The purpose of FEMA is to coordinate the response to a disaster which occurs in the United States and which overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities.
FEMA was established under the 1978 Reorganization Plan No. 3, and activated April 1, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter in his Executive Order 12127. In July, Carter signed Executive Order 12148 shifting disaster relief efforts to the new federal level agency. 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. FEMA was also given the responsibility for overseeing the nation’s Civil Defense, a function which had previously been performed by the Department of Defense’s Defense Civil Preparedness Agency.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton elevated FEMA to a cabinet level position and appointed James Lee Witt as FEMA Director. FEMA received authority for counter terrorism through the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici amendment under the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, which was a response to the recognized vulnerabilities of the U.S. after the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to better coordinate among the different federal agencies that deal with law enforcement, disaster preparedness and recovery, border protection and civil defense.
FEMA was absorbed into DHS in 2003.
FEMA Regional Administrators
Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, is a plan by the United States federal government to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of civil unrest or national emergency.
From 1982-84 Colonel Oliver North assisted FEMA in drafting its civil defense preparations. Details of these plans emerged during the 1987 Iran-Contra scandal. They included executive orders providing for suspension of the constitution, the imposition of martial law, internment camps, and the turning over of government to the president and FEMA.
A Miami Herald article on July 5, 1987, reported that the former FEMA director Louis Guiffrida’s deputy, John Brinkerhoff, handled the martial law portion of the planning. The plan was said to be similar to one Mr Giuffrida had developed earlier to combat “a national uprising by black militants”. It provided for the detention “of at least 21million American Negroes”‘ in “assembly centres or relocation camps”.
A number of websites and alternative publications that span the political spectrum have hypothesized upon the basic material about Rex 84, yet details have been shrouded in secrecy. Nonetheless, the basic facts about Rex 84 and other contingency planning readiness exercises–and the potential threat they pose to civil liberties if fully implemented in a real operation–are taken seriously by scholars and civil liberties activists.
According to scholar Diana Reynolds:
“The Rex-84 Alpha Explan (Readiness Exercise 1984, Exercise Plan; otherwise known as a continuity of government 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.”
In 2008, for the first time an active military unit has been given a dedicated assignment stateside for civil unrest containment.
It is assigned to Northcom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
In 2009, a bill introduced by Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL) in Congress sought to authorize the Department of Homeland Security to set up a network of FEMA camp facilities to be used to house U.S. citizens in the event of a national emergency. The National Emergency Centers Act or HR 645 mandates the establishment of “national emergency centers” to be located on military installations for the purpose of to providing “temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster,” according to the bill.
FEMA’s Response to Disaster
Thousands of seemingly helpless Americans were left languishing for days amidst chaos and anarchy before the government was willing to step in and help them.
While there were some accounts of heroic individuals taking charge of their destiny and doing something to help themselves and others in a deplorable situation, many in New Orleans sat helplessly by waiting for the government to rescue them.
New Orleans quickly fell into anarchy as Mayor Ray Nagin whimpered and whined about the federal government not acting fast enough… even though he never exercised his responsibility of taking command and control of the situation. Corpses lay abandoned in street medians, fights and fires broke out and storm survivors battled for seats on the buses that would carry them away from the chaos. Over 200 of the Mayor’s police force abandoned their posts in the bedlam and one tourist said when she asked a police officer for assistance — his response was, “Go to hell — it’s every man for himself.”
In the chaos and trauma that accompanied the levee collapses in New Orleans in 2005, the federal government’s response was to…
- FEMA discouraged qualified relief workers from coming to the area, going so far as to turn many back at gunpoint. They also turned away much needed supplies like water and fuel and sabotaged local communications lines.
- Thousands of flood victims were herded and held in concentration-like conditions within the city for many days after the flooding.
- The Bush administration and their friends in the news media did an extremely effective job of painting the victims of the flooding as dangerous and not worthy of being helped.
- Post-flood law enforcement did an extremely effective job of illegally seizing fire arms from hundreds of law abiding citizens while allowing criminals to run amok.
As tar balls from the BP oil spill wash into Galveston, Texas, Congressman Ron Paul slammed federal interference in the relief effort that is hampering local attempts to mitigate the consequences of the disaster, mimicking how the feds deliberately botched the response to hurricane Katrina and made the crisis worse. “A lot of local officials, property owners and state officials have wanted to do more over in Louisiana and Mississippi and the federal government, the fish and wildlife people, the EPA and others, they come in and they prohibit them from doing it,” said Paul.
It has become clear that the government deliberately botched the response and prevented local authorities from doing their jobs, just as FEMA deliberately sabotaged the state response to Hurricane Katrina in order to make the crisis worse and create the pretext for a police state response, gun confiscation and ultimately more federal power.