President Obama signed a national-security directive last week designed to put the administration's imprint on the way the nation responds to major emergencies, including terrorism, National Journal has learned.
A senior administration official said that congressional committees were briefed on Tuesday night on the Presidential Policy Directive, which bears the title of “National Preparedness.” The official said the text would be made public later this week. It is not clear if any annexes will be classified. The directive sets government policy as informed by a National Security Staff review that was completed earlier this year.
According to a summary of the directive given to National Journal, the administration preserves core elements of the Bush administration’s emergency preparedness plan, which was released in 2003. It makes Homeland Security grants contingent on performance and on how the Homeland Security Secretary assesses need and the quality of response plans.
But the Obama directive places significant emphasis on an “all-of-nation” “all-hazards” approach to disasters, fusing together the capabilities of federal, state, and local authorities to respond to crises. It refocuses government resources on mitigation—preventing catastrophes from getting worse—and resilience—how communities actively respond to and recover from a major disaster.
An official said that the new policy guidelines were developed in the wake of several disasters, including the H1N1 flu pandemic and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The directive also “instructs the Department of Homeland Security to set up a National Preparedness System," which the summary says “will enable the nation to achieve the goal” of maximum preparedness and to undertake “a comprehensive campaign to build and sustain national preparedness; and an annual National Preparedness Report to measure progress in meeting the goal.”
The directive also calls for closer collaboration with the private sector and for better and more effective ways for the government to communicate with communities during crises.
Presidential Policy Directives carry the force of executive orders, but they originate from the National Security Council and can be classified. President George W. Bush issued dozens of orders, many of them without any public notice. Last September, Obama signed a policy directive on global engagement, the first of its kind. It was his sixth. Only the text of his first, which spelled out the duties of the National Security Council, has been released, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks the directives.