CIVIL DEFENSE-1951-1994


Anytime one attempts to analyze the cost/benefits of any federal program there is always a temptation to adopt a point of view and twist the facts. Disclosure: I never officially was the principal lawyer for FEMA on the civil defense effort that ran between 1951-1994 although briefly it was under my supervision in 1989. Since the Stafford Act had been newly enacted that seemed to consume the most time in the then Program Law Division.

The best overall history of civil defense ends unfortunately in 1981 and was conducted by a brilliant historian taking over two years to prepare the document.

Here it is: 

 WOW a long one. In the years between enactment of Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress and it repeal by P.L. 103-337 in 1994 the program largely focused on strategic nuclear attack. It had some very very intelligent people working directly in the program and under contract and it is tragic that most of the records of that program have been trashed by a FEMA ignorant of that effort.  Several recent books have argued that the entirety of the federal civil defense effort was conducted in bad faith. Examples are Professors Dee Garrison, PhD, of Rutgers University, and Charles Perrow, PhD formerly of Yale and now I believe at UCLA. That is not my opinion but an important issue is raised for the future by the conclusions reached by these academicians. My belief is that one MAD-Mutual Assured Destruction-became the operative strategic doctrine-and it still is the operative US strategic doctrine–then civil defense was removed from the equation by that doctrinal change. This will be the only post on this issue on this blog but I believe that the history of civil defense would reveal a program that forced the US to consider the worst case event and try and deal with it. And of course strategic nuclear attack must always be considered the worst case risk to the US for the rest of time until nuclear weapons are no more.

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