Order Code RS22023
January 11, 2005
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Organization and Mission of the Emergency
Preparedness and Response Directorate:
Issues During the 109th Congress
Specialist, American National Government
Government and Finance Division
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) vests in the Emergency
Preparedness and Response Directorate (EPR) of the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) authority to coordinate specified federal emergency management activities. The
law consolidated many, but not all, federal emergency authorities and resources into
EPR. This report briefly describes the entities that constitute EPR and identifies issues
that may come before the 109th Congress. This report will be updated as significant
events implementing the legislation occur.
Overview of Provisions. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 established 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 include the following:
promotion of the effectiveness of emergency responders;
support of the Nuclear Incident Response Team through standards,
training exercises, and provision of funds to named federal agencies;
provision of the federal response by managing, directing, overseeing,
and coordinating specified federal resources;
creation of an intergovernmental national incident management system
to guide responses;
consolidation of existing federal response plans into one plan; and,
Section 501, P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 311.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
development of programs for interoperative communications for
The statute transferred 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 (IHIS) 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;5
the Domestic Emergency Support Teams (DEST) of the Department of
Justice and related functions of the Attorney General;6
the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) 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 (SNS) of HHS and related functions of
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.8 Short
profiles of the seven entities begin below.
Sec. 502, P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 312.
Section 430 of P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 238, transferred the terrorism preparedness
responsibilities of FEMA’s Office of National Preparedness to the Office for Domestic
Preparedness (ODP) to be established in the Border and Transportation Security Directorate of
DHS. On March 26, 2004, Secretary Ridge of DHS exercised his reorganization authority (Sec.
872 of P.L. 107-296) and transferred ODP to the Office for State and Local Government
Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP) within the Office of the Secretary.
The act renames the system “FIRESAT.” Sec. 503(20), P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 313(2).
Funding for this program has not been authorized since FY2000.
According to one news report, NDPO has not operated since 2001. See Jason Peckenpaugh,
“Homeland Security Bill Would Reorganize Federal First Responder Programs,” GovExec.com,
Nov. 14, 2002. For background information see [http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress00/
dwatson.htm], visited Jan. 5, 2005.
DEST is a stand-by interagency team of experts that provides 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. DEST has no permanent staff at the FBI or at any
other federal agency.
Sec. 503, P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 313(6). However, SNS is no longer part of the EPR mission.
The Project Bioshield Act of 2004 (Sec. 3, P.L. 108-276) authorizes the Secretary of HHS, “in
coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security,” to administer the SNS.
Sec. 504 and 506, P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 314, 316.
The act also (1) 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 public health-related
activities; (2) summarizes the role of FEMA to include “leading and supporting” a
national emergency management program; (3) requires the DHS Secretary to use private
sector resources to respond to disasters “to the maximum extent practicable;” and, (4)
expresses the sense of Congress that, “to the maximum extent possible”, commercially
available technologies should be used by DHS.9
Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency assists individuals, states and localities, and certain non-profit
organizations that have been overwhelmed by significant catastrophes, including terrorist
attacks.10 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
in planning for the continuity of much of the federal government should national security
be threatened. Figure 1 of this report presents an organizational chart of FEMA. The
Undersecretary of EPR also serves as the director of FEMA.
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).11 The
NDMS is a partnership of four federal agencies (HHS, FEMA, and the Departments 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 Medical Response System (MMRS) program, which provides funding to
cities that upgrade and improve their own planning and preparedness to respond to masscasualty events. A total of 122 municipalities are now participating in the MMRS
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
Sec. 505- 509, P.L. 107-296.
Primary authority for disaster assistance rests with the President through the Robert T. Stafford
Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act), 42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.
Through Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and Executive Orders 12127 and 12148, most, but
not all, of the President’s authority in the Stafford Act was delegated to the director of FEMA,
now the Undersecretary of EPR.
For more information on the NDMS, see [http://ndms.dhhs.gov], visited Apr. 1, 2003.
For more information, see [http://mmrs.hhs.gov], visited Apr. 1, 2003.
Nuclear Security Administration. This includes the Nuclear Emergency Support Team
(NEST)13 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).14
Members of the 109th Congress might examine issues related to EPR such as the
Reconsidering EPR Missions and FEMA’s Structure. Under the Homeland
Security Act FEMA retains responsibility for “leading and supporting the Nation in a
comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program.”15 The Homeland Security
Act, however, transferred terrorism preparedness authority from FEMA to ODP. More
recently, EPR/FEMA lost other responsibilities, including:
management of the Strategic National Stockpile;
administration of the Assistance to Firefighters program and the
Emergency Management Performance Grant program;16 and,
coordination of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.17
The transfer of functions from EPR/FEMA indicates that policymakers believe that
certain emergency preparedness and response elements should be administered by entities
other than EPR. One Member of Congress, questioning this approach, remarked during
consideration of FY2005 appropriations legislation that “More and more, FEMA’s main
responsibilities are being stripped away. Ultimately, this will impact the agency’s
responsiveness to emergencies across the country, both natural and manmade.”18
The final report issued by the former Inspector General for DHS (Clark Kent Ervin)
included the following assessment: “Integrating its many separate components into a
single, effective, efficient, and economical department remains one of DHS’ biggest
challenges.”19 The transfer of functions from EPR appears to be seen as at least one
answer to this finding.
See [http://www.nv.doe.gov/news&pubs/dirpdfs/NEST_Final_June2002.pdf], visited Jan. 5,
For more information see [http://www.epa.gov/radiation/rert/], visited Jan. 5, 2005.
Sec. 507(a)(2), P.L. 107-296.
P.L. 108-334, 118 Stat. 1310.
P.L. 108-360, 118 Stat. 1671.
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security,
Department of Homeland Security Appropriations for 2005, hearing, Mar. 24, 2004 (Washington:
GPO, 2004), p. 116.
Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Major Management
Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security, OIG-05-06 (Washington: 2004), p. 1.
Members of the 109th Congress might elect to consider reorganization options for
EPR, including maintenance of the current structure. One possible alternative, presented
in a report on DHS organizational issues, recommends that response missions be
consolidated into FEMA, that all preparedness functions be transferred to an
Undersecretary for Protection and Preparedness, and that EPR be eliminated.20 During
consideration of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress debated retaining FEMA
as an independent agency within DHS. Congress might elect to reconsider that option.
To what extent can it be argued that other EPR functions might be considered for
migration out of EPR? What criteria should be used to identify which emergency
preparedness and response functions should be included in EPR? What factors will be
considered in evaluating the most efficient and effective organizational option?
FBI Coordination. While the Act transferred the DEST functions from the FBI
to the EPR Directorate, some are likely to maintain 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. Congress could be asked to consider
the impacts of the transfer of DEST from the FBI and the degree to which EPR has used
DEST resources since 2002?
Disaster Warning Systems. The incorporation of IHIS into EPR was intended
to facilitate collaboration and sharing of federal resources to improve natural disaster
monitoring capabilities. The tsunami that struck Southeast Asia at the end of 2004 has
raised awareness throughout the world of the need for monitoring systems. Possible
issues for Congress include whether IHIS should be reauthorized and funded in FY2006
and is the role of the Domestic Warning Center (DWC) used by the Department of
Defense (NORTHCOM) to track disasters?21 How do those capabilities and resources
relate to the systems operated by DHS? Should the mission of EPR be reconsidered in
light of this capability?
Public Health. The transfer of OEP in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was
intended to improve coordination among federal emergency health programs and reduce
points of contact for state and local officials. Public health officials stress that it is
important for the EPR to develop strong relationships with HHS. Potential issues include
the lessons learned over the past two years regarding OEP activities and coordination
between DHS and HHS?
James Jay Carafano and David Heyman, DHS2.0: Rethinking the Department of Homeland
Security (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2004), p. 17.
For information on NORTHCOM, see CRS Report RS21322, Homeland Security:
Establishment and Implementation of Northern Command, by Christopher Bolkcum and
Figure 1. Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate, Federal Emergency Management Agency