Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 22, 2009

DHS nominees appear before Senate committee

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 22, 2009

W. Craig Fugate and John T. Morton are appearing this morning before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The nomination hearing can be viewed via webcast at: http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Hearings.Detail&HearingID=14b3986d-420f-40fd-b3df-fc1d2d15fdf7

Mr. Fugate (see Time magazine bio) has been nominated to serve as the Administrator of FEMA.  Mr. Morton (see DHS news release) has been nominated to serve as DHS Assistant Secretary for immigration and customs enforcement. 

The various statements and Q&A should point to policy priorities — and potential differences between the executive and legislature — in regard to homeland security.

10:05  Senator Lieberman opens hearing.  Following are quick-takes in real-time.

Senator Lieberman’s opening statement sets several markers in regard to the Post-Katrina  Emergency Management Reform Act  and especially the importance of keeping FEMA inside DHS. Chairman Liberman notes that FEMA is a, “stronger agency — much stronger agency — than it was before Katrina.”

It is interesting that many of the senators’ comments focus on Fugate’s tactical and operational experience.  As FEMA Administrator he will presumably serve mostly at the policy/strategy level.

Fugate’s opening statement focuses on how the PKEMA has redefined FEMA and the emergency management profession in the US.   He especially emphasizes the focus on all-hazards and preparation for catastrophic disasters.  Fugate also highlights the need to be prepared for the unprecedented.

Fugate says that as far as he is concerned FEMA is and should remain part of DHS. He says, “that debate is over.”

In response to what is evidently an off-the-cuff inquiry from Senator Lieberman regarding FEMA’s role in cybersecurity, Fugate emphasized a capability-based as opposed to a threat-based approach to preparedness.

Fugate’s opening statement also gave priority to involving citizens and perceiving “citizens as resources.”  In response to a question from Senator Collins, Fugate emphasizes his readiness to use a full range of communications technologies to engage citizens.  His track-record in Florida suggests that citizen readiness and  resilience may get much more attention at the federal level.

10:50  Unfortunately, I have to go to a professional obligation.  Please use the comment function to highlight what you think is most important in the remainder of the testimony.

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Comment by Arnold

April 22, 2009 @ 9:37 am

From Fugate’s opening statement, I’d say the FEMA in/out issue may be answered: in.

Comment by Freddie

April 22, 2009 @ 11:22 am

I’m also interested in why the questioners appear to focus on the operational achievements versus the strategic and policy vision the candidates have. Are these candidates deemed “shoe-ins”– they have neither dirty laundry to be aired nor pose threats to any members of Congress (or his/her programs, pets, etc)?

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 22, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

Okay here goes. FEMA is not stronger and more capable since PKEMA of 2006! Happy to debate with anyone on specifics any time any place. Why? No really tough capability assessment has been done on FEMA and its missions, programs, functions, activities since fall of 2006 when that statute became law (became effective March 31, 2007). Last really tough capability assessment conducted on the behalf of Director Julius Becton in 1988 by Dr. John Powers and FEMA flunked that assessment after detailed analysis of program, functions and activities assigned FEMA in its missions. There was however an excellent mission statement adopted by Director Becton even though James Lee Witt later adopted a different version while announcing it was the first for FEMA. Okay so where does that leave us? Just as the audit of events often reveals the truth about FEMA capability it will again. Why wait? Because most of the people involved in the top-echelons really and truly believe IT WON’T HAPPEN ON MY WATCH! Wow what an operating and policy viewpoint. FEMA CANNOT operate 24/7 in any event lasting 30 days or more or multiple sites and extended geographic impacts. How to fix? Well I would start with a new baseline assessment conducted by a tough panel of outsiders. FEMA has NOT adopted NIMS or the NRF despite what some think. Just look at training records on these key doctrines for its employees and officials (oh that is correct FEMA does not really have any system to do so.) So let’s conduct a no-notice exercise of top FEMA staff within next 30 days lasting 3-5 days and led by Fugate. And he should make sure those that show up in first 24 hours are told to go home and rest because they are considered casulties of the incidents and events of the exericise and their “Trained” and “qualified” replacements will conduct exercise activities. Allow all of this to be done under the watchful eye of other components of DHS, OIG-DHS, GAO, Congressional Staff and of course the Press. Hey let’s find out if we are getting what we paid for or are really ostriches also?

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