CIVIL DEFENSE: THE FORD ADMINISTRATION: United States. 1974-1976. In 1975 the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency initiated new efforts at the direction of Secretary of Defense Schlesinger to improve preparedness for nuclear attack through the development of Crisis Relocation Plans. In February 1975 the Secretary of Defense’s annual report advanced two key reasons supporting crisis evacuation as a civil defense strategy: (1) to be able to respond to Soviet evacuations, eliminating their value as a tool for intimidation during a developing crisis, and (2) to reduce civilian casualties if a countervalue attack occurred.
Crisis Relocation Planning was to become the flashpoint in future debates as to the effectiveness of civil defense measures. However, the decision to develop evacuation planning was possibly one of the most thoroughly considered decisions made in the history of civil defense programs. A range of research was attempted (although the methods and integrity of the research process came under fire subsequently) on such key components as the problems of moving large populations, the ability to support them with food and medical care, and the ability of the infrastructure to support these relocated populations under crisis conditions. Political support for the program was garnered through discussions with the President of the professional association of state civil defense directors and approximately 20% of the state directors at the time. Funding for planner positions was included in the mix, and, as a result, some level of planning effort was underway in most states in the 1976-1977 time period.
Budget issues continued to influence civil defense policy and program focus, as they had in previous administrations. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld submitted a Fiscal Year (FY) 1977 civil defense budget request for $124 million, approximately a 50% increase from the FY 1976 budget. This request reflected the Department of Defense’s assessment that civil defense capabilities required improvement as well as the realities of supporting dual-use as directed by the Nixon administration’s NSDM 184.
However, the Office of Management and Budget directed this request be cut to half the FY 1976 budget funding level, setting the stage for the financial gutting of the dual-use doctrine. The Office based the cuts on the increasing orientation of civil defense toward disaster response, a state and local responsibility which did not require Federal funding. This was reinforced by redirection of funding entirely to nuclear attack preparedness. Negotiations within the Executive Branch finally resulted in a request for $76 million, reflecting a 12% real decrease in funding levels from FY 1976. Congress finally appropriated $87 million, a 6% real decrease, and the first time ever that Congress had increased civil defense funding above the level an administration requested.
The final language of the budget preserved the focus on attack preparedness. Thus, the Office of Management and Budget’s action reversed Department of Defense policy and a National Security Council decision to encourage improvement of capabilities to respond to disasters as part of civil defense, actually weakening the program and increasing dissatisfaction of state and local governments with Federal policy.
Blanchard, B. Wayne, American Civil Defense 1945-1984: The Evolution of Programs and Policies, Washington, DC, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1986. Dowling, John, “FEMA: Programs, problems, and accomplishments,” in John Dowling and Evans M. Harrell, editors, Civil Defense: A Choice of Disasters, New York, NY, American Institute of Physics, 1987, pp. 33-45.