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Context of 'September 8, 1939: President Roosevelt Reorganizes Executive Office of the President, Office of Emergency Management Created'

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Franklin D. Roosevelt ushers in a massive expansion and reorganization of the federal government under his “New Deal,” in an attempt to counter the lasting effects of the Great Depression that began in 1929. Passed by Congress, the New Deal legislation greatly expands the federal bureaucracy (see September 8, 1939), and gives sweeping new powers over domestic issues to agencies contained within the executive branch and not always subject to Congressional oversight. The Supreme Court rules that many of these actions are unconstitutional, but when Roosevelt threatens to “pack” the Court by expanding its size and then appointing sympathizers to vote his way, the Court capitulates and upholds the New Deal legislation. In 2009, reporter and author Charlie Savage will write that the Court’s decision “enabl[ed] the rise of the modern administrative state inside the executive branch.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 18]

Entity Tags: Charlie Savage, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8248, reorganizing the Executive Office of the President. According to the order, “There shall be within the Executive Office of the President the following principal divisions, namely: (1) The White House Office, (2) the Bureau of the Budget, (3) the National Resources Planning Board, (4) the Liaison Office for Personnel Management, (5) the Office of Government Reports, and (6) in the event of a national emergency, or threat of a national emergency, such office for emergency management as the President shall determine.” The order creates the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), a civil defense unit responsible for protecting government functions in the event of a disaster. The President’s Secretary declares that in times of national emergency, “it has always been necessary to establish administrative machinery in addition to that required for normal work of the government.… Although these management facilities need be brought into action only when an emergency or serious threat of emergency exists, they must function in an integral relationship to the regular management arms of the President.” [Executive Order 8248, 9/8/1939; New York Times, 9/10/1939; New York Times, 3/28/1941; New York Times, 4/20/1941]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 10186, shifting many responsibilities of the National Security Resources Board (NSRB), which oversees federal emergency planning, to a new civil defense organization, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). The FCDA is placed within the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), an agency established as part of the Executive Office of the President years earlier by President Franklin Roosevelt (see September 8, 1939). The purpose of the FCDA, according to President’s Truman’s order, “shall be to promote and facilitate the civil defense of the United States in cooperation with several States.” [Executive Order 10186, 12/1/1950] The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 will be signed into law weeks later, establishing the FCDA as an independent agency and detailing the organization’s responsibilities (see January 12, 1951)

Entity Tags: Federal Civil Defense Administration, Harry S. Truman, Office of Emergency Management

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President Harry S. Truman signs the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950. The Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), established weeks earlier within the Executive Office of the President (see December 1, 1950), is transformed into an independent agency headed by a presidential appointee. The FCDA is placed in charge of providing emergency aid and assistance to local communities affected by disasters. The act also provides special emergency powers to the FCDA and the President in the event of a national crisis. According to President Truman, the act establishes a “basic framework for preparations to minimize the effects of an attack on our civilian population, and to deal with the immediate emergency conditions which such an attack would create.” According to the New York Times, “The measure directs the Federal Government to provide leadership to states and communities in developing arrangements to protect civilian life and property in the country’s 150 critical target areas against possible enemy attack by atomic bombs, biological or bacteriological warfare or any other technique.” The new civil defense plans are estimated to cost $3.1 billion. The FCDA will distribute brochures and produce television and radio segments aimed at preparing the general public for a nuclear attack. The FCDA will also stage drills and exercises to test public and government readiness for such a disaster. The agency will become infamous for encouraging civilians to “duck and cover” in the event of a nuclear strike. [Statement by the President Upon Signing the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, 1/12/1951; New York Times, 1/12/1951, pp. 7; Slate, 2/20/2003; Henry B. Hogue and Keith Bea, 6/1/2006, pp. 10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Harry S. Truman, Federal Civil Defense Administration

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958 is signed into law, merging the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) and the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) into a single agency, the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM). The OCDM will be responsible for ensuring the continuation of essential government and industry functions in the event of a national emergency. President Dwight D. Eisenhower submitted the reorganization plan to Congress in April 1958 with the intention of establishing a “single pattern with respect to the vesting of defense mobilization and civil defense functions.” In addition to merging the civil defense agencies, the reorganization plan transfers to the president the authorities previously delegated to the FCDA and the ODM (see December 1, 1950 and December 16, 1950). [Message of the President, 4/24/1958; US Congress. House. Senate., 7/1/1958]

Entity Tags: Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, Federal Civil Defense Administration, Office of Defense Mobilization, Dwight Eisenhower

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Office of Emergency Planning, which is responsible for parts of the federal government’s civil defense and continuity of government plans, is renamed the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP). Federal agencies responsible for emergency planning have undergone several duty and title changes over the past two decades (see December 1, 1950, December 16, 1950, June 12, 1953, July 1, 1958, and July 20, 1961). The changes, the New York Times notes, have created a “tale of more names than even government civil servants care to remember.” The latest change is largely superficial and comes as the result of Public Law 90-608, which was drafted and presented to Congress by President Johnson. [New York Times, 12/14/1968, pp. 19]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Preparedness (1968-1973), Office of Emergency Planning, Lyndon B. Johnson

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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