Federal Emergency Management Agency

From its Web site:

History of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency - an independent agency reporting to the President and tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disaster - can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803. This act, generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation, provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire. In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.

By the 1930s, when the federal approach to problems became popular, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was given authority to make disaster loans for repair and reconstruction of certain public facilities following an earthquake, and later, other types of disasters. In 1934, the Bureau of Public Roads was given authority to provide funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters. The Flood Control Act, which gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greater authority to implement flood control projects, was also passed. This piecemeal approach to disaster assistance was problematic and it prompted legislation that required greater cooperation between federal agencies and authorized the President to coordinate these activities.

The 1960s and early 1970s brought massive disasters requiring major federal response and recovery operations by the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, established within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Hurricane Carla struck in 1962, Hurricane Betsy in 1965, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The Alaskan Earthquake hit in 1964 and the San Fernando Earthquake rocked Southern California in 1971. These events served to focus attention on the issue of natural disasters and brought about increased legislation. In 1968, the National Flood Insurance Act offered new flood protection to homeowners, and in 1974 the Disaster Relief Act firmly established the process of Presidential disaster declarations.

However, emergency and disaster activities were still fragmented. When hazards associated with nuclear power plants and the transportation of hazardous substances were added to natural disasters, more than 100 federal agencies were involved in some aspect of disasters, hazards and emergencies. Many parallel programs and policies existed at the state and local level, compounding the complexity of federal disaster relief efforts. The National Governor's Association sought to decrease the many agencies with whom state and local governments were forced work. They asked President Jimmy Carter to centralize federal emergency functions.

President Carter's 1979 executive order merged many of the separate disaster-related responsibilities into a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Among other agencies, FEMA absorbed: the Federal Insurance Administration, the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, the National Weather Service Community Preparedness Program, the Federal Preparedness Agency of the General Services Administration and the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration activities from HUD. Civil defense responsibilities were also transferred to the new agency from the Defense Department's Defense Civil Preparedness Agency.

John Macy was named as FEMA's first director. Macy emphasized the similarities between natural hazards preparedness and the civil defense activities. FEMA began development of an Integrated Emergency Management System with an all-hazards approach that included "direction, control and warning systems which are common to the full range of emergencies from small isolated events to the ultimate emergency - war."

The new agency was faced with many unusual challenges in its first few years that emphasized how complex emergency management can be. Early disasters and emergencies included the contamination of Love Canal, the Cuban refugee crisis and the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. Later, the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 focused major national attention on FEMA. In 1993, President Clinton nominated James L. Witt as the new FEMA director. Witt became the first agency director with experience as a state emergency manager. He initiated sweeping reforms that streamlined disaster relief and recovery operations, insisted on a new emphasis regarding preparedness and mitigation, and focused agency employees on customer service. The end of the Cold War also allowed Witt to redirect more of FEMA's limited resources from civil defense into disaster relief, recovery and mitigation programs.

Witt's plans were put to the test by the Great Midwest Flood of 1993 and California's massive Northridge Earthquake in January,1994. The agency's transformation was recognized as an integral part of the Clinton Administration's efforts to reinvent government and in 1995 President Clinton recognized the agency's accomplishments in his State of the Union address.

Today, FEMA - a 2,500-person agency supplemented by over 5,000 stand-by disaster reservists - has a mission to provide leadership and support, reduce the loss of life and property, and protect the nation from all types of hazards. FEMA provides preparedness and response and recovery support to the nation and, through Project Impact, provides leadership in preventing and reducing risk before disaster strikes. Initiated in October 1997, Project Impact focuses on creating disaster-resistant communities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. By taking action before disaster strikes, FEMA hopes to reduce the amount of federal money spent on picking up the pieces after a disaster - and hopes to reduce the risks for property loss and loss of life that every state faces.

Updated: May 28, 1999

[Ed's note: This is the public image of FEMA; we all know what the reality is from the work of Dr. Boylan in his description of The Shadow Government.

Bush puts FEMA in Charge of
Domestic Terrorism Response

by James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times Staff Reporter
May 9, 2001

Permission could not be granted to reprint this article but the Los Angeles Times Editorial staff person stated that I could make you aware of the story and direct you to their archives where you can read it there. Go to; click on Archives which is at the top of the main page. Type in "homeland defense" and press enter. You will see the very beginning of the article. The only problem is that you will have to pay to read the entire article. I don't know if you would be willing to do that and I don't know if you even need to read the entire article because we all know that terrorism is initiated by the U.S. government. If you don't know that, you do now.


TRUE DEMOCRACY     SUMMER 2001     Copyright © 2001 by News Sourse, Inc.