109 Cong., 1 sess., H.Rept. 109-241 (Washington: GPO,
85 Letter from Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to Senate Committee on
Subsequently, the President nominated, and the Senate confirmed, R. David Paulison
to be the Under Secretary for Federal Emergency Management.
Hurricane Katrina Implications
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, committees in both chambers of Congress
and the Bush Administration conducted investigations into governmental failures
during the preparation for and response to the disaster. The House Select Bipartisan
Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina86
held nine hearings and, on February 15, 2006, issued a report of its findings.87
Among other findings, the report noted the role of organizational problems at FEMA
and DHS in Katrina failures:
For years emergency management professionals have been warning that FEMA’s
preparedness has eroded. Many believe this erosion is a result of the separation
of the preparedness function from FEMA, the drain of long-term professional
staff along with their institutional knowledge and expertise, and the inadequate
readiness of FEMA’s national emergency response teams. The combination of
these staffing, training, and organizational structures made FEMA’s inadequate88
performance in the face of a disaster the size of Katrina all but inevitable.
The House Select Committee report did not, however, make any recommendations.
The White House’s Katrina assessment, which focused solely on the federal
level of government, also led to the production of a final report, on February 23,
2006.89 Although the report provided some assessment of failures of the
governmental response to Katrina, it focused primarily on developing recommended
changes based on the “lessons learned” from this event. The report appeared to
assume a continuation of the basic emergency management organizational
arrangements growing out of Secretary Chertoff’s 2SR initiative. Several of the
report’s 125 recommendations, however, would make further adjustments to that
organizational structure and distribution of functions. For example, the White House
report recommended that
!in order to “[i]ntegrate and synchronize the preparedness functions,”
DHS “should consider adding an Assistant Secretary for
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Susan M. Collins, Apr. 4, 2006.
86 The committee’s report notes that the Democratic leadership elected not to appoint
members officially to the panel, but that some Democratic members chose to participate on
an individual basis.
87 U.S. Congress, House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and
Response to Hurricane Katrina, A Failure of Initiative, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington:
88 Ibid., p. 158.
89 U.S. White House Office, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and
Counterterrorism, The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned
(Washington: Feb. 2006).
Preparedness Programs and an Assistant Secretary for Operational
Plans, Training and Exercises, and an Executive Director for Public
and Citizen Preparedness to the Undersecretary of Preparedness’
!DHS should also have a “unified departmental external affairs office
... that combines legislative affairs, intergovernmental affairs, and
public affairs as a critical component of the preparedness and
!a National Operations Center should be established, and it should
“combine, co-locate, and replace the situational awareness mission
of the Homeland Security Operations Center ..., the operational
mission of the National Response Coordination Center ... and the
role of the [Interagency Incident Management Group], and be staffed
with full time detailed employees assigned to a planning cell from
relevant departments and agencies”;92
!legislation be proposed that would transfer the National Disaster
Medical System from FEMA to the Department of Health and
!the Department of Housing and Urban Development be designated
“as the lead Federal agency for the provision of temporary
!DHS “should establish an office with responsibility for integrating
non-governmental and other volunteer resources into Federal, State,
and local emergency response plans and mutual aid agreements
[and] a distinct organizational element to assist faith-based
!DHS “should consolidate homeland security related training and
exercise assets in a new Office of Training, Exercises and Lessons
Learned (TELL),” within the Preparedness Directorate, during
90 Ibid., p. 91.
92 Ibid., p. 92.
93 Ibid., p. 105.
94 Ibid., p. 108.
95 Ibid., p. 115.
96 Ibid., p. 118.
Secretary Chertoff also conducted an internal review and, in a speech to the
National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), described changes to be
implemented at DHS in response to the Katrina failures. He did not call for any basic
organizational structure changes in his speech, but discussed adjustments to the
existing arrangements. He called for the “integration of a unified incident
command,” updating of the department’s operational capabilities, and improved
human resources development.97
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
conducted 22 public hearings and, in May 2006, released a report of their findings
and recommendations.98 The committee investigation “explored several reasons for
FEMA’s lack of preparedness, including unqualified political leadership, budget
shortages, inadequate workforce, FEMA’s inclusion within DHS, and
underdeveloped and inadequate response capabilities.”99 As a result of this
investigation, the report included the following recommendations (part of the report’s
“foundational” recommendations) regarding FEMA’s organization:
!FEMA should be abolished and replaced with a “stronger, more
capable structure,” which would be known as the National
Preparedness and Response Authority (NPRA). NPRA should be a
“distinct entity” within DHS.
!The NPRA leader should be at the deputy secretary level, serve as an
advisor to the President on national emergency management issues,
and should have direct communication with the President during
!Senior NPRA leaders should be drawn from a pool of individuals
with crisis management, substantial management, and leadership
!The new organization should be vested with the “four central
functions of comprehensive emergency management — mitigation,
preparedness, response and recovery.”
!The new organization should also be responsible for “overseeing
protection of critical infrastructure.”
!NPRA should have ten regional offices based on FEMA’s regional
offices and better coordination across agencies and levels of
government. Regional offices should form interdisciplinary,
97 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff at the National Emergency Management Association Mid-Year
Conference,” Washington, DC, Feb. 13, 2006, available at [http://www.dhs.gov/
dhspublic/display?theme=44&content=5414], accessed Mar. 7, 2006.
98 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,
Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. [Washington: 2006].
99 Ibid., p. 14-4.
interagency “Strike Teams” that could “be the federal government’s
first line of response to a disaster.”100
!One federal coordinating structure — the National Operations
Center — should replace the three existing entities.
Legislative Activity, 109th Congress
Prompted by questions about the response to Hurricane Katrina, legislation that
would statutorily alter FEMA’s organizational location is pending in both the House
and the Senate. Thirteen such bills had been introduced as of July 11, 2006; the
Senate included the majority of the text of one Senate measure (S. 3595) in the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) FY2007 appropriations legislation (Senate
Amendment 4560 to H.R. 5441) during floor debate. Of these bills, eight would
reestablish FEMA as an independent agency and five would maintain it as a part of
Bill Approved by the Senate (H.R. 5441)
The full House approved the FY2007 DHS appropriations bill (H.R. 5441) on
June 6, 2006. On July 11, 2006, during debate in the full Senate on the measure, the
majority of Senators voting approved an amendment offered by the Chair and
Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Committee that consisted of much of the text of S. 3595, previously introduced on
June 28. Senate Amendment (SA) 4560 would establish the U.S. Emergency
Management Authority (EMA) within DHS as a “distinct entity” within the
department. The functions, personnel, and assets of FEMA (except the National
Disaster Medical System) and the DHS Preparedness Directorate would be
transferred to EMA, which would be led by an administrator subject to Senate
confirmation. EMA would be charged with implementing an “all-hazards-plus”
mission that would require attention to the preparedness, response, recovery, and
mitigation activities common to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and accidents, as
well as activities particularly relevant to specific types of catastrophes. S.Amdt. 4560
would require that the administrator develop a system for responding to catastrophic
incidents, would establish requirements that top EMA leaders hold experience in
crisis management, and would limit the authority of the DHS secretary to reduce
EMA assets or responsibilities.
The amendment approved by the Senate would require the establishment of 10
regional offices within EMA; establish a National Advisory Council on Emergency
Preparedness and Response to advise the EMA administrator; establish a National
Incident Management System Integration Center and a National Operations Center;
and authorize activities for search and rescue, medical preparedness, and interstate
compacts. The legislation would also require establishment of a credentialing system
to ensure that the qualifications and identify of emergency management officials
100 Ibid., pp. 18-19, Recommendations-1 - Recommendations-6.
would be recognized, and would require the establishment of standards for resource
and asset typing.
The provisions of the amendment, if enacted, would take effect January 1, 2007.
As the House approved H.R. 5441 without a similar provision, conferees on the
legislation will determine whether the provisions of S.Amdt. 4560 will remain in the
final version of H.R. 5441.
Bills Ordered Reported by Committee
Three of the other 14 bills — H.R. 5316, H.R. 5351, and S. 3721 — have been
acted upon by at least one committee.
H.R. 5316. On May 9, 2006, Representative Don Young introduced H.R.
5316, the “Restoring Emergency Services to Protect Our Nation From Disasters,” or
RESPOND, Act of 2006. The bill was referred to three House committees:
Transportation and Infrastructure, which voted to report it; Government Reform,
which reported the bill; and Homeland Security, which had not acted on the measure
as of July 17, 2006. As agreed to by the two committees, H.R. 5316 would establish
FEMA as a “cabinet-level” independent agency. The agency would have an all-
hazards mission. The bill would assign the agency responsibility for risked-based
comprehensive emergency management, including preparedness, response, recovery,
and mitigation. Accordingly, most emergency management-related functions,
including specified functions currently being performed by FEMA and the
Directorate for Preparedness, would be transferred from DHS to the newly
independent entity. The bill would also assign to the new FEMA the role of lead
agency in the National Response Plan.
Title I. The agency would be headed by a Director, to be compensated at Level
I of the Executive Schedule. The Director would be appointed by the President, by
and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The version of the bill reported by the
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would specify a five-year term for the
director. A deputy director would be appointed by the director. Qualifications would
be specified for both the director and deputy director. Other leadership positions
under H.R. 5316 would include a chief financial officer and an inspector general.
The U.S. Fire Administrator would also be part of the agency’s leadership team, as
the head of the U.S. Fire Administration, which would be among those entities
H.R. 5316 contains provisions concerning the director’s authority to appoint
personnel, delegate functions, reorganize the agency, and make rules, and concerning
The bill also includes several provisions pertaining to the proposed agency’s
workforce needs and procurement rules. Under the bill, the FEMA Director would
be authorized to “develop a human capital strategy to ensure that the agency has a
workforce of the appropriate size and with the appropriate skills and training to
effectively carry out” its mission and responsibilities. In addition, the bill would
authorize the FEMA Director to pay recruitment bonuses for hard to fill positions,
as well as retention bonuses to help retain employees where “unusually high or
unique qualifications or a special need of the Agency for the employee’s services
makes it essential to retain the employee.” The bill would also authorize the
establishment of a disaster workforce reserve cadre, within FEMA, that would “meet
the Agency’s surge requirements during periods of emergency.” Regarding
procurement, H.R. 5316 would instruct the director to promulgate regulations placing
limitations on subcontracting agency-contracted work, and on the length of certain
non-competitive contracts. In addition, the bill would prohibit the consideration of
political affiliation in the award of agency contracts.
Title II. In addition to the reorganization proposal noted above, H.R. 5316
would enhance FEMA’s authority to improve the nation’s preparedness capabilities.
Title II would amend the emergency preparedness title of the Robert T. Stafford
Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) by adding a new
section that would authorize the director to: determine areas at great risk from a
potential catastrophic incident; establish minimum standards and expectations for
federal support and response teams; maintain and operate a national emergency
operations center; develop a logistics systems for the delivery of relief assets;
establish and maintain an interoperable communications system; improve access to
necessary equipment; oversee the use of federal disaster assistance funds; and, ensure
that disaster victims with limited proficiency in the English language receive
Title III. H.R. 5316 would further amend the Stafford Act by authorizing the
President, through the FEMA Director, to ensure that emergency preparedness
capabilities, plans, and objectives are enhanced. Title III of the bill would codify
many of the administrative issues raised in presidential directives, plans, and other
documents. Standards, plan components, capability measures, minimum
requirements for training, coordination with the Department of Defense and other
federal agencies, are addressed in the bill. The legislation would also authorize
federal funding for the administration of the mutual aid compact for emergency
management that has been agreed to by all of the states except two (California and
H.R. 5351. On May 11, 2006, Representative Dave Reichert introduced H.R.
5351, the “National Emergency Management Reform and Enhancement Act of
2006.” The bill was referred to three House committees: Transportation and
Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Homeland Security. On May 17, the
House Committee on Homeland Security agreed to a substitute amendment offered
by Chair Peter T. King and to report the bill. As agreed to by this committee, H.R.
5351 would amend Title V of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and recombine the
functions of preparedness and response under a Directorate of Emergency
Management in DHS. The Under Secretary for Emergency Management, who would
lead the directorate, would “have the primary responsibility with the executive branch
of Government for preparing for, mitigating against, responding to, and recovering
from acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other emergencies.” To this end, the
combined responsibilities, functions, and resources of the Directorate of
Preparedness and FEMA would be under the authority of the new under secretary.
Under H.R. 5351, the Under Secretary of Emergency Management would, under
normal circumstances, report to the Secretary. At the same time, he or she would
serve as principal advisor to the President on emergency management matters.
During Incidents of National Significance, the under secretary would serve as a
In addition to the Under Secretary for Emergency Management, the directorate
would be led by a Deputy Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and
Mitigation and a Deputy Under Secretary for Emergency Response and Recovery.
Appointments to all three positions would be made by the President, by and with the
advice and consent of the Senate. In each case, the individual appointed would be
required to possess certain qualifications.
H.R. 5351 would also establish a number of offices in the directorate, and
specify the functions, responsibilities, and authorities associated with each. Five
offices would be led by assistant secretaries appointed by the President, with the
advice and consent of the Senate. These would include an Office of Grants and
Planning, an Office of Training and Exercises, an Office of Emergency
Communications, an Office of Infrastructure Protection, and an Office of
Cybersecurity and Telecommunications. A Chief Medical Officer would be
appointed in the same manner, with a deputy appointed by the Secretary.
Other officials who would lead offices in the directorate, and who would be
appointed by the Secretary, include Regional Directors, Deputy Regional Directors,
and the directors of the following offices: the Office of State, Local, and Tribal
Government Coordination, the Office of National Capital Region Coordination, the
Office of Public and Community Preparedness, and the National Incident
Management System and National Response Plan Integration Center.
The bill would preserve the Secretary’s reorganization authority with regard to
the proposed directorate, but would double the time between the notification of
Congress and implementation of a reorganization within the directorate from 60 to
H.R. 5351 would also establish programs and otherwise address various
concerns related to emergency preparedness, response, communications, and
logistics. It also includes provisions regarding infrastructure protection and
cybersecurity; Gulf Coast recovery; authorization of the National Disaster Medical
System; interoperability and compatibility of communications; grants-related matters;
fraud, waste, and abuse prevention; and other homeland security-related matters.
S. 3721. Perhaps the most far-reaching of the pending legislation, S. 3721,
ordered to be reported from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Committee on July 27, 2006, contains provisions that address many findings of the102
committee’s investigative report on the response to Hurricane Katrina. As
amended and ordered to be reported, the bill would amend both the Stafford Act and
101 The meaning of “Cabinet Officer” in this context is not specified.
102 U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,
Hurricane Katrina: A National Still Unprepared, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: 2006).
the Homeland Security Act (HSA) by making substantive and procedural changes in
federal emergency management policies and practices.
Title I. The first title in S. 3721 is similar to S.Amdt. 4560 of H.R. 5441,
described above. This title would replace Title V of the HSA by expanding the
authority of FEMA (including the functions of the DHS Preparedness Directorate),
establishing qualifications requirements for the administrator and other top officials
of the agency, requiring the establishment of regional offices, and ensuring that
FEMA retains its distinct identity. The bill would authorize support organizations
critical for the operations of the agency (advisory council and centers) and programs
to ensure that equipment, intergovernmental cooperation, logistics, and other
administrative areas function as needed. The title would also establish an Office of
Emergency Communications to develop and implement a communications strategy
for the department.
Title II. The second title would amend the Stafford Act in a number of
significant ways, including authorization of: a disaster recovery strategy, federal aid
for private sector “essential service” providers, a sliding scale for hazard mitigation
funding, expanded assistance for victims after catastrophic disasters, coordination of
aid from foreign nations, enhancements of the National Response Plan, and
assistance after a broader range of disasters including terrorist incidents involving
weapons of mass destruction. The act would also be amended by authorizing the
targeting of assistance to individuals with special needs and disabilities.
Title III. The administrator of FEMA would be required to develop a human
capital strategic plan for the agency that would examine the skills needed and held
by the agency workforce, and a plan for addressing gaps, including retention,
recruitment, and training. Career paths for employees would be identified, and a
National Homeland Security Academy would be established to provide education and
support networks for employees as well as state, local, and private sector employees
with homeland security responsibilities. The legislation would authorize the FEMA
administrator to establish a Surge Capacity Force that would deploy as needed for
disasters and emergencies, and would authorize a rotation program for DHS
employees to provide opportunities to move to other components within the
Title IV. This title of S. 3721 would require that the FEMA administrator,
among other tasks: administer emergency planning and response systems (the
National Response Plan and the National Incident Management System), eliminate
the position of Principal Federal Official currently in the Plan, adopt changes
concerning the chain of command and responsibilities of officials, establish specified
components of plan functions (including evacuation procedures), consult with state
and local governments, and develop operational plans. The legislation would also
require that plans for military support of civilian authorities be developed in
conjunction with the Department of Defense, and that coordination be enhanced with
the private sector. In addition, training and exercises would be authorized with
minimum requirements established.
Title V. The legislation would require that regulations be issued by the Federal
Procurement Policy administrator to prohibit excessive pass-through charges on
contracts or subcontracts, and that the Government Accountability Office report to
Congress on all such contracts related to the Stafford Act or Hurricane Katrina
assistance. The Secretary of DHS would be required to report on fraud prevention
programs adopted by the department, and conduct training for such prevention. A
Contingency Contracting corps would be composed to provide contract assistance
during emergencies. The FEMA administrator would be required to establish an
identity verification process to ensure that disaster payments are made to eligible
individuals, and the Stafford Act would be amended to require justification of awards
to firms not primarily associated with the disaster area.
Title VI. Funds would be authorized through FY2009 for the Administrative
and Regional Operations and the Readiness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery
budget accounts for FEMA. Funds would be authorized for the proposed Emergency
Communications System and associated administrative functions.
S. 3595. See discussion under “Bill Approved by the Senate,” above.
H.R. 5759. On July 11, 2006, Representative Katherine Harris introduced H.R.
5759, the Foundations for Emergency Management Act (FEMA). The bill would
amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 by establishing a Directorate of
Emergency Management (DEM) within DHS and is similar to H.R. 5351 discussed
H.R. 3656. On September 6, 2005, Representative John D. Dingell introduced
H.R. 3656, the “National Emergency Management Restoration and Improvement
Act.” This legislation would reestablish FEMA as “an independent establishment in
the executive branch,” and it would transfer the federal emergency management
personnel, assets, and liabilities of DHS to the FEMA Director, including
!“directing and supervising terrorism preparedness grant programs of
the Federal Government (other than those programs administered by
the Department of Health and Human Services) for all emergency103
!“those elements of the Office of National Preparedness of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency which relate to104
!all functions of Under Secretary of Homeland Security for
Emergency Preparedness and Response under section 502 of the
103 P.L. 107-296, § 430(c)(3); 116 Stat. 2192 (6 U.S.C. 238(c)(3)).
104 P.L. 107-296, § 430(c)(8); 116 Stat. 2192; 6 U.S.C. 238(c)(8).
Homeland Security Act, except those pertaining to the Nuclear
Incident Response Team; 105 and
!“[the] Integrated Hazard Information System of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which [was to be
H.R. 3656 would provide for a FEMA Director and Deputy Director, both of
whom would be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the
Senate. The director would be compensated at Level I of the Executive Schedule, the
appointee rank typically reserved for department secretaries and their equivalents.
The deputy director would be compensated at Level II of the Executive Schedule.
This legislation would require that the President select his nominee for director “from
among persons who have significant experience, knowledge, training, and expertise
in the area of emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation as related
to natural disasters and other national cataclysmic events.” It would require that the
President select his nominee for deputy director “from among persons who have
extensive background in disaster response and disaster preparedness.” Under this
legislative proposal, the deputy director would, under the “direction and control” of
the director, “have primary responsibility within the Agency for natural disasters and
non-natural disasters, including large-scale terrorist attacks.”
The bill contains additional provisions concerning personnel, delegation of
functions by the director, reorganization authority, rulemaking authority, and
S. 1615. Also on September 6, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced
S. 1615, the “Federal Emergency Management Agency Restoration Act of 2005.”
Like H.R. 3656, this legislation would reestablish FEMA as an independent
establishment in the executive branch headed by a director, at Level I of the
Executive Schedule, and deputy director, at Level II, both to be appointed by the
President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Appointees to both
positions would be required to “have significant experience, knowledge, training, and
expertise in the area of emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation
as related to natural disasters and other national cataclysmic events.”
Under S. 1615, the functions of FEMA would include “(1) All functions and
authorities prescribed by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency
Assistance Act ... [and] (2) Carrying out its mission to reduce the loss of life and
property and protect the Nation from all hazards with a comprehensive, risk-based
emergency management program” including mitigation, planning, response,
recovery, and “increased efficiencies, by coordinating efforts relating to” these four
105 P.L. 107-296, § 502; 116 Stat. 2212-2213; 6 U.S.C. 312.
106 P.L. 107-296, § 503; 116 Stat. 2213; 6 U.S.C. 313.
elements. The newly independent FEMA would be designated as the lead agency in
the Federal Response Plan.107
The bill contains additional provisions concerning personnel, delegation of
functions by the director, reorganization authority, rulemaking authority, and
H.R. 3659. Also on September 6, 2005, Representative James L. Oberstar
introduced H.R. 3659, a bill to “reestablish the Federal Emergency Management
Agency as an independent establishment in the executive branch that is responsible
for the Nation’s preparedness and response to disasters.” It would transfer to the
Director of FEMA “the functions, personnel, assets, and liabilities of the Department
of Homeland Security relating to [FEMA],” including functions provided under
specified sections of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Federal Fire Prevention
and Control Act of 1974, the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, the Robert T.
Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Earthquake Hazards
Reductions Act of 1977, and Reorganization Act No. 3 of 1978.
This legislation would provide for an agency director, who would be appointed
by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; would report
directly to the President; and would be compensated at Level I of the Executive
Schedule. The term of the position would be five years. The President would be
required to select his nominee “from among persons who have extensive background
in emergency or disaster-related management.”
H.R. 3685. On September 7, 2005, Representative Mark Foley introduced H.R.
3685, the “Federal Disaster Response Improvement Act of 2005.” This legislation
would reestablish FEMA as “an independent establishment in the executive branch.”
It would transfer to the Director of FEMA “the functions, personnel, assets, and
liabilities of the Department of Homeland Security relating to [FEMA].” Other
organizational and leadership features are not mentioned.
H.R. 3816. On September 15, 2005, Representative Mark Udall introduced
H.R. 3816, a bill to “reestablish the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an
independent agency and to require that its Director be adequately qualified.” Under
the provisions of this legislation, FEMA would be “responsible for the Nation’s
preparedness for and response to natural disasters.” It would transfer to the Director
of FEMA “the functions, personnel, assets, and liabilities of the Department of
Homeland Security relating to [FEMA],” including functions provided under
specified sections of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Federal Fire Prevention
and Control Act of 1974, the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, the Robert T.
Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Earthquake Hazards
Reductions Act of 1977, and Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978.
107 The Federal Response Plan has been superseded by the National Response Plan. For
background, see CRS Report RL32803, The National Preparedness System: Issues in theth
H.R. 3816 stipulates that the Director of FEMA would be compensated at Level
I of the Executive Schedule, would be appointed by the President with the advice and
consent of the Senate, and would report directly to the President. The director would
“be appointed from among persons who at the time of appointment have (A)
appropriate formal training in emergency or disaster-related management; and (B)
extensive background in emergency or disaster-related management, including at
least two years of experience as head of a disaster-management agency of ... a State
[or] a political subdivision of a State that has a population of not less than 1,000,000
residents ....” The term of the director would be six years.
H.R. 4009. On October 6, 2005, Representative Bennie B. Thompson
introduced H.R. 4009, the “Department of Homeland Security Reform Act of 2005.”
This bill includes a number of provisions applying to the Department of Homeland
Security, only some of which would directly affect FEMA’s organizational location
and context. Unlike most other bills discussed here, H.R. 4009 would retain FEMA
within DHS, and it would reorganize the functions that had previously been assigned
to FEMA and other related offices at the department. It would redesignate the
Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response as the Directorate of
Preparedness and Response (DPR), to be led by an under secretary. It would
establish two assistant secretaries within the directorate.
One of the assistant secretaries within DPR would be the Director of FEMA.
The director would be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the
Senate, would be compensated at Level II of the Executive Schedule, and would be
appointed “from among individuals who have extensive background in emergency
or disaster-related management.” The director’s term of office would be five years.
The Deputy Director of FEMA would be appointed by the director, would be
compensated at Level III of the Executive Schedule, and would be a career federal
The other assistant secretary position within DPR that would be established by
H.R. 4009 is an Assistant Secretary for Preparedness. Appointments to this position
would be made by the President alone. The assistant would be directed to “perform
such functions as were authorized to be performed by the Office for State and Local
Government Coordination and Preparedness” (previously responsible for
administering grants-in-aid programs). This Assistant Secretary would consult with
the Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection regarding the coordination and
oversight of six security grant programs. In addition, the Assistant Secretary for
Preparedness would have “the primary responsibility within the executive branch
of Government for the preparedness of the United States for acts of terrorism,”
including the following:
!coordinating preparedness efforts at the federal level and working
with other levels of government on measures to combat terrorism;
!coordinating or consolidating homeland security communications
across all levels of government;
!directing and supervising most federal terrorism preparedness grant
programs for all providers of emergency response;
!incorporating the National Homeland Security Strategy priorities
into planning for preparedness efforts;
!providing agency-specific training across governmental entities;
!“as the lead executive branch agency for preparedness of the United
States for acts of terrorism, cooperating closely with [FEMA], which
shall have the primary responsibility within the executive branch to
prepare for and mitigate the effects of nonterrorist-related disasters
in the United States”;
!assisting with risk analysis and management activities of state, local,
and tribal governments;
!assuming terrorism-related elements from the Office of National
Preparedness of FEMA; and
!“helping to ensure the acquisition of interoperable communication
technology by State and local governments and emergency response
H.R. 4009 would also eliminate the Office of National Capital Region
Coordination, the Office for State and Local Government Coordination and
Preparedness, and the Office for Domestic Preparedness. It would vest functions
related to national capital region coordination in the Under Secretary for
Preparedness and Response. Also, within the directorate, the bill would establish a
military liaison, appointed by the President alone.
H.R. 4493. On December 8, 2005, Representative James L. Oberstar
introduced H.R. 4493, the “Federal Emergency Management Agency Restoration
Act.” The bill, which appears to expand on H.R. 3659, would establish FEMA as a
“cabinet-level independent establishment in the executive branch that is responsible
for emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation for all hazards,
including major disasters, acts of terrorism, and other emergencies.” It would
transfer to the Director of FEMA “the functions, personnel, assets, and liabilities of
the Department of Homeland Security relating to [FEMA],” including functions
provided under specified sections of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Federal
Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968,
the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Earthquake
Hazards Reductions Act of 1977, the National Dam Safety Program Act, and
Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978. Functions of the Preparedness Directorate at
DHS that would not be transferred to FEMA include those “relating to law
enforcement efforts to prevent and deter acts of terrorism, protect critical
infrastructure, and conduct intelligence activities.”
H.R. 4493 would provide for an agency director, who would be appointed by
the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and would report
directly to the President. This director would be compensated at Level I of the
Executive Schedule, and the term of the position would be five years. The legislation
would also provide for a deputy director, to be appointed “in the competitive service”
by the director. The bill would require that both the director and deputy director be
appointed “from among persons who have extensive experience in emergency
preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation for all hazards, including major
disasters, acts of terrorism, and other emergencies.” The deputy director would, in
addition to carrying out duties and powers prescribed by the director and acting as
director in the director’s absence or incapacity, “serve as a liaison to [DHS] in the
event of an act of terrorism.”
The bill contains additional provisions concerning personnel, delegation of
functions by the director, reorganization authority, rulemaking authority, and
S. 2302. On February 16, 2006, Senator Trent Lott introduced S. 2302, the
“Federal Emergency Management Improvement Act of 2006.” This legislation is
similar to S. 1615, discussed above. The principal differences appear to be in
provisions related to proposed technical and conforming amendments in the two
bills. During debate on the FY2007 DHS appropriations bill (H.R. 5441), Senator
Lott voiced support for a different measure (S.Amdt. 4560) that was approved by the
full Senate on July 11, 2006.108
H.R. 4840. On March 1, 2006, Representative Bennie B. Thompson
introduced H.R. 4840, the “Plan to Restore Excellence and Professional
Accountability in Responding to Emergencies,” or PREPARE, Act. A report
intended to accompany this bill was prepared by the Democratic staff of the House
Committee on Homeland Security.109 H.R. 4840 would recombine the functions of
preparedness and response under one directorate in DHS, headed by an under
secretary. This directorate would comprise FEMA, the Chief Medical Officer for
DHS, the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Grants and Training, the U.S.
Fire Administration, and functions performed by the Assistant Secretary of
Homeland Security for Cyber Security and Telecommunications, the Assistant
Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and the DHS Director
of the Office of National Capital Region Coordination.
Under this bill, FEMA would be headed by a director, who would be appointed
by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. A deputy director
would be appointed by the director from the competitive service. Both appointments
would be made from “among individuals who possess demonstrated ability in,
knowledge of, and extensive background in emergency or disaster-related
108 Sen. Trent Lott, remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily ed., vol. 152, July
109 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Democratic Staff, Redirecting
FEMA Toward Success: A Report and Legislative Solution, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., available
The complexities of the emergency management process, the lack of a consistent
and generally accepted statutory definition of “homeland security” in federal policies,
and the difficulty of formulating administrative structures are some of the factors thatth
challenge Members of the 109 Congress as they consider organizational options in
the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Some contend that FEMA should be removed from
DHS and reestablished as an independent federal entity. Others argue that it should
remain in the department because the problems encountered after Hurricane Katrina
reflect leadership and operational, not organizational, challenges. The preceding
historical overview indicates that reorganizing federal emergency management, civil
defense, or homeland security entities may address certain shortcomings and
problems, but the challenges go beyond such changes. Remaining cognizant of a110
maxim of H.L. Mencken, congressional agreement on the “best” organizational
structure will be part of the solution to the question of how to ensure the effective
implementation of emergency management responsibilities. The extent to which a
reorganization contributes to the improvement of problems evident after Hurricane
Katrina is a matter of debate.
At the outset of this report (see “Evolution of Organizational Arrangements”)
issues concerning the scope of responsibility, types of threats, federalism concerns,
and assignment of responsibility were identified. These and other issues will shape
congressional debate over the future of FEMA. An examination of the evolution of
federal emergency management (now homeland security) policy since World War II
reveals that some concepts have not changed. Just as the debate over the federal role
in civil defense affected executive and legislative branch decisions on organizational
options 50 years ago, the current debate over whether a terrorism focus detracts from
natural disaster preparedness and response is likely to affect present day
Some questions arguably require further examination. Is it important to
distinguish between natural and human-caused events? What are the limitations of
the “all-hazards” concept? Should the role of the Department of Defense be
The Bush Administration and the 109th Congress have acted to address problems
that became apparent in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Other issues remain on
the agenda for future solution. There is little or no doubt that the White House,
including the President, will be directly involved in the response to future
catastrophic disasters. Federal officials have years of experience developing plans
and standards. The sum of this knowledge will help policymakers and administrators
reach a common understanding of what must be accomplished, by whom, and under
110 “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and
wrong,” attributed to H. L. Mencken, “The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, ch.
A Dictionary of Quotations Requested from the Congressional Research Service
(Washington: Library of Congress, 1989), p. 326.
Legislation to reform and reorganize FEMA has been acted upon by the full
Senate and by House committees. Most of the legislation pending before Congress
would reestablish FEMA as an independent entity; some would statutorily establish
it as a Cabinet-level agency. Some of these bills, as well as those that would keep
FEMA in DHS, reassign functions to FEMA that have been moved to other entities
and establish capability standards for top FEMA executive officials. The debate in
the 109th Congress builds upon decades of history and experiences, sometimes at
great loss and consternation, sometimes in preparation for emergencies that never
occurred. The challenge before Congress is to consider the options with knowledge
of preceding events and decisions.
Management and Homeland Security Organization: Major Developments, 1947-2005
National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 499).National Security Resources Board (NSRB) is established.
Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1949.NSRB is transferred to the Executive Office of the President (EOP).
Defense Production Act of 1950 (64 Stat. 798),The Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) is established in the EOP.
iki/CRS-RL33369followed by E.O. 10193 (Federal Register, vol.
g/w15, Dec. 19, 1950, p. 9031).
leakDisaster Relief Act of 1950 (64 Stat. 1109),The act is the first comprehensive federal disaster relief law, and it delegates certain emergency
followed by E.O. 10221 (Federal Register, vol.management authorities to the President. These authorities are delegated to the Housing and
://wiki16, Mar. 6, 1951, p. 2051).Home Finance Administrator.
E.O. 10186 (Federal Register, vol. 15, Dec. 5,The Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) is established in the Office of Emergency
1950, p. 8557).Management (OEM), a decade-old organization in the in the EOP. FCDA takes on some civil
defense activities previously performed by the National Security Resources Board.
Civil Defense Act of 1950 (64 Stat. 1245).FCDA is moved out of the EOP and established as an independent agency. The Civil Defense
Advisory Council is established.
E.O. 10346 (Federal Register, vol. 17, Apr. 19,FCDA is given a key role in assisting federal agencies with planning for service provision and
E.O. 10427 (Federal Register, vol. 18, Jan. 20,Emergency management authorities previously delegated to the Housing and Home Finance
1953, p. 407).Administrator are redelegated to FCDA. FCDA is given additional responsibilities related to
assisting federal, state, and local agencies with developing plans for disasters.
Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1953.New ODM is established with the functions of the old ODM as well as those of NSRB, which is
E.O. 10638 (Federal Register, vol. 20, Oct. 13,ODM is given additional responsibilities related to releasing materials from stockpiles in the event
iki/CRS-RL33369E.O. 10660 (Federal Register, vol. 21, Feb. 18,ODM is given responsibility for the newly established National Defense Executive Reserve.
g/w1956, p. 1117).
leakReorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958.All emergency management authorities of ODM and FCDA are transferred to the President, and
these two organizations and CDAC are consolidated into the Office of Defense and Civilian
://wikiMobilization (ODCM) in the EOP.
E.O. 10773 (Federal Register, vol. 23, July 3,The authorities transferred to the President by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958 are redelegated
1958, p. 5061).to ODCM. The Defense and Civilian Mobilization Board, comprising the ODCM Director and
heads of federal departments and agencies, is established.
72 Stat. 861; E.O. 10782 (Federal Register, vol.Congress renames ODCM the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM), and the
E.O. 10952 (Federal Register, vol. 26, July 22,Certain civil defense functions are redelegated to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of
E.O. 10958 (Federal Register, vol. 26, Aug. 16,Certain medical stockpile and food stockpile functions are redelegated from OCDM to the
E.O. 11051 (Federal Register, vol. 27, Oct. 2,The advisory and management functions of OEP are reaffirmed and expanded.
Administrative authority.OCD is moved from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the Department of the Army.
iki/CRS-RL3336982 Stat. 1194.Congress renames OEP the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
s.orDisaster Relief Act of 1969 (83 Stat. 125).The federal government’s disaster relief responsibilities are expanded.
leakE.O. 11495 (Federal Register, vol. 34, Nov. 20,The administration of many provisions of the Disaster Relief Act of 1969 is delegated to OEP.
://wiki1969, p. 18447).
httpAdministrative authority.OCD, then located in the Department of the Army, is abolished. In its place, the Defense Civil
Preparedness Agency (DCPA) is established within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1973.Among other provisions, the plan abolishes OEP, and nearly all functions previously vested in that
office or its director are transferred to the President. The plan also abolishes the Civil Defense
Advisory Council, which had been established in 1950.
E.O. 11725 (Federal Register, vol. 38, June 29,The functions transferred to the President by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1973 are delegated to
1973, p. 17175).the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the General Services Administration
(GSA), and the Department of the Treasury.
Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978.The President proposes, and Congress agrees to, the merger of five agencies from the Departments
of Defense, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as GSA, into one new
independent agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
E.O. 12127 (Federal Register, vol. 44, Apr. 3,To implement Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978, certain functions are transferred to FEMA from
1979, p. 19367).the Department of Commerce (fire prevention and control; certain Emergency Broadcast System
functions); the Department of Housing and Urban Development (flood insurance); and the
President (other Emergency Broadcast System functions).
E.O. 12148 (Federal Register, vol. 44, July 24,To implement Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978, additional functions from the Departments of
iki/CRS-RL333691979, p. 43239).Defense (civil defense) and Housing and Urban Development (federal disaster assistance), GSA
g/w(federal preparedness), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (earthquake hazards
s.orreduction) are transferred to FEMA. FEMA is also authorized to coordinate “all civil defense and
leakcivil emergency planning, management, mitigation, and assistance functions,” in addition to dam
://wikisafety, “natural and nuclear disaster warning systems,” and “the coordination of preparedness andplanning to reduce the consequences of major terrorist incidents.” The Federal Emergency
httpManagement Council, composed of FEMA and Office of Management and Budget Directors, and
others as assigned by the President, is established.
Authority of the FEMA DirectorThe National Preparedness Directorate, the entity concerned with national security emergencies, is
Authority of the President to establish CabinetThe President extends Cabinet membership to the FEMA Director.
Authority of the President to establish CabinetThe incoming President does not extend Cabinet membership to the FEMA Director as he
membership.establishes his Administration.
Authority of FEMA DirectorThe President asks the FEMA Director to form an Office of National Preparedness, which was to
“coordinate all Federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction consequence
management.” [Joe M. Allbaugh, Memorandum to All FEMA Employees, “Functional
Realignment,” June 5, 2001, Attachment C, p. 1.]
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is established. The functions, personnel, resources,
296, 116 Stat. 2135).and authorities of six existing entities, the largest of which is FEMA, are transferred into the
Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate. Section 507 of the act specifically charges
FEMA with “carrying out its mission to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the Nation
iki/CRS-RL33369from all hazards by leading and supporting the Nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergencymanagement program.”
s.orDepartment of Homeland SecurityThe Homeland Security Act of 2002 is implemented, and FEMA functions are transferred to DHS
leakReorganization Plan.on Mar. 1, 2003.
://wikiAuthority of the Secretary of Homeland SecurityWithin DHS, organizational units are consolidated, and functions are reallocated. Among other
httpunder Section 872 of the Homeland Security Actchanges, “select grant award functions ... exercised by the Under Secretary for Emergency
of 2002.Preparedness and Response,” under Sections 502 and 503 of the Homeland Security Act, are
consolidated within the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness, an
office that is to report directly to the Secretary.
Authority of the Secretary of Homeland SecurityMost preparedness functions housed in the EPR Directorate are transferred to a newly created
under Section 872 of the Homeland Security ActPreparedness Directorate. FEMA becomes a freestanding unit, headed by a director, within DHS.
of 2002.The FEMA Director reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and directly oversees
three divisions (Response, Mitigation, and Recovery) and numerous offices.
Authority of the Secretary of Homeland SecurityThe position of Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response is renamed
under Section 872 of the Homeland Security ActUnder Secretary for Federal Emergency Management. The FEMA Director is placed in
of 2002.this position.