US Civil Defense Timeline

Civil Defense underwent many changes during the intervening post-war years. Here is a list of its major incarnations. There were a number of other lesser agencies or offices not listed here, some of which existed concurrently but had separate albeit related functions:

  1. 1941 – Office of Civilian Defense
  2. 1947 – National Security Resources Board (National Security Act of 1947)
  3. 1949 – National Security Resources Board, EOP (Executive Office of the President)
  4. 1950 – Office of Defense Mobilization, (Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950)
  5. 1950 – Federal Civil Defense Administration, OEM, EOP
  6. 1951 – Federal Civil Defense Administration
  7. 1951 – Defense Production Administration
  8. 1958 – Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization, EOP
  9. 1958 – Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, EOP
  10. 1961 – Office of Civil Defense, DoD (Department of Defense)
  11. 1961 – Office of Emergency Planning
  12. 1964 – Office of Civil Defense, DoA (Department of the Army)
  13. 1968 – Office of Emergency Preparedness, EOP
  14. 1972 – Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, DoD
  15. 1979 – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The creation of FEMA in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter brought the incessant turmoil and fragmentation of services to an end, at least at the federal level. And that brings us to where we are today. FEMA is now an independent agency working at the direction of the President, and the Director enjoys Cabinet level status.

We’ve truly come a long way since the days of air raids and blackouts. Emergency Management has continued to evolve and expand its scope through the Cold War period and beyond. The emphasis today has shifted to preparedness and mitigation of natural disasters rather than the war-related efforts of the past. These violent natural disasters often cause the same kinds of damage encountered in warfare, but on a more localized scale. Since these events occur frequently across the country, we get plenty of opportunities to ply our trade and develop our skills and techniques.

The Civil Defense concept worked at the time and under the circumstances for which it was created. It was a good fit for American society in the early part of the 20th century. As society changes and technology develops and we move into the new millennium, modern Emergency Managers must remain flexible to be able to deal successfully with the new challenges ahead.

Updated: April 5, 2010 — 12:08 am

The Author

Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 24th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural southern Wyoming, just below the continental divide (long story, that...). Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, many social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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