Need To Control Federal Warning System Proliferation

LCD-76-105: Published: Apr 9, 1976. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1976.

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There are eight federal agencies responsible for managing and operating federal warning dissemination systems to alert the public of natural disasters and enemy attacks. Some progress has been made in coordinating agency efforts. No single entity has sufficient authority to consolidate federal warning programs and to prevent system proliferation.

There are five general purpose warning systems existing or being planned. The Office of Telecommunications Policy has selected the Department of Commerce's Weather Radio System as the federal home warning system. This system is being linked up with the Department of Defense's national warning system. With planning or feasible improvements, the two linked systems could be made adequate for economical and effective dissemination of natural disaster and attack warnings to the public. In contrast, three other general purpose warning systems which do not appear to be operationally or economically justified would not significantly increase federal warning system effectiveness over the possible effectiveness through improvements to the two linked-up systems. Radio and television announcements are expected to remain the primary means of warning the public. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires each radio and television station to provide equipment and facilities to receive messages from its Emergency Broadcast System. Most agencies involved agree that management actions are needed to control system proliferation. The two agencies involved appear to be concerned primarily with justifying continued operations of their own systems.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress may want to consider funding constraints on certain natural disaster and attack warning systems, pending definition of the recommended integrated national program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The President should take appropriate actions to designate the Office of Telecommunications Policy as chairman of the Interagency Warning Steering Group to: (1) define and consolidate all federal requirements for natural disaster and attack warnings to the public; (2) develop an integrated national program to meet those requirements in the most operationally effective and cost effective manner; and (3) prevent continued operation or further development, implementation, or expansion of warning systems unless justified for purposes other than warning.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President


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