George W. Bush yesterday signed National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20, ordering Executive Agencies to prepare contingency plans for a "decapitating" attack on the federal govermnent.
More importantly, the NPSD and HSPD vests responsibility for coordinating the plans in the White House.
Plans for "Continuity of Government" are as old as the Cold War. In fact, today there are career bureaucrats punching the clock in various undisclosed locations as part of a program to ensure contingency plans are in place. COG is run by DHS and FEMA. So Bush's plans are not new. They already exist. So here, only one thing is new. They moved responsibility to the White House.
Why is this important? It's a question of oversight. The national security programs run by DHS and FEMA can be reviewed by Congress.
A national security program at the White House cannot. The budgets don't have to be disclosed. The crony hires don't have to be disclosed. It's another step in the march toward government secrecy.
Furthermore, a national security program organized for emergency response by the White House is very troubling. Why? Consider the Katrina debacle. The White House dithered. People died.