from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 67
August 23, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


The Obama Administration plans to increase the frequency, rigor and realism of emergency planning exercises involving senior government officials and emergency responders in an effort to improve the nation's emergency preparedness.

"This administration understands and believes in the importance of exercising [for national emergencies] and requires that the most senior levels of government are involved in all aspects," wrote Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in an internal memorandum last week.

"Much has been accomplished through the implementation of the first generation of a national exercise program, however it is also critical that we continue to improve these programs," she wrote.

The Secretary directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to "develop a two-year progressive exercise program that increases the total number of exercises and culminates in a full-scale biennial intergovernmental National Level Exercise."

"Drills should be primarily no notice, or limited notice, and be conducted periodically during the two-year cycle by partners across DHS and the interagency, focusing on testing a single specific operation or function."

Functional level exercises are to be conducted "in settings such as they would experience during an actual event." The culminating National Level Exercise is to involve "actual 'boots on the ground' responders, with exercise elements driven by field actions rather than purely by scripted injects."

The National Exercise Program currently includes a planned 2011 exercise on terrorism, and a 2012 exercise on cyber terrorism. These previously planned exercises should adhere to the new standards "to the maximum degree practicable," Secretary Napolitano indicated.

"[A]n effective exercise program is the cornerstone of our nation's collective preparedness and resilience. Only by testing... can we be sure of the effectiveness of our plans for preventing, responding to an recovering from disasters and acts of terrorism and the preparedness of those charged with supporting and protecting the American people," she wrote.

A November 2008 report from the Congressional Research Service examined "Homeland Emergency Preparedness and the National Exercise Program: Background, Policy Implications, and Issues for Congress."


The White House issued an executive order last week to formalize procedures for sharing classified information with state, local and private sector entities. The new order does not alter or amend previous orders on national security classification or access to classified information, but it should facilitate increased sharing of classified information with non-federal officials.

The closest thing to a policy innovation in the new order seems to be a provision that "a duly elected or appointed Governor of a State or territory... may be granted access to classified information without a background investigation" once he or she has signed a non-disclosure agreement and "absent disqualifying conduct as determined by the clearance granting official" (Section 1.3b).

"Information sharing" in this context is a paradoxical term that also implies "information non-sharing" with those who are not cleared for access to the information. For that reason it is a mixed blessing that some otherwise qualified persons may choose to forgo. See Executive Order 13549 on "Classified National Security Information Program for State, Local, Tribal, and Private Sector Entities," August 18, 2010:


Newly published Congressional hearing volumes on national security-related topics include the following.

"Nomination of Stephen W. Preston to be General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency and Robert S. Litt to be General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence," Senate Intelligence Committee, May 21, 2009 (published August 2010):

"The Legal, Moral, and National Security Consequences of 'Prolonged Detention'," Senate Judiciary Committee, June 9, 2009 (published June 2010):

"National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats: Diplomacy and International Programs," House Foreign Affairs Committee, March 18, 2010 (published June 2010):


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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