Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 3, 2006

New hints about FEMA reorganization plans

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on February 3, 2006

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire column drops a few rumors about the pending plans to reorganize FEMA:

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff will soon announce plan to “retool” the agency, amid speculation it will lose emergency functions. Under one option, Coast Guard would control disaster response, HUD temporary housing, and HHS medical response and emergency social services. Nine in 10 blacks and Americans under 35 call rebuilding Gulf Coast an “absolute priority.”

And the Chicago Tribune reports today on Chertoff’s comments at a press conference in Chicago when he was asked about his plans for FEMA:

Chertoff said his office is planning “significant changes” at the Federal Emergency Management Agency designed to “get them into the 21st Century.” They will include putting teams on the ground in disaster areas to give accurate and real-time reports on conditions, he said.

“I was very unhappy with the lack of situational awareness I had in the couple of days after Katrina,” Chertoff said. “I never want to be in the position again where I don’t have real eyes on the ground to tell me what is going on in no uncertain terms as opposed to waiting to get reports coming through the media or inconsistencies from the field.”

Given the increased “chatter” about FEMA reorganization, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the plan announced very soon, perhaps coinciding with the budget release next Tuesday (which would make sense, since the reorg plan will likely have significant budget implications).

Update (2/3): In the comments, Bill Cumming says that Chertoff will announce the reorganization at NEMA’s mid-year conference. He’s on the agenda (along with George Foresman, David Paulison, and Fran Townsend) on Feb. 13th. That makes sense, but I still think we’ll also learn more during the budget submission next week.

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2 Comments »

195

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 3, 2006 @ 4:24 am

Secretary Chertoff intends to announce the FEMA mission changes at the NEMA Semi-Annual Conference this month. NEMA is the National Emergency Management Association and consists of the state directors of emergency management plus homeland security officers of various states.
After Hurrican Andrew in 1992, FEMA developed FAST (Forward Area Survey Teams )teams for disaster survey purposes to more accurately determine the extent of geographic damages. This was done in part because DOD geo-spatial information was considered to sensitive to release to civil agencies. Although, the release was facilitated during the Clinton Administration, apparently the system was broken sometime during the current administration. GAO specifically commended the formation of the FAST teams as meeting the requirement for accurate eyes and ears on the ground in its reports on reforms after Hurrican Andrew.

194

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 3, 2006 @ 4:24 am

Secretary Chertoff intends to announce the FEMA mission changes at the NEMA Semi-Annual Conference this month. NEMA is the National Emergency Management Association and consists of the state directors of emergency management plus homeland security officers of various states.
After Hurrican Andrew in 1992, FEMA developed FAST (Forward Area Survey Teams )teams for disaster survey purposes to more accurately determine the extent of geographic damages. This was done in part because DOD geo-spatial information was considered to sensitive to release to civil agencies. Although, the release was facilitated during the Clinton Administration, apparently the system was broken sometime during the current administration. GAO specifically commended the formation of the FAST teams as meeting the requirement for accurate eyes and ears on the ground in its reports on reforms after Hurrican Andrew.

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