Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 22, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: The government’s role in fostering resilience

Filed under: Recovery,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on August 22, 2013


Here’s the lead paragraph from Monday’s Department of Housing and Urban Development news release:

President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, today released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild.  The Rebuilding Strategy contains 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms. 

Here’s a link to the full report.

Excellent overview of impact and consequences.  The sixty-nine recommendations are all reasonable and, if even partially implemented, will advance resilience and readiness.

As my once teen-aged son commented, “When you open with praise is when I really get nervous.”

This is very much a government-to-government document.  How do various federal agencies coordinate? How do federal, state, and local jurisdictions coordinate or at least avoid conflict? The interagency and intergovernmental challenges are real.  This document should help with these issues.  Every recommendation is doable and assigned out for doing.

But if a broader mandate was intended, it has certainly gotten lost.

One example from a section giving priority to “restore and strengthen homes, providing families with safe, affordable housing options.”

34. RECOMMENDATION: Bring together the Housing RSF and Emergency Support Function six partner agencies to review and integrate existing housing plans, as well as existing statutes, regulations, and policies for potential changes (statutory, regulatory or policy) to improve the delivery of housing solutions for future disasters.

Might it also be a good idea to bring together major builders and managers of housing?

Someone reading the Task Force Report might be excused for thinking the private sector had been totally obliterated by Hurricane Sandy and has not returned.  Housing is not the only place where the absence of private players is remarkable.

Toward the end of the report I thought, aha here we go most of the reach-out to the private sector has been consolidated under a single title.  There is a section called, “Facilitate Opportunities for Community and Non-Profit Engagement in Capacity Building and Actively Engage Philanthropy to Fill Capacity Gaps.”  This tees-up precisely one recommendation:

61. RECOMMENDATION: Facilitate and expand opportunities for philanthropic and non-profit engagement in recovery, including opportunities for organizations that work with vulnerable populations. The CPCB RSFs in New York and New Jersey should actively support funder collaboratives that provide grants to nonprofits working in coordination with government. This should include encouragement of sub-grants to NGOs that would assist in accomplishing the Federal outreach requirements, including those specific to vulnerable populations to ensure they are included in the recovery planning process.

To be fair there are a couple of recommendations that seem to involve elements of the community beyond the government. Further, there is evidence the Task Force actively reached out to consult with a broader cross-section… though contact with the commercial sector is not explicit.  There are other initiatives that have featured robust private-public engagement in conceiving post-Sandy priorities.

Still, a Stalinist apparatchik awaking from a seventy year nap might read the Task Force report and find good cause to believe central planning had also been adopted by the United States.

Precisely because centralized planning is not our reality, some greater attention to the private — individual, family, neighborhood, not-for-profit, and commercial — domain would have strengthened what is a helpful report.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 22, 2013 @ 2:08 am

Interesting post and report! Thanks Phil! Building of beach bars and rebuilding them the reality. But hey MOTHER NATURE DOES NOT GRANT VARIANCES!

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 22, 2013 @ 9:30 am

History lesson! FEMA opened its doors April 1, 1979. But two components were housed in the HUD building or provided facilities management by HUD until September 20th of 1979 for their support staff including OGC and FIA and FDAA were not rehoused to 500 C St, SW until the 500 C st. SW building became available in fall 1981.
More important in the runuup to FEMA’s creation Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris told the President that she would oppose on the hill the FEMA reorganization unless Disaster Temporary Housing left with the other FEMA components from HUD. Also a $25M discretionary disaster fund held in the immediate office of the Secretary could have transferred to FEMA but she opposed that transfer also allowing the statutory authority to lapse later.

Now of course the Community Development Block Grant effort of HUD is key to disaster recovery. And the placement of disaster in HUD by President Nixon in his Reorganization No. 1 of 1973 was prescient since disaster outlays in the recovery phase in particular for housing well exceed most other items.

And of course the Mariel Boat lift and Mt. St. Helens volcanic eruption market the end of the Carter Administrations opening effort by FEMA. Also several hurricanes.

And for the record HUD issues many fine reports and their recommendations but few are implanted by a Department run largely for its intermediaries like the mortgage brokers and real estate development industry.

HUD gets little oversight by the Cng

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 22, 2013 @ 9:40 am

CONTINUED: HUD gets little oversight by Congress and is often actually hindered by Congress in fulfilling its statutory charter of decent, safe, sanitary housing for all Americans.

Finally, most housing policy is set by the Treasury and Internal Revenue Code and Treasury sets more housing policy every day than HUD does over the years.

And did you realize Treasury sets much of disaster policy and disaster insurance policy?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 22, 2013 @ 11:26 am

Having conducted a quick and dirty review of the HUD report I found not a single recommendation or finding that could not have been made long ago and implemented long ago. Many recommendations were mandated for completion by statute or regulation long long ago.

Will it happen this time? Time will tell when the real CAT 4 or 5 hits the Sandy impacted area.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 22, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

Surprise surprise! The HUD report fails to reference the FEMA AAR on Hurricane Sandy and they are inconsistent.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

August 22, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

This is just a guess, but perhaps efforts such as the National Response Framework and directives coming out of the White House to align homeland security-related activities across the federal government have been a two-sided coin. On on hand, federal departments work more closely and align HS work better than ever before (obviously not perfectly, as Bill’s earlier comment tells us). But on the other hand, officials are almost obsessed with the “interagency” to the point of forgetting about non-governmental stakeholders.

In fact, they are most often referred to as stakeholders instead of partners. That could be indicative of the mindset.

Comment by JCOMISKEY

August 22, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

Agree to USG sense of non governmental “stakeholders” and add, albeit to a lesser degree, to a lesser degree subnational (state, local, tribal govt.) “stakeholders”

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 23, 2013 @ 10:17 am

Steve Aftergood of FAS [Federation of American Scientists] has posted the Sandy Task Force Report on the FAS/FEMA page at http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dhs/fema/index.html

I understand there will be forthcoming article on the TASK Force Report in EM Magazine.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 26, 2013 @ 10:07 am

THE FEMA AAR on Storm Sandy has also now been posted on the FAS/FEMA page cited previously. No reference in August 2013 report to the FEMA report even though a predecisional draft of the FEMA report was published in February 2013.

For comparison you might consider reading the Wikipedia Entry for Hurricane Katrina, August 2005!

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 31, 2013 @ 7:21 am

Note for the record the Task Force on Sandy disbands 60 days after release of the Strategy. According to the President’s Executive Order!

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 31, 2013 @ 7:24 am

The Task Force shall terminate 60 days after the completion of the Strategy described in section 5 of this order, after which FEMA and the lead agencies for the Recovery Support Functions, as described in the NDRF, shall continue the Federal rebuilding coordinating roles described in section 3 of this order to the extent consistent with the NDRF.

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