Sec. Chertoff speaking at a press conference (transcript not available online) on April 6, 2006:
We’re on a path now to get about 95 percent of the vacancies [at FEMA] filled in the department by June 1, which is kind of our target date.
Sec. Chertoff speaking on CNN on May 2, 2006:
We’re on a path now to get about 95 percent of the vacancies filled in the department by June 1.
In a briefing Friday with reporters, FEMA Director R. David Paulison said the agency has hired about 85 percent of the workers it needs. This is the same percentage he offered when asked by a reporter May 23 about progress toward a goal of reaching 95 percent of capacity before June 1, when the hurricane season began.
Initially, the agency set a mid-May deadline for meeting that goal. Paulison pushed that date back to June 1, and the agency further delayed it to July, according to a FEMA fact sheet given to reporters last month.
But when pressed Friday for comment on when the agency would finish hiring, Paulison said he did not know and could not provide a date.
I’m not that concerned about this from the perspective of hurricane preparedness; the number of FEMA employees is not the most important proxy for readiness, given the critical importance of state and local officials in any response effort. And I’d rather see FEMA take the time to hire good people than hire warm bodies off the street. But that said, I don’t understand why DHS and FEMA made this promise in the first place, and why they didn’t have the information to walk back from it sooner.