The Rise of the National Security State: FEMA and the NSC

by Diana Reynolds


Since WWII, the U.S. government has had contingency plans in preparation for a large scale disaster or attack. However, during the last twenty-five years--beginning with civil unrest at the height of the Vietnam War--the government's plans have increasingly on focused ways of controlling political dissent.

On October 30, 1969 President Richard Nixon issued Executive Order 11490, "Assigning Emergency Preparedness Functions to Federal Departments and Agencies," which consolidated some 21 operative Executive Orders and two Defense Mobilization Orders issued between 1951 and 1966 on a variety of emergency preparedness matters.

In 1976 President Gerald Ford ordered the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency (FEPA) to develop plans to establish government control of the mechanisms of productions and distribution of energy sources, wages and salaries, credit and the flow of money in American financial institutions in any (heretofore undefined) "national emergency." This Executive Order (EO 11921) also indicated that, when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress could not review the matter for a period of six months.

Even arch-conservative activist Howard J. Ruff was quick to point out that, since the enactment of EO 11490, "The only thing standing between us and a dictatorship is the good character of the President and the lack of a crisis severe enough that the public would stand still for it."

While Ruff thought a national emergency might be used to destroy the free markets in the U.S. and take away the C.B. radios and guns of Americans, was alarmed for more rational and obvious reasons. In an editorial, the paper repeated Ruff's warning:

    "Executive Order No. 11490 is real, and only the lack of a crisis big enough, a president willing enough, and a public aroused enough to permit it to be invoked, separates us from a possible dictatorship, brought about under current law, waiting to be implemented in the event of circumstances which can be construed as a `national emergency.'"
President Carter evidently did not share this concern and, [in 1979], he signed Executive Order 12148 which created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency. This Presidential Directive mandated an interface between the Department of Defense (DOD) and FEMA for civil defense planning and funding.

When Ronald Reagan came to power he gave FEMA vastly expanded executive emergency powers and appointed retired National Guard General Louis O. Giuffrida as his "emergency czar." Giuffrida's creation of contingency emergency plans to round up "militant negroes" while he was at the Naval War College caught the attention of then-Governor of California Reagan and his executive secretary Edwin Meese III.

As Governor, Reagan called on Giuffrida to design Operation Cable Splicer. Cable Splicer I, II and III were martial law plans to legitimize the arrest and detention of anti-Vietnam war activists and other political dissidents.

In 1971, Governor Reagan, with a $425,000 grant from the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, established a counterterrorism training center--the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI)--and made Giuffrida its commandant.

Shortly after he assumed the directorship of FEMA in 1981, Giuffrida had flooded high-level FEMA posts with friends from CSTI and the military police, had created a Civil Security Division of FEMA, and had established a Civil Defense Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland--based on the CSTI model. By 1984, the Center had trained one thousand civil defense personnel in survival techniques, counterterrorism and military police methods.

From February to July of 1982, President Reagan signed a series of National Security Decision Directives (NSDD)--presidential decisions on national security objectives--on civil defense policy and emergency mobilization preparedness. While Reagan's real U.S. civil defense policy is contained in the classified NSDD 26, some of the law enforcement and public safety provisions of the policy are made public in NSDD 47. This National Security Decision Directive provides for an intensified counterintelligence effort at home and the maintenance of law and order in a variety of emergencies, particularly terrorist incidents, civil disturbances, and nuclear emergencies.

Reagan gave the National Security Council (NSC) authority over the planning for civil defense policy with its expanded civil security powers. He mandated the creation of a senior-level interdepartmental board, the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (EMPB), and charged it with responsibilities for policy and planning guidance, coordination of planning, resolution of issues, and monitoring progress.

The members of the EMPB were the Assistant for National Security Affairs (as its Chair), the DOD's Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and representatives from 10 other federal agencies. FEMA provided the staff, support secretariat and operational supervision for the EMPB and their working group on civil defense. According to then Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, by February 1983, the EMPB had prepared--and the President had approved--a national policy statement on emergency mobilization preparedness.

Oliver North served on the EMPB, having been assigned there from 1982 to 1984 by former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane. General Giuffrida was there too, providing operational supervision. By forming the EMPB, Ronald Reagan made it possible for a small group of people, under the authority of the NSC, to wield enormous power. They, in turn, used this executive authority to change civil defense planning into a military/police version of civil security.







Ok to Download, No Printing or Copying :


Online Articles:

Spotlight On

Browse Topics | Site Guide | Multimedia Bookstore | Magazine | Publications | Activists Resources

Political Research Associates

Copyright Information, Terms, and Conditions

Please read our Terms and Conditions for copyright information regarding downloading, copying, printing, and linking material on this site; our disclaimer about links present on this website; and our privacy policy.

Updates and Corrections