The Baton Rouge Advocate has an interesting piece today that summarizes a press event with officials in Louisiana’s state audit agency. The officials describe their frustrations with FEMA’s decision-making practices (or lack thereof):
â€œOur problem with FEMA is that there is no one here who can make a decision and it remains that decision,â€ [legislative auditor Steve] Theriot told reporters and editors at the conference.
â€œFEMA gives different answers to different people,â€ said Joy Irwin, an assistant legislative auditor.
The article then assesses what it finds to be the root causes of these bureaucratic snafus:
While itâ€™s easy to blame difficulties with FEMA on incompetent bureaucrats â€” and we donâ€™t doubt that there are instances of that â€” [general counsel Jennifer] Schayeâ€™s comments point to a larger problem:
FEMA was not made with the large-scale destruction of an entire city in mind. Because of that, even with the best of intentions, FEMA officials are unable to respond effectively to what happened in Louisiana.
The article then suggests the need for a “wholesale retooling of FEMA” – not just small fixes at the margin. I think that’s a correct assessment, so long as it’s not simply a structural fix – i.e., moving the boxes around – but one that gets to the heart of the decision-making processes within FEMA and removes legal, procedural, and cultural bottlenecks to individual initiative across the organization.