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FEMA: In or Out?
January 07, 2010
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Josh Filler, a fellow blogger at Emergency Management Magazine has an article in Government Executive on Flirting with Disaster

The topic is where should FEMA be placed? The point being there are still individuals and committees calling for FEMA to be pulled out of DHS and be a stand alone department. I agree with Josh in that the debate needs to end. FEMA is in DHS, and to yank it out would cause too much turmoil, just when Craig Fugate is trying to "right the ship." I've hear the Government Accounting Office (GAO) publicly support them staying for the reason just mentioned above. It was only a couple of years ago that I asked a FEMA employee how it was going and his response was, "I'm feeling more and more reorganized every day." Which then became a "Quote of the Week."

However, since Josh and I have viewed events from different perspectives the causes for FEMA's failures in the past, and that the James Lee Witt era FEMA got a pass on catastrophic disasters does not ring true for me. The swing towards terrorism by DHS and the subordination of FEMA in DHS in the beginning raped FEMA in many ways. Good people seeing the writing on the wall left FEMA for other agencies and the private sector. A ton of institutional knowledge walked out the door. My thoughts on what had happened to FEMA was captured in the Katrina moment in my Washington Post Op-ed Destroying FEMA that ran the day after the levees broke in New Orleans. This op-ed was written and submitted in June/July of that year--before the disaster and tweaked to fit the events of the day.

The results were "predictable." It should not have been any surprise--and yes, I agree that FEMA cannot make up for an unprepared state, city or citizenry. Our success or failure is linked together, whether we like one another or not.

Bottom line remains--keep FEMA in DHS, use your energies to promote mitigation!


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