Cooked Goose

politics and voices from the underground

The Senate Off the Deep End

 

After seven months of inquiry and testimony (on our watch and dime), the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs recommend that FEMA be dissolved.  This seems even too ridiculous to respond to.  Have they all gone off the deep end?  Seven months to decide that an agency that has been around since the 1970s (that had a pretty good track record until recent years under this administration) should simply be demolished and replaced by a new one is insane.  According to the recommendation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would become the National Preparedness and Response Authority.  Huh?

I have spent many years in emergency management and have colleagues who have spent many more in the industry.  We are all standing around scratching our heads on this one. 

I hate to get too academic, but I’d like to share a few thoughts and some background.

Prior to FEMA, Civil Defense had the responsibility of coordinating disasters, but disaster recovery and emergency management was still fragmented.  FEMA was formed under President Jimmy Carter in 1979 with the purpose of better coordinating disaster response and planning.  In 1993, President Clinton appointed James Lee Witt as Director of FEMA.  Witt was the first director to have experience in emergency management; he served as the head of the Arkansas state emergency management office.  Witt was known as an innovative leader and essentially transformed FEMA and emergency management during his nearly eight year tenure successfully shifting a cold war civil defense mentality to disaster planning, response and recovery. 

In 2002, under the Bush administration, Joe Allbaugh was appointed director of FEMA.  Allbaugh was not regarded highly within the emergency management field primarily because he had no prior background in emergency management.  The next phase of change within FEMA and emergency management in general occurred as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Michael Brown then succeeded Allbaugh.

One of the most significant changes that occurred after 9/11 was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (FEMA), which has 22 federal agencies under it including FEMA.  Focus from natural and technological disasters shifted to terrorism.  So far, FEMA has not fared well under the new DHS structure, as it is now a part of one of the largest bureaucratic systems in government.  This has made it less efficient and FEMA higher-ups have had significantly less access to the President.  These grave changes were laid bare in last year’s Gulf region disaster.

Changes that occur on the federal level often effect local emergency management as well.  Although billions of dollars have been spent on DHS, most of the money has gone towards security, and it is unclear how well the money is being spent.  With all US states having state emergency management offices and a majority of cities, counties and municipalities having local emergency management offices in place, dissolving FEMA means dissolving emergency management down the line. 

Most certainly, changes must be made to FEMA in light of what happened.  But, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi stated, we are one month away from hurricane season.  Is this the best time for the dissolution of FEMA? 

To quote DHS Press Secretary, Russ Knocke, “It is time to stop rearranging organization charts and start focusing on how governments at all levels are preparing for the fast-approaching storm season.”

Senator Joe Lieberman, who is a member on the Senate Committee for Homeland Security, felt that some changes should be made, but it falls on the administration.  Lieberman stated, “In national catastrophes, the nation looks to the president. … In Katrina, he failed," So then why did he go along with this absurd recommendation instead of holding the administration accountable?

I have no other analysis than to say this is simply absurd. 

What really needs to be dismantled are Congress, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and the Administration.  Yes, the midterm elections are around the corner.  Let’s hope the public chooses wisely.

If this is where my tax dollars went, I want my money back.  This is the epitome of poor, poor government.

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April 28, 2006 Posted by | Homeland Security | Leave a comment