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New Department to Ensure Nation Prepares to Respond

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2002 – The upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is a vivid reminder that the nation must be prepared to respond to acts of terrorism and other disasters.

Ensuring the nation's preparedness for such emergencies would be one of the main missions of the Homeland Security Department proposed by President Bush. White House officials say the department would ensure emergency response professionals are prepared, provide the federal government's response and help the nation recover from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The consequences of such national emergencies are wide- ranging, White House officials said. They include loss of life and health, destruction of families, fear and panic, loss of confidence in government, destruction of property and disruption of commerce and financial markets. The new department would lead federal efforts to promote recovery.

Department personnel would work with federal, state and local public safety organizations to build a national incident management system. The new system would streamline federal incident management procedures and consolidate existing federal emergency response plans.

A top priority would be to develop a communications system linking the hundreds of offices across the government and the country that would be involved in emergency response efforts. White House officials said the current system has not yet supplied the emergency response community with the technology needed for this mission.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency would be one of the new department's key components, White House officials said. Homeland Security personnel would continue FEMA's efforts to reduce the loss of life and property and to protect the nation's institutions through a "comprehensive, risk-based, all-hazards emergency management program of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery," officials said.

Department personnel would work to change a reactive emergency management culture into a proactive one that helps communities and citizens avoid becoming victims, the officials added.

Local and state first responders such as firefighters and policy and emergency medical personnel would apply to the new department for federal grant programs currently managed by the Health and Human Services and Justice departments and FEMA. Homeland Security personnel would develop and manage a national training and evaluation system to design curricula, set standards, and evaluate and reward performance in local, state and federal training efforts.

The department would be responsible for federal emergency response efforts. It would coordinate such federal assets as the National Guard and direct other federal assets such as nuclear emergency search teams and the National Disaster Medical System.

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