House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King makes his pitch for the HSC’s current legislative docket in an editorial in The Hill today, describing the border security and port security legislation that has moved out of the committee, and making a pitch for the committee’s version of FEMA reform:
This past week, the Committee on Homeland Security passed another very important piece of legislation â€” our Hurricane Katrina â€œLessons Learnedâ€ bill. This bipartisan legislation, written by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), was crafted with the input of hundreds of state and local first responders and emergency managers, people who were on the ground during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and understand where our response fell short and what needs to be done to correct it.
The bill enhances FEMAâ€™s role and resources within the Department of Homeland Security, making a number of important preparedness, response and emergency communications improvements to the agency. The bill will also mandate that the FEMA director be a qualified and capable leader and elevate the director to report directly to the president during times of crisis.
Furthermore, the legislation makes a number of common-sense reforms at the state and local levels. It establishes regional offices and directors to ensure better coordination at the state and local levels, both before and during emergency situations. It requires states and urban areas to implement emergency evacuation, shelter and communications plans that actually work. And it puts in place better protections against waste, fraud and abuse to ensure that federal aid is being delivered to the people that actually need it.
King’s pitch here is mainly to the 434 other members of the House, who will be forced to choose in the coming weeks (if they haven’t done so already) between the HSC’s approach and the alternative approach backed by the Government Reform and T&I committees that would remove FEMA from DHS.