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

by Diana Reynolds


In January of 1982, FEMA and the Department of Defense issued a joint paper entitled, "The Civil/Military Alliance in Emergency Management" which specified many of the provisions of Reagan's policy on emergency mobilization preparedness. This document indicates that FEMA had been given emergency powers to acquire resources from federal and state agencies (including National Guard personnel) and the private sector (banking, communications, transportation, etc.) "for use in civil disturbance operations."

Apparently General Frank S. Salcedo, Chief of FEMA's Civil Security Division and Giuffrida's former colleague at CSTI, wanted more. In 1983, in a workshop at the annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Salcedo recommended expanding FEMA's power further in the areas of survivability training, research on imposing martial law, and the potential threat posed by foreign and domestic adversaries. As he saw it at least 100,000 U.S. citizens, from survivalists to tax protesters, were serious threats to civil security.

Salcedo saw FEMA's new frontier in the protection of industrial and government leaders from assassination, and of civil and military installations from sabotage and/or attack, as well as the prevention of dissident groups from gaining access to U.S. opinion or a global audience in times of crisis.


While improving capabilities to respond to civil security emergencies was for the most part a planning activity with the Reagan Administration, FEMA was also active in exercises to test these plans. In 1981, FEMA and DOD began a continuing tradition of biannual joint exercises to test civilian mo,bil,ization, civil security emergency and counterterrorism plans using such names as "Proud Saber/Rex-82," "Pre-Nest," and "Rex-84/Night Train."

The Rex-84 Alpha Explan (Readiness Exercise 1984, Exercise Plan), indicates that FEMA in association with 34 other federal civil departments and agencies conducted a civil readiness exercise during April 5-13, 1984. It was conducted in coordination and simultaneously with a Joint Chiefs exercise, Night Train 84, a worldwide military command post exercise (including Continental U.S. Forces or CONUS) based on multi-emergency scenarios operating both abroad and at home. In the combined exercise, Rex-84 Bravo, FEMA and DOD led the other federal agencies and departments, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Veterans Administration through a gaming exercise to test military assistance in civil defense.

The exercise anticipated civil disturbances, major demonstrations and strikes that would affect continuity of government and/or resource mobilization. To fight subversive activities, there was authorization for the military to implement government ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels, the arrest of certain unidentified segments of the population, and the imposition of martial rule.

Attorney General William French Smith finally became aware of the abuses of the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board operating under the NSC. He admonished McFarlane, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, who theoretically chaired the planning group. In a letter dated August 2, 1984, Smith responded to a request by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review, for form and legality, a draft Executive Order revising the powerful EO 11490, assigning emergency preparedness functions to federal departments and agencies. The Attorney General said that apart from the legal review by the Office of Legal Counsel,

    "...I believe that the draft Executive Order raises serious substantive and public policy issues that should be further addressed before this proposal is submitted to the President. In short I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness."

    "This Department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an `emergency czar' role for FEMA. Specific policy concerns regarding recent FEMA initiatives include the abandonment of the principle of `several' agency responsibility and the expansion of the definition of severe emergencies to encompass `routine' domestic law enforcement emergencies. Legal objections relate to the absence of Presidential or Congressional authorization for unilateral FEMA directives which seek to establish new Federal Government management structures or otherwise task Cabinet departments and other federal agencies."








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