Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 5, 2012

“This goes far beyond what FEMA does”

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on December 5, 2012

Tuesday the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing to “review the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy, receive information about the plan for redevelopment and recovery, and examine the lessons learned by other states impacted by previous disasters.”

Here’s one news report on what transpired:

“I hope that the members of the panel today will address questions regarding how we need to rethink our infrastructure,” U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said. “The elephant in this room that needs to be spoken about is the impact of climate change. … We have to rebuild and rethink our infrastructure in those terms.”

Yet, when legislators asked FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate about these kinds of infrastructure issues, such as developing a long-term strategy for safer housing on the shorelines, he insisted that such issues, while important, were beyond the scope of his agency.

“Again, this goes far beyond what FEMA does, it goes far beyond the Stafford Act,” said Fugate, referring to the law that created the federal disaster relief system that is in place today.

Housing repair and replacement was a big topic.  Several others testified, including HUD officials.

There’s much more.  But, unfortunately, I did not have time yesterday and do not have time this morning to dig into it.  I hope you will. Prepared testimony is available at the House website.

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11 Comments »

Comment by JComiskey

December 5, 2012 @ 8:13 am

Fugate is correct.

Rep. Edwards et al suggest a neo-homeland security uber alles see:
http://www.investorvillage.com/groups.asp?mb=16589&mn=16852&pt=msg&mid=12248784

and
http://www.hsaj.org/?fullarticle=4.2.1..

at last thought see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW8UlY8eXCk

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

December 5, 2012 @ 9:07 am

I would be very interested in any more details. I am struck by the size of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality when it comes to a discussion of resilience.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 9:26 am

FEMA! TO BE OR NOT TO BE!

Perhaps some will find an edge to my comments on Hurricane Sandy and FEMA. I was essentially a fireman in the independent FEMA’s OGC. So perhaps master of no trade and expert at none. But it did give me some perspective on the agency during the years I worked there. First the quality of the Director and the 60 or so career and non-career appointees varied considerably. Director James Lee Witt was the only Director to be able to withstand for a time becoming a “political dumping ground” as former US Senator Fritz Hollings stated. Not really skilled at either policy, management, political savy, or often just glad to have the job the top rung at FEMA badly abused its career staff and often it was the best real job they ever had. I cannot speak to the present.

And the quality of the Congress declined dramatically over my 34 years in the government. And Presidents became less and less qualified to be President although some were quick studies. Does this make me an AMERICAN DECLINIST? I don’t believe so.

I have frequently made suggestions on this blog in comments so once again here are a few more.

Comment to be continued!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 9:36 am

FIRST! The Transportation and Infrastructure in the HOUSE has almost no idea of what FEMA’s mission, goals, programs, functions and activities is designed to do or does!
Not a single member or even staff could describe with anywhere close to adequacy the entirety of FEMA’s programs, functions, and activities.

Even GAO and CRS are stovepiped in such a way that basic but essential analysis of FEMA is accomplished.

So let’s have Congress attempt to answer first several questions before hammering on Craig Fugate and his staff as to how FEMA should help meet national needs and priorities.

IS FEMA THE SAFETY NET WHEN OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES [OFA's] fail to do their preparedness jobs? And has already been established in the dialogue on “resilience” almost all federal components have something to do with resilience.

IS FEMA THE SAFETY NET WHEN STATES AND THEIR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FAIL TO DO THEIR PREPAREDNESS JOBS?

It was of some interest to me when retired Coast Guard officer Thad Allen suggested publically for the first time as a introductory speaker on RESILIENCE at a session of the NAS [National Academy of Science] that Hurricane Katrina was in fact a Continuity of Government problem. Because all the post-Katrina reports failed to cover this facet of the event I can state flatly there were defective. And PKEMA 2006 did not fix FEMA!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 9:58 am

SECOND! Once again largely because of its being enfolded into a largely incompetent Department, the basics of the national security state including classification and personnel security have eroded Director James Lee Witt’s major reform- specifically reducing by almost 50% the number of FEMA personnel with security clearances and focusing on natural disasters in accordance with the President’s wishes.

Of course Witt was merely implementing recommendations of the Stickney and Bush Administration by its Blue Ribbon Panel available at FEMA historical docs on the Home Page of the Vacation Lane Blog.

Now FEMA’s National Security Role is largely diminished by later Administrations largely agreeing without much thought to that focus ordered by Clinton.

And with the long term departure not just for Hurricane Sandy but for the future also the RECOVERY Mission to HUD then one may well wonder what the next departure will be. Protection [largely undefined]?
Preparedness [removed previously from FEMA by Michael Chertoff in his ill-considered 2SR [announced early 2005 with details prior to Katrina and implemented in fall 2005 by slight of hand and then partially reversed by Congress in PKEMRA 2006 effective March 31, 2007]. MITIGATION–which has suffered mightly in DHS and FEMA and now largely led by people that have little or no comprehension of what to do!

And of course REPONSE! But is RESPONSE primarily for FEMA to give out money to OFA on mission assignments and to STATES and their local governments? Or is it something else including now FEMA lead on MASS CARE [formerly the ARC] and also provision of accurate information including damage assessment?

Or should FEMA be giving hard nosed technical information and recommendations–As in no public monies for non-public beaches and gated communities?

Well my guess is that the political will to answer these questions DOES NOT EXIST which is one reason American continues to have its best lobbied organizations and efforts, whether public or private, be ascendant over the “commons” and in dereliction of duty by those who are charged with faithfully executing the law of the land, including the President and his minions.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 10:00 am

There is absolutely no question that the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief Act should be entirely recodified to make certain that its technical and financial assistance missions are not blurred and that it answers the question as to whether in fact or law it is the USA DOMESTIC CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND RESPONSE SYSTEM architecture or just another vehicle by which interested groups can feed at the federal fisc.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 10:14 am

Those who doubt that the Preparedness Mission could again leave FEMA need to study the Chertoff 2SR and the leadership of George Foresman as the first and last Under Secretary for Preparedness.

The GOLD STANDARD for FEMA and the NATION is the REPP [radiological emergency preparedness program] run jointly by FEMA and NRC with a joint regulation NUREG 0654 and the codification of that reg also at 10 CFR Part 50 and 44 CFR PART 350!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 10:23 am

The REPP rulemaking with comments can be found at http://www.regulations.gov at FEMA Docket No. 2012-2026! The comment period is still open.

Here’s to REPP as the GOLD STANDARD on Preparedness.

ASK THE JAPANESE ABOUT REPP! The powers that be in Japan that accelerated the severe consequences of the Fukishima Dai-Ichi event studied the US REPP and rejected that model. So also has FRANCE!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 11:15 am

AND NOW THE DENOUEMENT!

Apparently Administrator Fugate has never been properly briefed on FEMA’s role in CIP [critical infrastructure protection] going back in time to its assignments under PD-63 issued by President Clinton in 1968 in response to the issuance in September 1997 of the report of the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP) actually a response to the Congressionally mandated Commission’s study!

Nor has Adminstrator Fugate [nor any other Director or Administrator in FEMA history] asked for a formal legal opinion from his OGC or OCC or OLC/DoJ as to
FEMA’s mandates to study climate change or even if unmandated to do so.

So time to get to work FEMA and stop complaining its not YOUR job!

Pingback by Resilience After a Disaster – Rhetoric and Reality « Recovery Diva

December 5, 2012 @ 11:15 am

[...] more points of view on this topic see the Homeland Security Watch blog today, particularly this comment by Bill Cumming: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. from → FEMA, Hurricane Sandy, Resilience ← [...]

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 5, 2012 @ 11:46 am

Post Script:

Admittedly a different statutory scheme administered by FEMA, the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program codified at 42 USC 4001 and following} but that FEMA program that Adminstrator should know about has a principal purpose of coastal construction standards and zoning and development and recovery. Perhaps after a number of years in the saddle Administrator Fugate needs better briefing on FEMA.

And since the Banking Committees in Congress have oversight of the NFIP perhaps they will hold a hearing on climate change and the NFIP and coastal construction and reconstruction. Oh that’s right the banking lobbyists and developers don’t want US to know of how much profit they rake off from coastal development. Let’s not bail out the banks again through pretending its Hurricane Sandy relief. NO bank should profit from disasters.

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