CRS Report on PPD-8

PPD-8 is driving major changes in the our national disaster system.

by Eric Holdeman / November 28, 2011

The Congressional research Service (CRS) published a report on Presidential Policy Directive 8 and the National Preparedness System:  Background and Issues for Congress  It has been out on the street for over a month, but I finally got around to finishing reading the document and thought I'd share a few tidbits.

 

First of I'd like to commend it to your reading.  It provides a good analysis of what the current thinking is about how we should organize as a nation to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.  The good news is that the document is not that long, 24 pages and understanding the rationale for the changes underway back in D.C. is always helpful.

 

The first thing is that there is the change from the Target Capabilities List (TCL) to what they are calling Core Capabilities.  These are going to be written much more broadly so as to have more of an "all-hazard" feel and to be less scenario dependent.  On that note, the 15 scenarios that previously drove national level exercises and were to be the driving force for all exercises are fading quickly into history.  While they still exist, the emphasis on them is all but gone.  Their end goal is to have more flexible and adaptive planning.

 

I noted that they talk briefly (footnote) about slow-onset disasters that include threats like gradual sea-level rise are not being specifically addressed by the new set of frameworks that are being developed.  Like the frog, we like our water gradually warmed so as to cook us thoroughly.

 

There is a good explanation of each of the national frameworks and some guesses at what direction they will be taking.  I do like that fact that they have clarified that the National Prevention Framework will be focused on preventing an imminent terrorist threat.  This will finally clear up the confusion that was caused when back in the previous administration there was a move to replace the word mitigation in our disaster lexicon with the word prevention.  The challenge for this particular framework is that it delves into areas that typically have not been the purview of FEMA and for which there is a great deal of "intelligence turf" back in D.C.

 

One "Danger Will Robinson" item is the establishment of a National Mitigation Framework.  This is an entirely new ballgame and a great deal of work has been done in recent years by state and local jurisdictions to establish federally approved mitigation plans.  While some folks, especially consultants, may like rewriting documents to change to the current flavor of the month, there are not adequate resources to go reinventing the wheel at the state and local levels.  Hopefully wholesale changes in requirements will not be forthcoming that causes us to go back to the drawing board for our mitigation plans.  

 

The one frustrating element of all of this is the feeling that every new administration needs to come in and change things up.  I'm all for progress and you can see the "whole community" concept in PPD-8 which I think is a good thing.  Just let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater!