REORGANIZATION PLAN NO. 3: United States 1977-1979. On June 19,1978 the Carter Administration transmitted to Congress Reorganization Plan No. 3. The plan, developed by a White House team under the leadership of Greg Schneiders, created the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with a proposed effective date of the reorganization of April 1, 1979. Under the plan, the civil defense and disaster response responsibilities of the Secretaries of Defense, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development were transferred to the new agency, along with a number of agencies and offices that performed these functions (see Civil Defense and Emergency Management Organizational History). Although all three Secretaries opposed this reorganization, there was little Congressional opposition, and the proposal was overwhelmingly supported by state and local officials as simplifying their relationship with Federal counterparts.
Two areas attracted significant attention. The transfer of the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration was controversial, and the role of fire protection in the Federal Emergency Management Agency has remained a source of controversy. However, the main point of concern was that raised by Defense Secretary Harold Brown, who expressed reservations that civil defense against nuclear attack would become programmatically less important that defense against nuclear attack. In response to this concern President Carter indicated that the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council would continue to have oversight of Agency civil defense programs.
Subsequent New York Times coverage suggested that the Federal Emergency management Agency would actually emphasize civil defense in response to Soviet efforts to protect their population from nuclear attack. The New York Times story indicated President Carter had overruled the concerns of both Secretary Brown and Paul Warnke that an increased emphasis on civil defense would encourage the development of a new strategic concept envisioning scenarios in which the United States could fight and win a nuclear war. Both Brown and Warnke had previously expressed reservations about the viability of civil defense and the desirability of a larger program to match Soviet efforts. On the other hand James McIntyre, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, stated that the reorganization was not designed to change defense strategy.
Among civil defense advocates, another significant concern surfaced – who would head the agency? Walter Murphey, editor of the Journal of Civil Defense, suggested the need for “an individual with the background, the personality, the initiative, the flair and the perception to bring the CD program to a point where it will provide America with a credible defense umbrella” (20). His candidates included Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, General Daniel Graham, and astronaut Frank Borman.
Nye Stevens, Director of Reorganization Plan No. 3, highlighted some of the issues involved in the appointment of the new Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the October 1978 meeting of the American Civil Defense Association. The Director would report directly to the President, chair the White House Emergency Management Committee, and operate at the Cabinet and White House levels, dealing with Governors, intergovernmental relationships, and Congress. The position was designated an Executive Level 2, of which there were only a very limited number of appointments (12 to 14) at that time. Stevens suggested that none of the heads of the agencies being consolidated into the Federal Emergency Management Agency had the requisite breadth of experience or stature to be appointed to the position.
Strope, Jerry, “Reorganization at Last,” Journal of Civil Defense, Volume XI, Number 4, August 1978, p. 5. Murphey, Walter, “Step One, Step Two ….” Journal of Civil Defense, Volume XI, Number 4, August 1978, p. 20. Staff of the Journal of Civil Defense, “Summit Challenge: A Staff Report,” Journal of Civil Defense, Volume XI, Number 6, December 1978, pp.6-12.