WASHINGTON, June 4, 2004 - Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced the launch of a web-based Incident Command System (ICS) training program to enhance the Department's effectiveness in responding to a wide range of emergencies.
"USDA has a long history of leadership in managing natural disasters, such as wildfires," said Veneman. "This training program builds on the successful system used by the USDA Forest Service and formally extends ICS training to all USDA employees. This ICS training will help bolster resources to manage accidental or deliberate incidents that may threaten the U.S. food supply, critical infrastructure or economy."
In 2001, Veneman directed USDA officials to develop a single unified management plan for all USDA emergency response and recovery activities. And in March 2003, she issued a memorandum directing Department-wide implementation of the USDA National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS), unifying emergency response and recovery efforts under one management system for the first time in USDA history.
In March 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which provides the Nation's first standardized incident management plan that creates a unified structure for federal, state and local incident response and recovery efforts. NIMS outlines a standard incident management structure called the Incident Command System, which includes five functional areas - command, operations, planning, logistics and finance/administration - for management of all major incidents.
Identical in form to USDA's NIIMS and the system used successfully for decades by USDA's Forest Service and other emergency response agencies, NIMS provides a unified command that not only coordinates the efforts of many jurisdictions, but provides for and assures joint decisions on objectives, strategies, plans, priorities and public communications. This unified command enables a wide range of emergency management agencies to work together effectively to mobilize maximum resources in support of common goals.
USDA's NIIMS used ICS on the ground in managing such incidents as Avian Influenza in the spring of 2002 and in several states during 2003 and 2004, and Exotic Newcastle Disease in 2003, marshalling additional tactical resources to support functional areas while focusing technical resources - veterinarians, epidemiologists, scientists and economists - on immediate and longer-term impacts of the incident. USDA now uses NIMS and is expanding training in ICS to all employees to bolster tactical resources in support of any emergency.
USDA's Homeland Security Office adapted Forest Service ICS training courses for across-the-Department employee training. These courses are designed to describe responsibilities at different levels and are currently offered in a mix of classroom orientation sessions and electronic, web-based courses. ICS classroom training has already introduced executives and policymakers to ICS and to the major elements associated with developing and implementing effective multi-agency coordination systems and emergency operations centers.
Today's announcement makes available additional ICS courses for USDA employees through GoLearn, the Office of Personnel Management's e-government training capability. Eventually, all of the ICS training courses will be available through AgLearn, USDA's web-based Agriculture Learning Service. AgLearn, announced March 29, 2004, by Secretary Veneman, is designed to provide one-stop services for delivering, scheduling, and managing learning events nationwide for USDA employees.
For further information on please visit www.usda.gov.