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September 16, 1985: Presidential Directive Lays Out Government Plan for Responding to National Emergencies

President Ronald Reagan signs a directive that contributes to the modern era of “continuity planning,” which will ensure the maintenance of a functioning government in the event of a catastrophic attack on Washington, DC. This Continuity of Government (COG) plan will be activated for the first time on 9/11, in response to the terrorist attacks that day (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Gellman and Schmidt 3/1/2002; ABC News 4/25/2004) National Security Decision Directive 188 (NSDD 188), “Government Coordination for National Security Emergency Preparedness,” states that it is the policy of the United States to have capabilities at all levels of government to respond to a range of national security emergencies, “from major natural calamities to hostile attacks on the nation.” The US policy “includes an emergency mobilization preparedness program which provides an effective capability to meet defense and essential civilian needs during those emergencies.” The National Security Council (NSC) is assigned as the “principal forum” where the national security emergency preparedness policy will be considered, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is to “assist in the implementation of this policy through a coordinating role with the other federal agencies.” NSDD 188 also assigns responsibility for continuity planning to an interagency panel that includes the Office of Management and Budget, and the Defense, Treasury, and Justice Departments. (US President 9/16/1985; Gellman and Schmidt 3/1/2002) A subsequent executive order in 1988 will apply the COG plan to “any national security emergency situation that might confront the nation” (see November 18, 1988), and a presidential directive in 1998 will update it to specifically deal with the emerging threat posed by terrorists (see Early 1998 and October 21, 1998). (US President 11/18/1988; Clarke 2004, pp. 166-167 and 170; Arkin 6/4/2006)


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