The Carter Administration sought the creation of FEMA after the nation’s emergency response plans came under strong criticism for being disorganized and spread across numerous bureaucratic agencies. 3 of 1978 and Executive Order 12127, FEMA will now consolidate several disaster and emergency preparedness agencies into a single agency within the executive branch. FEMA will incorporate the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, the Federal Preparedness Agency, the Federal Insurance Administration, the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, the National Fire Academy, and the Community Preparedness Program.
It will also take over several programs formally run out of the Executive Office of the President, including those pertaining to earthquake preparedness, management of terrorist attacks, dam safety, and the nation’s emergency warning and broadcasting systems.
Upon its establishment, FEMA absorbs the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) and the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which were previously responsible for the top-secret plans (see April 1, 1979).
During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, FEMA’s budget and workforce are overwhelming geared towards the COG program (see 1982-1991 and February 1993). FEMA remains in charge of overseeing the government’s continuity plans up to present day.
Giuffrida is confirmed by the Senate to become the next director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Guiffrida, who was recently promoted to the rank of general in the California National Guard, served under President Reagan when Reagan was governor of California. The board will consist of 11 separate working groups: industrial mobilization, military mobilization, food and agriculture, government operations, emergency communications, civil defense, social services, human resources, health, law enforcement and public safety, and economic stabilization and public finance. The EMPB will later be criticized for becoming overly powerful and militarizing the nation’s emergency management programs. Since its creation, FEMA has been secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to keep the government functioning in times of national emergency (see April 1, 1979-Present). The plans are developed under the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is designed to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of disaster.
As a member of the National Security Council (NSC), North is assigned to the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (EMPB), formed by President Reagan to coordinate civil defense planning among the NSC, FEMA, and White House (see December 29.
During investigations into the Iran-Contra affair, Representative Jack Brooks (D-TX) will be barred from asking North about his involvement with the plans and the secret program (see 1987).
The MERS vehicles, crafted out of 18-wheel tractor-trailer trucks, are meant to provide federal leaders with the ability to not only escape a nuclear attack, but also monitor information and communicate with the rest of the government while on the move. The MERS units cost billions of dollars to develop and are packed with sophisticated technology. When the first two MERS prototypes are tested in 1984, one gets wedged beneath a highway overpass because it is too tall, while the other causes a road to collapse because it is too heavy. The communication system at the heart of the Continuity of Government program does not function properly from late 1985 until at least December 1990 (see Late 1985 and December 1990).


Despite the complications, FEMA eventually constructs 300 MERS vehicles and stations them at secure facilities in Washington State, Massachusetts, Denver, southern Georgia, and rural Texas.
In a memorandum later obtained by the Miami Herald, Brinkeroff describes how FEMA and the military would take over the country in the event of a crisis. The Brinkeroff memo resembles a paper written in 1970 by the current head of FEMA, Louis O. The directive authorizes a dramatic expansion of the highly secretive Continuity of Government (COG) procedures, intended to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of extreme national emergency. NSDD-55 will spawn a new wave of ultra-secretive programs and policies aimed at protecting the federal government during disasters, particularly in cases of prolonged nuclear war. A clandestine branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known as the National Preparedness Directorate, will oversee many of the revamped COG programs. Also around this time, a highly clandestine agency, the National Program Office (NPO), is established by way of a top-secret presidential directive (see (1982 -1991)). It is unclear, however, if this directive is NSDD-55, which is classified and never made public.
NSDD-55 will be briefly mentioned years later in media reports, but details of its contents will remain unknown. Cox News Service will mistakenly identify the order as National Security Directive 58, while the New York Times will report it was signed in January 1983.
Records gathered by the Federation of American Scientists will date the directive September 14, 1982. The program, which is currently being run out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is designed to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war.
Readiness Exercise 84, dubbed Rex-84 for short, consists of two separate parts, Alpha and Bravo, both of which are conducted in conjunction with a Joint Chiefs exercise known as Night Train 84. Smith learns the full extent of the plans upon reviewing a proposal by the Reagan administration to change Executive Order 11490 (see October 28, 1969).
The Reagan administration is holding the drafted changes, along with standby legislation to amend the 1950 Defense Resources Act (see September 25, 1984), in preparation for any emergency that may require a military-style takeover of the nation’s resources and population.
The plans cover a range of crisis situations, including a nuclear attack, natural disasters, and civil unrest. Before leaving office, Reagan will dramatically expand the government’s emergency powers and officially override Executive Order 11490 with Executive Order 12656 (see November 18, 1988). The legislation, which would be presented to Congress in the event of a crisis, would suspend the Constitution and give the president and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unprecedented powers to combat a disaster. The index contains the names and background information of approximately 12,000 individuals considered to be potential threats in times of crisis.


Documents later obtained by the Austin American-Statesman will reveal an internal struggle between FBI Director William Webster, who recommends the FBI maintain control of the list, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, who, along with Reagan adviser Robert McFarlane, demands the list be handed over to FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the clandestine National Program Office (see (1982 -1991)) will operate the facilities and oversee their construction. Within a year, Westerman will begin to report to government officials instances of waste, fraud, and abuse within the program (see 1986-1987). His job will be threatened in November 1987 (see November 1987) and his contract will be canceled in December of that year (see December 1987). Westerman will file a lawsuit against the government alleging FEMA burglarized Systems Evaluations’ offices in late 1987 (see Late 1987) and that the government launched a surveillance campaign against him (see November 1988).
The lawsuit will be frozen when the Justice Department opens an investigation of Westerman (see November 1988) and the suit will later be sealed after an in-depth report highlighting Westerman’s case is published by a major magazine (see August 8, 1989).
Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances, in 1990 (see 1990), and by November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). The announcement comes a day before a subcommittee is scheduled to officially approve a report detailing waste, fraud, and abuse at the nation’s disaster agency (see July 25, 1985).
Giuffrida is singled out in the report for improperly using agency funds and committing possible perjury, although he says his resignation is unrelated to the subcommittee’s investigation.
The 18-month subcommittee investigation finds mismanagement at the highest levels of the agency. The report describes improper awarding of no-bid contracts, the use of agency funds to build luxurious living quarters for FEMA officials, acceptance of gifts by officials from contractors, and questionable payments to contractors. Giuffida has used agency funds to pay for first class plane tickets for his wife’s travel. Villella, is accused of using government expenses to upgrade a chapel for his daughter’s wedding.
The report says the Triton Corporation, a FEMA contracted company, gave Giuffrida, Villella, and their wives tickets to a $250-a-plate fundraiser held by a private club with ties to the Republican Party.
It highlights conflicts in the sworn statements given to the subcommittee by Giuffrida and other agency officials, and recommends the Justice Department review their testimony for possible perjury.



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