OFAs-Other Federal Agencies and HS/EM

Remember this blog is designed to expand beyond the FEMA centric blog at VACATION LANE BLOG.

There are almost 180 federal agencies, departments and entities. Not all have a role in HS/EM but some clearly do. Principal ones are DOD, DOJ, HHS, and STATE.  But some of the smaller agencies do also have critical roles. And some subunits of the larger departments are critical to disaster response and crisis management.

How do I know anything about the other federal agencies? First I was selected by FEMA to help teach the lawyers and program officials in OFAs about their emergency authorities. Second was COTR and Contracting official on a FEMA contract with DOJ identifying all emergency authorities of the President and departments and agencies. Until his retirement I used to write and talk to Harold Reyla of the CRS quite often and we exchanged information as he continuously updated his paper on EMERGENCY AUTHORITIES. He long ago recognized that the National Emergency Law enacted in 1976 as part of the NIXON era reforms was largely a procedural and not a substantive statute. In fact many of the laws triggered by that law don’t convey much authority. Further undermining that law is that failure to include EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS under the Robert T. Stafford Act, and the existence of E.O. 12656 with its adoption of the term NATIONAL SECURITY EMERGENCY which does not exist in the US Code. Formal declarations long ago have been analyzed as restricting Presidential authority so except where legally required they are not in favor. Declaration of War is also a leading example of a vestigal term as currently administered even though grounded in the Constitution.

So from time to time on this blog will be writing about the OFAs that sometimes are crucial to federal response. The NCP co-chairs EPA and the Coast Guard might be a useful place to start. The US Coast Guard is now of course part of DHS since March 1, 2003, but even though it relatively successfully ran the largest oil spill response in US history last year it has declined in efficiency and effectiveness during its period of incorporation into DHS and I would argue has suffered the most, even more than FEMA from that incorporation. The NCP appears at 40 CFR Part 300 and badly needs updating and revision. A good question for Congress is to ask why that has not occurred. And why the Adminsitration requested a reduced budget in FY 2011 the year the federal government now is operating under a CR until March 2011.

The EPA as environmental regulator gained authority to classify originally up to the SECRET level after 9/11/01 (before that could only derivatively classify) and has gained an important role in GWOT but has not reorganized or staffed to fulfill their obligations on HS/EM although an Assitant Administrator for HS has been created and filled since its creation. Notice that EPA has never quite recognized its supporting roles in many disasters and crisis situations, and the fact that under the ESF (Emergency Support Function) it often cannot operate without FEMA fianancial support.

Of course it is FEMA’s financial support that gives it the key role in EM and crisis response assuming a declaration by the President. This is not a good system. Is very awkward and Mission Assignments and funding should come directly out of the White House and not DHS or FEMA. FEMA’s mission assignment process, even with over 200 standby agreements with OFA, is not well administered or efficient or effective and the OFA’s ofter make out like bandits in their overhead charges to FEMA. But hey in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is King and in the land of the OFA’s the ability of FEMA to hand out funding keeps them in business. It also is an activity ripe for Congressional oversight.

More on EPA to come.


About vlg338

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