Transcript of Remarks at the Launch of USDA's Incident Command System Training with Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and Deputy Secretary James R. Moseley - Washington D.C. - June 4, 2004 | USDA Newsroom
Transcript of Remarks at the Launch of USDA's Incident Command System Training with Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and Deputy Secretary James R. Moseley - Washington D.C. - June 4, 2004
ANNOUNCER: "Ladies and gentleman, good afternoon and welcome to the Incident Command System Emergency Management Training roll-out. Please welcome now Deputy Secretary of Agriculture James R. Moseley."
SEC. JAMES R. MOSELEY: "Well, thank you, and good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here. It's good to see all of you here to learn about Incident Command System Training."
"And Madam Secretary, thank you for coming today and joining us in this important event.
"This is an important moment for USDA. It's a major step forward in an ongoing process to prepare every USDA agency and mission area to make this great department sharp, alert and effective, ready to respond to disaster and emergency whether natural or deliberate. This kind of training offers all USDA employees an understanding of ICS, which is a key principle in the President's coordinated emergency response to domestic incidents.
"Many talented and dedicated people have worked for a year and a half to bring the Department of Agriculture to this point. And I want to thank and recognize them for developing this technology and for the perseverance and just plain old hard work that stand behind this rollout. In particular I want to recognize Jeremy Stump and Sheryl Maddux. I work closely with these two individuals, individuals of great motivation, tremendous integrity. And they have led a group effort that has been exemplary in performance. So we thank them both, and we thank you for your team.
"ICS online training is essential to those who will be on the front line of the Department of Agriculture's response. Many of you in APHIS and FSIS are designated first responders, and you're well underway in your training. But I want to make a point that is very important.
"Every USDA employee has a role to play in this arena. Why? Because every employee is essential to building the kind of coordinated and prepared workforce that is so critical to USDA's prevention and response work.
"I'd like to take just a moment to kind of lay out and explain and put the Incident Command System in context.
"ICS is just one part of five parts of the National Incident Management System, better known as NIMS. This is a management approach that gives responders at all government levels one unified structure for coordinating and conducting our actions.
"To appreciate the history of NIMS and its significance in managing major incidents, we need to go back to February of 2001. Secretary Veneman was in office for less than a month when foot and mouth disease hit in England, and she was determined to try to keep the U.S. animal industry safe.
"We all sat back and we witnessed the devastation to England's animals and farms and to their farm economy, and we witnessed something else. As FMD spread in the first weeks of England's epidemic, we saw agricultural personnel responsible for control measures become completely overwhelmed by the demands of that disease. They needed considerable outside help including our own USDA veterinarians and scientists to help handle that enormous crisis.
"That event followed by BSE in Europe and Japan and compounded by anthrax incidents here in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11 clearly put us on notice that USDA needed to have in place the response capability to deal with national and regional emergencies.
"Now before 9/11 Secretary Veneman had already stressed that the systems and programs that protect the heart of our agriculture, its core infrastructure, must be ready in the event of an emergency whether it was plant, pasture, animal disease or even food safety.
"Immediately after 9/11 and as a result of the events of that horrific day the Secretary established USDA's Homeland Security Council to protect the production system, the food supply and our own USDA staff and facilities. And it was at that time that the Secretary asked me to chair the council and to lead development of a crisis management team that can deploy in a matter of moments. And that has been accomplished, and it is a significant accomplishment for USDA.
"In the past couple of years the Secretary and I have worked closely with Secretary Tom Ridge in the Department of Homeland Security on the development of National Incident Management Systems. NIMS gives federal and state and local governments a unified strategy for working together to prepare for and respond to and recover from domestic incidents, no matter what their size. It brings together the pieces, the cooperation, the coordination, the decision-making to handle major disasters.
"Secretary Tom Ridge had said that part of the tragedy of September 11 was that the equipment didn't work across jurisdictions and disciplines. Fire department radios for example, couldn't transmit to police department radios, and fire fighters that were rushing in from other cities and even neighborhoods close were in some cases unable to assist because the couplings that attached the hoses to the hydrants simply wouldn't fit; they weren't compatible.
"We must all work together, Secretary Ridge has said, to establish truly interoperable communications and equipment, to give first responders the tools to do their jobs and to do their jobs right and to do it in a way that replaces outdated, outmoded relics with an innovative and integrated system. That is the challenge that we have and the one that we continue to pursue.
"USDA's Forest Service has long and successfully used such a unified Command System to manage the decision process. The Secretary is going to describe for you how the effectiveness of USDA's system has been validated over and over from 9/11 in New York City and at the Pentagon and many other disasters around the country.
"NIMS offers a common vocabulary and gives everyone a basic reference point from which they can work. You may have heard the expression all politics is local. The Incident Command System, the basic principle of NIMS makes every disaster local, even if it might be national in scale. It brings an immediate, effective and efficient response to any given incident, cutting across jurisdictional lines. It frees up experts like veterinarians to do what they do best without having to deal with the chore of personnel and supplies and bringing them to the site.
"So with that brief explanation I urge you to take the time to go online and learn more about your role as an employee of USDA in incident command. I hope that you will take advantage of these web courses and become knowledgeable. And I thank you in advance for strengthening your personal readiness on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and, of course, those that we serve in agriculture across this country.
"This is one of the most important things that we can do right now considering the circumstances that we face in this country. And leading us in this effort and in keeping U.S. agriculture and the food supply safe, I want to bring forth an individual who works tirelessly every day to strengthen American agriculture.
"Please welcome our Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman."
SEC. ANN M. VENEMAN: "Good afternoon. And thank you very much, Deputy Secretary Moseley, for that kind introduction, and thank you for the work that you and your team do on the issues of homeland security.
"As he indicated, the world changed after September 11th, and we took immediate action in this Department to establish our Homeland Security Council and to now have a Homeland Security Office which the Deputy Secretary oversees and which is directed by Jeremy Stump. And I want to thank them for the outstanding job that they do in making sure that we do take every possible step to protect America's food and agriculture from now what we have to do worry about in terms of intentional incidents as well as unintentional.
"I want to thank every one of you for joining us today. This is an important command system that we are talking about. It's important to the way we do our jobs, and your ongoing dedication is going to be needed as we undertake this effort to broaden the capabilities that USDA has to respond to emergencies.
"I think the Deputy Secretary has provided a very good overview of how the system works and why it's vital that employees participate. Not only will this training enhance our emergency response and support capabilities, but it will also strengthen our homeland security at the federal, state and local levels.
"As you have heard, events of the past three years have lent urgency to the need, and the need is that we expand this approach to emergency response. We've made this commitment across the Department, and the President has worked to make the Incident Command System the model for use across government at all levels.
"We take pride in USDA for the pioneering role that we've played in this approach. As was indicated our modern Incident Command System was born right here at USDA through the Forest Service. These folks in the Forest Service saw a need to coordinate with local authorities, to coordinate as they dealt with wildfires in everything from how they got all of the logistical support done to making daily assignments to the budgets, to housing people. And this is how the Incident Command System was born.
"It was recognized as an effective response system by FEMA. And FEMA has contracted for a number of years with the Forest Service Incident Command teams, and they stand ready to be called into service by FEMA at any time."
"We have applied this model in other roles in USDA as well, and you will hear testimonials about how some of those have happened including protection of animal and plant health here at USDA. These incident command teams were called into action during the recovery of the shuttle Columbia.
"But as the Deputy Secretary mentioned, one of the most moving examples is when these incident command teams from the Forest Service were called into action on September 11th. By the morning of September 12th there were five Incident Command teams that were in place, three in New York City and two at the Pentagon.
"I had the opportunity about three weeks later to visit some of the Forest Service teams who were in New York City, and I think that the deputy chief of the fire department in New York City said it best when he said to me, 'I never could have imagined that we, the fire department of New York, would be working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.' But he went on to say, 'We could not have handled this situation without you.'
"In fact, the New York City Fire Department was so impressed with the capabilities that we in USDA had through our Forest Service Incident Command Teams that we subsequently entered into an agreement with them for joint training.
"I also had the opportunity to spend the first anniversary of September 11 with one of the Incident Command Teams from the Forest Service, a team that's based in California, when we observed the first anniversary out in California and San Francisco. We realized over the last three years that these teams can be critical in helping us do other jobs in the Department and particularly as we respond to outbreaks of animal diseases-- particularly those kinds of diseases that spread quickly.
"We used this system as the incidence of avian influenza a couple of years ago began to spread rapidly in Virginia. APHIS had people on the ground but the logistics were difficult. And so we brought in the Forest Service Incident Command Team that did everything from handle all the logistics to figure out the disposal of birds and so forth.
"I recall I visited one of the Incident Command crews on the Hayman Fire back in 2002 in Colorado, and as I was having dinner with some of the Incident Command Team members one of them shared with me that he used his expertise on the avian influenza in Virginia. And it was a new thing for the Forest Service to be involved in those things as well.
"So now we've had APHIS team up with the Forest Service to learn the Incident Command System. I can tell you that this system was absolutely critical as we had the outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease, a very contagious poultry disease in California, Nevada and Arizona last year. It was an enormous undertaking but the result was that we were able to eradicate the disease, and the Incident Command Systems were critical in getting the job done.
"The first responders in all the agencies at all levels were gaining a greater appreciation of the need for standards and clarity provided by the Incident Command System, and it gives us the opportunity to offer protection to our food and agriculture supply as well as to our citizens.
"So we've provided in the past 15 months, the Administration has provided more than $8 billion to assist and equip first responders. And the President's Budget for fiscal year 2005 includes an additional $3.6 billion for these efforts.
"At USDA we work every day to guard against intentional and unintentional threats to public safety and public health. September 11th revealed to us the fuller extent of these threats. And that is why as public servants we need to remain committed to our serious obligations to the American people.
"Each and every one of you plays an important role because Incident Command is not a concept that's limited to the Secretary's Office, to our Homeland Security Team, or to the Forest Service. And that's why it's so important that employees take advantage of the new training that we're announcing today.
"Ongoing training in our response mechanisms such as the Incident Command System will enhance our ability to help carry out the USDA functions as we deal with critical issues and critical threats to our food and agriculture supply.
"I see this as a real legacy issue for USDA, something we're changing in USDA to make it a better and more effective place. We are allowing our employees to be trained in critical systems that will help us do our jobs much better.
"So again, I want to thank all of you for being here today, participating and learning this important new tool.