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Context of 'April 17, 1952: President Truman Signs Executive Order 10346, Orders Continuity Planning'

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President Harry Truman signs the National Security Act of 1947, reorganizing the military and overhauling the government’s foreign policy-making bureaucracy. The act gives birth to three major organizations: the Department of Defense (DOD), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council (NSC). The DOD unifies the three branches of the military—the Army, Navy and Air Force—into a single department overseen by a secretary of defense. The act establishes a separate agency, the CIA, to oversee all overt and covert intelligence operations. The act forms the NSC to directly advise the President on all matters of defense and foreign policy. In addition, the act establishes the National Security Resources Board (NSRB) to advise the President “concerning the coordination of military, industrial, and civilian mobilization” in times of war. Should the nation come under attack, the NSRB will be in charge of allocating essential resources and overseeing “the strategic relocation of industries, services, government, and economic activities, the continuous operation of which is essential to the Nation’s security.” (US Congress. House. Senate. 7/26/1947; Trager 11/1977)

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)

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; Lawrence 1/12/1951, pp. 7; Greenberg 2/20/2003; Henry B. Hogue and Keith Bea 6/1/2006, pp. 10 pdf file)

President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 10346, ordering the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) to coordinate “continuity” plans within the federal government. The plans will be designed to ensure the continuation of essential government functions in the event of a major disaster, such as a nuclear attack on Washington DC. According to the order, “each Federal department and agency shall prepare plans for maintaining the continuity of its essential functions at the seat of government and elsewhere during the existence of a civil-defense emergency.” In addition to the FCDA, the National Security Resources Board (NSRB), established by the National Security of Act of 1947, (See July 26, 1947), is to play an advisory role in the emergency plans. (Executive Order 10346 4/17/1952)


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