What does your government provide to you that you can’t possibly live without? And how did you let yourself get into a position where the government is providing it? When push really comes to shove, and the government activates its continuity plans, if you’re counting on that government service, you’re done for.
The federal government’s continuity of government plans date back to the Cold War, when it had plans and facilities to relocate essential people and functions in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. The program was one of the few government programs ever scrapped, after the Cold War came to a close.
But in 1998 President Clinton brought it back amidst the Y2K panic and the growing threat of terrorism. But he didn’t just bring back continuity of government for absolutely essential emergency functions. Now just about every part of the monstrous federal governemnt is in on the action, even agencies one wouldn’t think of as essential. And he placed the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of the program.
Yes, that FEMA.
The program, which sets up a “shadow government” which will operate from bunkers outside D.C. in the event of a catastrophic event, now requires every government agency to participate. It was actually called into operation on September 11, 2001, with about the results you’d expect: Bush and Cheney were protected, but everybody else was left hanging, all the way from Congress to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the who?).
William Arkin describes the program, and one of its drills, Forward Challenge ’06, coming later this month, in Sunday’s Washington Post.
A year after 9/11, and almost three years after the deadline set in Clinton’s 1998 directive, the Government Accounting Office evaluated 38 agencies and found that not one had addressed all the issues it had been ordered to. A 2004 GAO audit (PDF) of 34 government continuity-of-operations plans found total confusion on the question of essential functions. One unnamed organization listed 399 such functions. A department included providing “speeches and articles for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary” among its essential duties, while neglecting many of its central programs.
The confusion and absurdity have continued, according to documents I’ve collected over the past few years. In June 2004, FEMA told federal agencies that essential services in a catastrophe would include not only such obvious ones as electric power generation and disaster relief but also patent and trademark processing, student aid and passport processing. A month earlier, FEMA had told states and local communities that library services should be counted as essential along with fire protection and law enforcement. . . .
With its new plans and procedures, Washington may think it has thought of everything to save itself. Forward Challenge will no doubt be deemed a success, and officials will pronounce the continuity-of-government project sound. There will be lessons to be learned that will justify more millions of dollars and more work in the infinite effort to guarantee order out of chaos.
But the main defect — a bunker mentality that considers too many people and too many jobs “essential” — will remain unchallenged. — Washington Post
Oh, it’s so comforting to know that FEMA is watching out for the public libraries in the event of a nuclear or terorrist attack. Go read the whole thing and see what else FEMA has in store for when things go south again.
So here’s the question of the day: What exactly is an essential government service? When the excrement hits the ventilation device, what exactly do you think the government can do for you, while it’s not even clear if it can manage to save itself? And why are you still relying on the government for anything?
The fact is, you can’t even rely on the government on a normal day, let alone in extraordinary circumstances. So quit already. Give up your addiction to government.