Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 7, 2006

Interview with Thad Allen on the Katrina response

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on January 7, 2006

Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, recently returned to Washington from his posting leading the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, speaks to Time in an interesting interview published today. An excerpt:

Q: Are there any misconceptions that have taken hold about Katrina that you’d like to debunk?

A: Yeah, this is a personal opinion. We need to [consider] what the public perceives FEMA’s role should have been and what statutorily FEMA’s role is. Their protocol for a disaster is that locals go to the states, states go to the Federal government, and they bring resources in. When we hit that tipping point and the city flooded, it was not within FEMA’s mission, capabilities or competency to go out and direct actual rescue operations. The Coast Guard came in and did it because we’re trained to do that. And whatever issues there are with FEMA as an organization, I hope the public does not generalize to a larger responsibility for FEMA. No matter what anybody’s issue is, there’s a tendency to say the problem is FEMA. I don’t think that’s true.

Is this a subtle way of expressing the opinion that the Coast Guard doesn’t want to take over some of FEMA’s responsibilities and capabilities in a pending reorganization, as has recently been rumored?

Vice Adm. Allen did an admirable job leading the response to Katrina in the last four months, taking on one of the most challenging assignments in the federal government in decades. There are lots of other interesting details in the interview – read the whole thing.

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Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Admiral Collins retiring from the Coast Guard

January 11, 2006 @ 6:56 pm

[…] CQ is reporting tonight that Adm. Thomas Collins will be stepping down as Commandant of the Coast Guard in May. Possible replacements mentioned are Vice Adm. Terry Cross and Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the latter just returned to Washington from his stint leading the Katrina recovery efforts. […]


Comment by William R. Cumming

January 22, 2006 @ 1:18 pm

Strangely, although FEMA was no longer a legal entity as of March 2, 2003, the term FEMA was used as a brand name for a portion of the EP&R Directorate which was proposed for elimination on July 6, 2005 and eliminated in the fall of 2005 with Congressional approval. It is difficult to know the exact internal delegations effective in DHS but FEMA delegated authority was reduced effective March 3, 2005, and has continued to be reduced. For example, FEMA’s statutory lead in the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act was eliminated by Congressional action in its last reauthorization. Certain other authority delegated under Executive Orders 12148 and 12656 were also eliminated. While FEMA was delegated authority under the Robert T. Stafford Act as amended, 42 U.S.C. Sections 5121 et. seq. primary authority under that Act vests in the President. Neither the Governmental Affairs and Homeland Security Committee in the Senate nor the House Committee on Homeland Security has jurisdiction over authorization of that statute. The pre 9/11 authorizing committees retain authorizing authority over that statute. The CRS expert on that statute is Keith Beya.

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