The world of security in the Executive Branch, its contractors and even other Branches of Government, and STATES and their Local Governments is divided into two parts. First, document security and Second, Personnel security.
Although it could be negotiated, in FEMA at one time almost 80% of all positions required a security clearance, usually at the SECRET level.
A blue ribbon panel was commissioned by Wallace B. Stickney to analyse the FEMA personnel security operation when Congressman John Conyers began a series of hearings that ultimately were deflected based on classification of certain FEMA programs, functions, and activities and the establishment of the Blue Ribbon Panel, coined the Trefry Commission over the 3 Star retired Army General who was most active in conducting the panel’s activities. The actual chair was General Andrew Goodpaster a retired 4 Star General who had started as the military officer in charge of the FDR map room that Churchill on a visit so admired. Two others who later were involved with FEMA also helped Clark Clifford run that map room for FDR. First, John Macey, the very first FEMA Director after its establishment by President James Earl Carter when he approved Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 on May 20, 1978 and transmitted it to Congress for approval. The Plan was implemented by Executive Orders 12127 and 12148. Once adopted it (the Plan) had the force and effect of statute under federal judicial caselaw. The other individual was George Elsey, considered for the FEMA Director job and who turned it down, and President of the American Red Cross for almost a quarter of a century.
Relying on the Trefry Report, James Lee Witt reduced the number of cleared personnel in FEMA by 45% and this allowed cooperation and collaboration on a scale that had never previously been accomodated.
Strangely perhaps President Obama has recently allowed OPM to issue a proposed revision to the definition of National Security Position and its regulatory implementation which has drawn NO comment as far as I can tell in academic circles, the National Security State actors writ large, and the Congress. Perhaps it is because President Obama is expanding the ranks of those who will need clearances that protest is limited or analysis restrained. Large military/industrial/academic complexes can only survive where secrecy allows that complex to hide from effective oversight. The current document classification and personnel security system is run very much like that of any authoritarian state that has no desire for interested persons to even understand its expenditures or activities. Secrecy may well kill our (US) democracy.
But for a brief shining moment, two brilliant and well versed Flag Rank officers helped FEMA to function as it should. What do I mean by that? First, there is no need to have a majority of personnel in FEMA to have security clearances. Second, the domestic crisis response and disaster response and recovery system needs to be transparent, trusted, and completely understood by all, including citizens and other levels of government. Who, when, how, where, what with respect to the cadres involved in Emergency Management must never be conducted or establishe in Secrecy. Basically Craig Fugate, a good man, has almost no knowledge of the fact that his agency has had its culture of openness under James Lee Witt destroyed and that culture twisted into one with a focus on terrorism, not all hazards.
The URL for the Trefry Report follows: