Meet Louis O. Giuffrida

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane to put some prospective on the leadership at FEMA, and how Republicans staff important governmental positions.

On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan nonimated Louis O. Giuffrida to be Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

General Giuffrida was  president of the Specialized Management Services Co. and director of the California Specialized Training Institute.

In 1971 he left the Army and, at the request of Governor Ronald Reagan, organized the California Specialized Training Institute and has directed it since its inception. In addition, he served as an adviser on terrorism, emergency management, and other special topics for the office of the Governor of California. He was recently promoted to the rank of general in the California National Guard. General Giuffrida graduated from the University of Connecticut (B.A.) and Boston University (M.A.).

When Ronald Reagan came to power he gave FEMA vastly expanded executive emergency powers and appointed retired National Guard General Louis O. Giuffrida as his “emergency czar.” Giuffrida’s creation of contingency emergency plans to round up “militant negroes” while he was at the Naval War College caught the attention of then-Governor of California Reagan and his executive secretary Edwin Meese III.

As Governor, Reagan called on Giuffrida to design Operation Cable Splicer. Cable Splicer I, II and III were martial law plans to legitimize the arrest and detention of anti-Vietnam war activists and other political dissidents.

In 1971, Governor Reagan, with a $425,000 grant from the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, established a counterterrorism training center–the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI)–and made Giuffrida its commandant.

Shortly after he assumed the directorship of FEMA in 1981, Giuffrida had flooded high-level FEMA posts with friends from CSTI and the military police, had created a Civil Security Division of FEMA, and had established a Civil Defense Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland–based on the CSTI model. By 1984, the Center had trained one thousand civil defense personnel in survival techniques, counterterrorism and military police methods.

Giuffrida was able to shake up FEMA, reorganize it, bring in new blood, and establish a sound planning, programming, and budgeting system. He was able to establish good relationships with state and local officials and the associations. He was also able to establish a mechanism for interagency coordination-the EMPB-that dealt with national mobilization, nuclear attack preparedness, and civil emergency preparedness.

The short-term results were good. There was heightened interest and a slight increase in funding for nuclear attack preparedness. There was much work done on mobilization preparedness. There was a lot of work done on improving federal response to civil emergencies. An all-hazards approach was adopted, more work was done by the states, and training and education programs were increased and improved. Outdated emergency authorities were updated. A program to ensure continuity of civil government was instituted. For a few years, things went well.

The long-term results were mostly bad. Emphasis on civil emergency preparedness overtook nuclear attack preparedness, and the civil defense program was changed from its original purpose to focus almost entirely on natural disasters. National mobilization was resisted by the armed forces in favor of better standing forces.

The “new FEMA” forged by Giuffrida did not last long after his premature departure under fire for petty corruption. The EMPB was disestablished in 1985, only 4 years after it had been formed. In 1988, a new interagency coordination mechanism-the Federal Response Plan-was formed, but the plan covered only civil emergency preparedness. Only the system for coordination with state and local authorities survived to be a valuable asset in civil emergency preparedness.

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