The bipartisan Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, headed by Susan Collins, R-Maine, recently published a report entitled “Hurricane Katrina: a Nation Still Unprepared.” In the report, the committee calls for abolishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and replacing it with a “beefed up” agency. Their advice is being met head on by the White House and is getting a mixed reaction from lawmakers and experts.
The new agency, which would be called the National Preparedness and Response Authority would consist of, among other things, a leader answerable directly to the President and 5 rapid deployment “strike teams” designed to handle local and state wide disasters.
Proponents of the report claim that FEMA’s problems, of which 85 were cited specifically in the report itself, show that FEMA is beyond repair. The only solution, they claim, would be to completely dismantle, reorganize and rebuild the agency.
Many opponents say such a radical overhaul is impractical. They contend there is no way the government could pull off such a large restructuring in time for hurricane season – which starts June 1st. These critics point to the last major restructuring of the federal bureaucracy which took place in 2002 when the Department of Homeland Security was created. It took over a year.
More importantly, many believe that even if the change could take place before the start of the hurricane season, it would make no difference. The reality is the new organization would be filled with the same people who held positions in FEMA, and the people, not the structure, make or break an organization. Congressman Kevin Brady, R- TX, whose district was hit by Hurricane Rita, agrees. "Congress can reorganize FEMA every month for all I care. But until we fund it right, run it right, and lead it right, it's going to keep making the same mistakes."
Trent Lott, on the other hand, is still mulling it over. He says, “I think the idea of starting over is at least worth considering.”
Ironically enough, the most outdated aspect of FEMA may be one of its newest changes – it was put under the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. A lot has changed since 2002, and taking FEMA back outside the Department of Homeland Security would not only free up its budget, but would also ensure that it was led by someone with disaster experience.
[ via Magnolia Report ]