Hawaii’s congressional delegation held a field hearing at the East-West Center in Honolulu Thursday to examine what went wrong when a false missile alert was sent to cell phones across the state on Jan. 13.
Representatives from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, Federal Communications Commission, FEMA, and the U.S. Pacific Command all took park part in the hearing.
Lawmakers say while individual states need to play a role, they agree that alerting the public about any incoming ballistic missile should be federal responsibility.
“We now have a convoluted process, and we have a convoluted process that, based on results, is a failure,” said Sen. Brian Schatz. “The FEMA model is, there’s a flood in San Mateo County, San Mateo County should be informed. There’s a hurricane in the Western Pacific, people should be informed. But if we are at war, there is no reason not to inform every American citizen. The idea that there should be a regional alert about an incoming ICBM is preposterous.”
“We have subsequently learned that PACOM is part of this system, so the sirens went off at Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor workers also ran off the base, and drove off the base. So the question becomes why, and who should address it?” said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. “Rep. Gabbard and I have asked the House Armed Services Committee to look into that, because we do believe there is a role the military has to play, and the role the military has to play is one of really assuring the people across the United States, but especially in Hawaii.”
“Moving forward, we will continue to exercise missile notification procedures with HI-EMA, and will continue to support nation state threat planning for ballistic missile notification response to include integration with FEMA’s national warning system,” said Rear Adm. Patrick Piercey, USPACOM director of operations.
“Part of the issue, what we had is we developed the ballistic alert campaign plan in three phases,” said Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, Adjutant General, HI-EMA. “Phase one was the public outreach, and to understand and speed up the notifications between PACOM, FEMA, to the state warning point, and we could put out the alert to the public. So that was phase one. So what we did is we really started flying the plane before we built the whole plan.”
The FCC agrees multiple improvements need to be made across the country.
At the top of the list, states need to file emergency alert plans with the FCC, and develop future alert capabilities that offer audio and video streaming services.