Newly Released Presidential Policy Directive 8 Indicates a Refocused Approach to National Preparedness

On March 30, 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-8, which provides revised federal guidance concerning homeland security and emergency management preparedness. Apart from a minor exception concerning some terminology, PPD-8 supersedes Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-8 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 Annex I. While much of PPD-8’s content will be familiar to those involved with homeland security, it contains some important new provisions. In spite of this, individual plans developed under the former guidance are still valid until rescinded or otherwise replaced. In general, PPD-8 increases emphasis on all-nation preparedness, building and sustaining key capabilities, and the use of assessment systems.

There are three overarching principles that run throughout PPD-8 and its requirements. The first of these is the increased emphasis on all-Nation preparedness, including enhanced collaboration between all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public. The second of these principles is building and sustaining key capabilities with sufficient flexibility, such that they can be adapted to meet the unique challenges of any incident. The third principle involves the use of assessment systems that can track the improvement of these capacities. Together these three principles undergird the activities that are specified in PPD-8.

First, the directive calls for the development of a national preparedness goal “that identifies core capabilities necessary for preparedness.” The Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS Secretary) responsible for developing and submitting this goal to the President by October 2011. Furthermore, the Secretary must coordinate the development of this goal with other executive departments and agencies, and must consult with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private sector, nonprofit entities, and the public.

The directive provides that this goal “shall define the core capabilities necessary to prepare for the specific types of incidents that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, and shall emphasize actions aimed at achieving an integrated, layered, and all-of-Nation preparedness approach that optimizes the use of available resources.” It emphasizes that this approach should consider risk in terms of the most specific threats and vulnerabilities and “include concrete, measurable, and prioritized objectives to mitigate that risk.”

Second, PPD-8 requires the development of a national preparedness system that “shall be an integrated set of guidance, programs, and processes that will enable the Nation to meet the national preparedness goal.” A description of this system must be submitted to the President this December. Again, the DHS Secretary must consult with stakeholders.

The national preparedness system will use an “all-of-Nation” approach for developing and sustaining homeland security preparedness across all levels of government, the private sector, nonprofit entities, and the public. This system will provide specific guidance for planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises, in order to build and maintain these capabilities. This system will be composed of a series of integrated national planning frameworks that will address the entire emergency management cycle of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. These frameworks are intended to leverage scalable, flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures in order to define roles and establish key capabilities. Each framework will provide guidance to assist State, local, tribal, and territorial governments in developing their own plans; including guidance on resources with emphasis on the ability to share personnel, equipment with a focus on nationwide interoperability, and training and exercise programs. Additional recommendations and guidance for preparedness and planning shall be provided to businesses, communities, families, and individuals.

The vision of the national preparedness system is to unify the various levels of government for dealing with incidents in a way that has been proposed before but never fully realized. To accomplish this, the national preparedness system shall include a series of interagency operational plans, which will be used to support each national planning framework. These plans will specify the concept of operations, tasks and responsibilities, personnel, and resources requirements. In order to implement these interagency operational plans, “all executive departments and agencies with roles in the national planning frameworks shall develop department-level operational plans to support the interagency operational plans.”

PPD-8 also requires the national preparedness system to include consistent methodology, clear objectives, and quantifiable performance measures to assess “the operational readiness of national capabilities at the time of the assessment” against the target capability levels that will be identified in the national preparedness goal. Coupled with this assessment will be a comprehensive campaign undertaken by the Secretary of Homeland Security “to build and sustain national preparedness.” This campaign will include public outreach and community-based and private-sector based programs supported with Federal financial assistances, federal government preparedness efforts, as well as national research and development projects.

Finally, PPD-8 requires a national preparedness report to be submitted within one year of the issuance of the directive based on progress made towards the national preparedness goal. The DHS Secretary will be responsible for preparing the report in consultation with other executive departments and agencies, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private sector, nonprofit entities, and the public. While the DHS Secretary serves as the lead for coordinating all-hazards preparedness efforts of all executive departments and agencies, it remains the responsibility to continue their efforts to build and sustain national preparedness capabilities consistent with their statutory responsibilities.

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