Order Code RS21367
Updated June 25, 2003
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Emergency Preparedness and
Response Directorate of the
Department of Homeland Security
Keith Bea, William Krouse, Daniel Morgan,
Wayne Morrissey, and C. Stephen Redhead
Congressional Research Service
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) requires the Emergency
Preparedness and Response Directorate (EPR) of the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) to coordinate federal emergency management activities. The law consolidates
federal emergency authorities and resources into EPR—but not terrorism preparedness
activities, which are administered by the Border and Transportation Security Directorate
within DHS. This report provides summaries of and references to the entities that
constitute EPR, as well as brief statements of issues that may come before the 108th
Congress. This report will be updated as significant events implementing the legislation
Overview of Provisions
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishes the Emergency Preparedness and
Response (EPR) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).1 The
mission of EPR is to improve the Nation’s capability to reduce losses from all disasters,
including terrorist attacks. Specific responsibilities for EPR set out in the legislation for
all disasters, including terrorist attacks, are the following:
promote the effectiveness of emergency responders;
support the Nuclear Incident Response Team through standards, training
exercises, and provision of funds to named federal agencies;
provide the federal response by managing, directing, overseeing, and
coordinating specified federal resources;
Section 501, P.L. 107-296.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
build an intergovernmental national incident management system to
consolidate existing federal response plans into one; and,
develop programs for interoperative communications for emergency
The statute transfers the functions, assets, personnel, and liabilities of the following
six entities into EPR—
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), except terrorism
the Integrated Hazard Information System previously administered by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the
Department of Commerce;4
the National Domestic Preparedness Office of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and related functions of the Attorney General;
the Domestic Emergency Support Teams of the Department of Justice and
related functions of the Attorney General;
the Office of Emergency Preparedness and related functions of the
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the
Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness; and,
the Strategic National Stockpile of HHS and related functions of the
A seventh entity, the Nuclear Incident Response Team (NIRT)—which is organized,
equipped, and trained by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection
Agency—has not been transferred to EPR but will continue to operate as an
organizational unit of EPR at the direction of the Secretary of DHS, as needed.6 Short
profiles of the seven entities begin on page 3 of this report.
The Act also:
directs the HHS Secretary to set goals and priorities and to collaborate
with the Secretary of DHS in developing a coordinated strategy
(including benchmarks and outcome measures for evaluating progress)
for all public health-related activities to improve state, local, and hospital
summarizes the role of FEMA to include “leading and supporting” a
national emergency management program involving the preparation for,
reduction of risks, response to, and recovery from, “any hazard” and
Sec. 502, P.L. 107-296.
Section 430 of P.L. 107-296 transfers terrorism preparedness responsibilities of FEMA’s Office
of National Preparedness to the Office for Domestic Preparedness to be established in the Border
and Transportation Security Directorate of DHS.
The Act renames the system “FIRESAT.” Section 503(2) of P.L. 107-296.
Section 503 of P.L. 107-296.
Sections 504 and 506 of P.L. 107-296.
serving as lead agency for the Federal Response Plan, which must be
requires the DHS Secretary to use private sector resources to respond to
disasters “to the maximum extent practicable;” and,
expresses the sense of Congress that, “to the maximum extent possible,”
commercially available technologies should be used by DHS.7
Profiles of EPR Components
Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) assists individuals, states and localities, and certain nonprofit organizations that have been overwhelmed by significant catastrophes, including
terrorist attacks. Federal emergency management assistance administered by FEMA
includes funding the reconstruction of damaged public facilities, providing cash grants to
victims of disasters, and facilitating access to temporary housing, among other types of
aid. FEMA also provides disaster planning and preparedness aid to state and local
governments, coordinates federal emergency management activities, and takes the lead
on planning for the continuity of much of the federal government should national security
Integrated Hazard Information System (IHIS). IHIS was transferred from the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to DHS, and its name was
changed to “FIRESAT.”9 IHIS, originally named the “Hazards Support System (HSS),
was a classified information system developed by the Department of Defense (DOD) in
1997 to compile data obtained from various satellites and sensors, such as those used to
detect ballistic missiles and others which continuously monitor weather conditions in the
United States. The Raytheon Company built HSS at a cost of nearly $27 million. In late
2000, after DOD tested the system, HSS was turned over to the U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS) in the Department of the Interior and renamed IHIS, where it would be used to
detect wildfires and volcanic eruptions around the world. However, Congress directed
USGS to cease expenditures on IHIS, apparently because of concerns about unauthorized
reprogramming of those funds.10 Since then, no funding has been authorized for IHIS.
The agreement by Congress and the Administration to move IHIS to DHS included “the
transfer of workstations, software, documentation, and its communications component.”11
However, the President did not request funding for FIRESAT for FY2004. During debate
Sections 505- 509 of P.L. 107-296.
For more information see: CRS Report RL31359, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Funding for Homeland Security and Other Activities, by Keith Bea; and the FEMA website at:
[http://www.fema.gov/about/what.shtm], visited Dec. 6, 2002.
Section 503, P.L. 107-296.
Personal communication with Helen M. Wood, Director, Office of Satellite Data and
Processing and Distribution, NOAA, Silver Spring, December 3, 2002.
on the rule to debate forest fire legislation (H.R. 1904) one Member of Congress raised
questions about the status of FIRESAT technology.12
National Domestic Preparedness Office. Through the National Domestic
Preparedness Office (NDPO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led the earliest
efforts to coordinate federal assistance to first responders in the area of domestic terrorism
preparedness. NDPO was established in the FBI by order of the Attorney General in
August 1998 to serve as a single point of contact—a “one-stop shop”—through which
state and local authorities could seek interagency assistance in the areas of planning,
training, equipment, and exercises to better prepare for domestic terrorist incidents—
particularly those involving weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). NDPO’s role was not
operational, and the Office was not responsible for producing intelligence, preempting
terrorist attacks, directly responding to terrorists attacks, or conducting investigations.
Prior to the homeland security debate, the functions of NDPO were transferred from the
FBI to FEMA as part of a wider and earlier effort by the Bush Administration to
consolidate all federal domestic preparedness programs in a single agency. One 2002
news report stated that “the office has been defunct since last year and has no employees,
but it never has been officially closed.”13
Domestic Emergency Support Teams. The Domestic Emergency Support
Team (DEST) is a stand-by interagency team of experts that can be quickly assembled in
accordance with pre-event scenarios and led by the FBI to provide an on-scene
commander (Special Agent in Charge) with advice and guidance in situations involving
a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), or other significant domestic threat. Such DEST
guidance could range from information management and communications support to
instructions on how to best respond to the detonation of a chemical, biological, or nuclear
weapon, or a radiological dispersal device. As specialized predesignated teams, DEST
has no permanent staff at the FBI or at any other federal agency.
Office of Emergency Preparedness. The Office of Emergency Preparedness
(OEP), previously part of HHS, is responsible for coordinating the federal government’s
emergency medical response to all types of terrorist attacks and natural disasters. This
responsibility includes managing the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS).14 The
NDMS is a partnership of four federal agencies (HHS, FEMA, the Department of Defense
and Veterans Affairs), state and local governments, and the private sector. It consists of
more than 8,000 volunteer health professionals and support personnel organized into
disaster assistance teams that can be activated and deployed anywhere in the country to
assist state and local emergency medical services. OEP also administers the Metropolitan
Rep. Curt Weldon, Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1904, Healthy Forests Restoration Act
of 2003, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 149,May 20, 2003, p. H4277. For further
discussion on FIRESAT, see “Integrated Hazards Management System,” in CRS Report
RL31791, Emergency Management Funding for the Department of Homeland Security, at
http://www.congress.gov/erp/rl/pdf/RL31791.pdf, visited June 18, 2003.
Jason Peckenpaugh, “Homeland Security Bill Would Reorganize Federal First Responder
Programs,” GovExec.com, Nov. 14, 2002, at: www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1102/111402pl.htm,
visited November 20, 2002.
For background information see:
[http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress00/dwatson.htm], visited Dec. 6, 2002.
For more information on the NDMS see: [http://ndms.dhhs.gov], visited Apr. 1, 2003.
Medical Response System (MMRS) program, which provides funding to cities that
upgrade and improve their own planning and preparedness to respond to mass-casualty
events. A total of 122 municipalities are now participating in the MMRS program15
Strategic National Stockpile. The Strategic National Stockpile (formerly the
National Pharmaceutical Stockpile) includes pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and other medical
supplies that can be deployed in the event of a bioterrorist attack or any other public
health emergency. The stockpile has two components: (1) Push Packages, each consisting
of a 50-ton shipment of preassembled medical supplies, which can be delivered to any
location in the country within 12 hours; and (2) Vendor Managed Inventory packages,
tailored to provide medical supplies specific to a suspected or confirmed biological or
Nuclear Incident Response Team. The Nuclear Incident Response Team
(NIRT) consists of certain radiological and nuclear emergency capabilities of the
Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The
DOE portion of NIRT is the Nuclear Weapons Incident Response program in the National
Nuclear Security Administration. This includes the Nuclear Emergency Support Team
(NEST),17 the Radiological Assistance Program (RAP),18 and other elements, including
a small component devoted to detection of biological agents. Approximately 900
individuals are involved in the Nuclear Weapons Incident Response program, but only 70
of these are full time, with the remainder drawn as needed from their primary
responsibilities in DOE’s nuclear weapons program. The EPA portion of NIRT is the
Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT).19
Members of the 108th Congress monitoring the impact of the consolidation of these
functions into EPR might examine such issues as the following:
FEMA retains responsibility for “leading and supporting the Nation in a
comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program.”20 With the
transfer of terrorism preparedness functions from FEMA to the Office of
Domestic Preparedness (ODP) in the Border and Transportation Security
Directorate (BTS) of DHS, extra effort will be required to coordinate
FEMA’s preparedness activities with those administered by ODP.
For more information see: [http://mmrs.hhs.gov], visited Apr. 1, 2003.
For more information see: [http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/nps], visited Dec. 6, 2002 .
See: [http://www.nv.doe.gov/news&pubs/dirpdfs/NEST_Final_June2002.pdf], visited Dec. 9,
For information on RAP see: [http://www.gjo.doe.gov/rap/], visited Dec. 9, 2002.
For more information see: [http://www.epa.gov/radiation/rert/], visited Dec. 9, 2002.
Section 507(a)(2) of P.L. 107-296.
The Administration’s reorganization plan indicates that the EPR
directorate will focus on response and recovery.21 Issues may arise as to
whether adequate attention is being given to preparedness and mitigation
While the Act transferred the DEST functions from the FBI to the EPR
Directorate, it is likely that the FBI will need to maintain some
capabilities along the lines of DEST in order to respond to domestic
terrorist incidents as the Nation’s lead investigative agency. How will
coordination be achieved within DHS?
The incorporation of IHIS into EPR is intended to facilitate collaboration
and sharing of federal resources that can contribute to federal disaster
response efforts. Are any of these systems or capabilities redundant?
How will concerns over access to classified or secure information be
The transfer of OEP, along with other emergency response teams and
assets, may improve coordination among federal programs, consolidate
program management and oversight, and reduce the points of contact for
state and local officials. With the focus on homeland security, however,
public health officials stress that it is important for the EPR to develop
strong relationships with HHS to help ensure that OEP and NDMS
maintain their responsibilities for responding to natural disasters.
Although the Homeland Security Act transferred the functions,
personnel, and assets of the Strategic National Stockpile to the EPR, the
law mandates that the HHS Secretary continue to manage the stockpile
and determine and procure its contents. The precise role of EPR,
therefore, remains unclear. Some analysts emphasize the stockpile’s
utility in the event of a naturally occurring public health emergency,
recommend that deployment decisions be made in consultation with CDC
and other public health agencies, and that oversight be fully integrated
with the nation’s public health system.
Among other responsibilities, the statute charges FEMA with “leading
and supporting the Nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency
management program.”22 However, the statute provides authority for the
Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, not
EPR, to engage in risk assessment.23 How will the results of such
assessments be communicated to EPR administrators?
Of the seven categories of functions described in the President’s reorganization plan, five
focus on response and recovery activities and two refer to preparedness activities. See: U.S.
President (Bush), Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan, (Washington, Nov.
25, 2002), pp. 14-15.
Section 507(a)((2) of P.L. 107-296.
Section 201(d) of P.L. 107-296.