Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 9, 2013

FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino Stepping Down

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on December 9, 2013

Satala, American Samoa, April 16, 2010 -- FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino meets with staff at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Office.  FEMA Officials toured several sites to learn about the progress toward recovery.  FEMA/David Bibo

From the Boston Globe:

Richard Serino is coming home.

Serino, widely considered a founding father of Boston Emergency Medical Services, has been the No. 2 man at the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 2009. He is leaving the agency next month.

“It’s been great,” Serino said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “But it’s time to come home.’’

For the same article, he frames what he considers part of his legacy at the agency:

He also said he is proud that FEMA has reoriented the way it views disaster relief. Instead of a top-down approach, Serino said, planning and responses are designed as if they were being viewed “through the eyes of a survivor.’’

“Survivor-centric is what we do, and how we do it’’ at FEMA now, he said.

What struck me was a quote that strengthens my conviction that despite what naysayers contend, we as a nation are not particularly less resilient than those who settled the Wild West or lived before we as a nation agreed that it is the right thing to do to take care of the most vulnerable in our society: the old, the young, and the poor.

He recalled being in Rainville, Ala., after it was destroyed by a tornado. A resident, standing in front of the crumpled wreck of his home, urged Serino to go help somebody else that was worse off, he said.

“That is something I have heard over and over again from different people around the country, almost everywhere I went … neighbors helping neighbors,’’ Serino said. “That’s what helped make Boston great and it’s what helps make our country great. That’s something I’ve seen coast to coast.’’

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8 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 9, 2013 @ 8:38 am

Typically the number 2 in an independent agency of the federal Executive Branch is COO!

Housed under layers and layers of DHS management, not sure what the number 2 does in FEMA other than show the flag!

One thing Serrino learned for sure, it is a big country!

Comment by Ann

December 10, 2013 @ 9:06 am

For the record, I am a FEMA reservist and have had the opportunity to work with Mr Serino on a number of occasions around the US. Yes, he is a nice man and genuinely cares about people.

On the other hand, he was responsible for initiating policies that have contriuted to a large number of well-qualified reservists to leave the agency and the overall morale of the reservist corp and most of the full-time employees is historically low.

I do wish Mr. Serino well but let’s not rewrite histoy or project a view of the agency that does not reflect reality.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

December 10, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

Ann, thank you for the comments. Would you mind sharing what some of these policies are? Or other reasons morale is so low?

It is difficult from the outside to peer behind the “curtain,” and it seems to me that the conventional wisdom is that FEMA under Fugate (and Serino) has overall been competent and that improving personnel moral was supposed to be a primary goal.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 11, 2013 @ 2:59 am

Arnold! One look behind the curtain would reveal that there is no real career structure or opportunity for FEMA employees, whether FERS, CORE, or DAE! And no real Merit System protected from political tampering.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 11, 2013 @ 3:02 am

Prohibited Personnel Practices occur daily in FEMA. These include sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 11, 2013 @ 3:05 am

SES openings invariably filled by outsiders never from career employees from within the agency!
The Personnel Security system again has run amuck!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 11, 2013 @ 3:07 am

Mr. Serrino, like many other State and Local employees, never quite got Washington.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

December 11, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

Bill, about your last comment. I think you’re right, and that’s why I think the hand wringing over the current nominee for DHS Secretary misses the point. But, in terms of FEMA’s work what would be better — a longtime DC bureaucrat (even if talented) or a state/local official who might have a sense of how the locals need to be approached? With what yourself have noted as the hiring preferences for veterans in government (specifically FEMA) service, would a retired colonel with support to civil authorities experience be better orientated to get things done/changed rather than an outsider?

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