Bush's Mismangement of FEMA

Hat tip to Kevin Drum, FEMA Then And Now:

Kevin links to a story on Bush's mismanagement of FEMA that ran in the Independent Weekly last September: Disaster In The Making

Kevin Drum's summary:

There's much, much more in this deeply reported story. Read the whole thing to get a sickening sense of the disastrous effect that the Bush administration's glorification of conservative ideology over managerial competence has had on FEMA's workforce, its morale, and its ability to get things done.

This article has a terrific history of the creation of FEMA by Jimmy Carter and its bi-partisan development under Reagan, Bush 41 and Bill Clinton. Then Shrub decided he had a better idea.

Among emergency specialists, "mitigation" -- the measures taken in advance to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters -- is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs.

But since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright.

....[In 2001], President Bush appointed a close aide, Joe Allbaugh, to be the agency's new director....The White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.

In a May 15, 2001, appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Allbaugh signaled that the new, stripped-down approach would be applied at FEMA as well. "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management," he said.

"Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

In June, Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency's government employee union, wrote members of Congress to warn of the agency's decay. "Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation's emergency management capability is being eroded," he wrote. "Our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors."

The push for privatization wasn't the only change that raised red flags at FEMA. As a 2004 article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management would later note, "Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration's organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation."

In case Congress hasn't gotten the message, former FEMA director James Lee Witt recently restated it in strong terms. "I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded," he testified at a March 24, 2004, hearing on Capitol Hill. "I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, 'It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management.'"

This is a long, comprehensive article that is well worth the read.

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Comments

8 Comments

This is the real "Ownership Society"
ie... "You are on your own..."
by Parker 2005-09-01 04:41AM | 0 recs
Democrats must rise up against Bush
The hurricane was an issue where the democratic leadership should have taken the initiative and made a lot of noise on how inadequate Bush's actions in the past were and how they are costing us now. The bloggers are doing a much better job than the democrats.

While I could see why people like Hillary and Biden bent over for the iraq war issue, where is the risk in standing up to Bush regarding these kind of issues. It must be made clear to everyone , including the media, the democrats are not going to tolerate such inadequate prepartion for such disasters.

by Pravin 2005-09-01 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats must rise up against Bush
I agree that Dems must stand up and be vocal about preparing for natural disasters.  Bush 41 and Bush 43 seem to have a blind spot about FEMA, disasters, and reacting to a national emergency.  Why did it take 3 days for the president to react?  Why were riding a bike, having a barbecue, getting a guitar, giving a speech on Iraq and WWII, all more important than working on saving lives on our gulf?  Obviously, this president would rather offer his sympathy and empty promises, and go on with his life.  Arianna Huffington had a good post at her site in which she said:  

The president's 35-minute Air Force One flyover of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama was the perfect metaphor for his entire presidency: detached, disconnected, and disengaged. Preferring to take in America's suffering -- whether caused by the war in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina -- from a distance. In this case, 2,500 feet.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/the-flyover-presidency-of_b_6566.html

12,000 National Guard troops may NOT be enough in the rescue, recovery, and rebuilding.  We   need to get our troops out of Iraq and get them home to work helping restore order and services to Americans.  They are of course called NATIONAL Guard.

by Marie Smith 2005-09-01 06:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats must rise up against Bush
They'll have a chance in the Senate to stop renewal of the Patriot Act, tax cuts, medicare, student loan, food stamp and farm price supports when they return.  

If Democrats don't rise up against Bush, we will have to rise up against them.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-01 07:14AM | 0 recs
Very funny article
Many critics believe that FEMA is a "shadow government" that will take over at any time.

Is this Whitehead character part of the black helicopter crowd?

Ronald Reagan's "enhancements" are certainly questionable:

The first situation deals with the circumstances surrounding a little known exercise called Rex-84. After President Carter created FEMA, little was actually done to beef it up until Ronald Reagan took office. During Reagan's first year in office, he signed a number of directives on civil defense policy and emergency mobilization preparedness to do just that.

During this time, Reagan also appointed Louis O. Giuffrida, a former national guard general, to head up FEMA. During Giuffrida's time as head of FEMA, he focused most of his attention on preventing domestic civil unrest and put concern for natural disaster and nuclear war relief to the side. By 1982, this emphasis on civil unrest had led to the creation of a joint FEMA-Pentagon paper known as "The Civil/Military Alliance in Emergency Management," which ignored portions of the Posse Comitatus Act in advocating for the use of the military in civil law enforcement. This new civil alliance gave the military and FEMA more emergency powers to acquire resources in an attempt to prevent domestic civil disturbances.

Congressional oversight would be a welcome innovation for our Republican Congress:

We are left with a host of questions. Is FEMA's broad security power really for national disasters? What is the real purpose of the massive underground bunkers? Why is FEMA unaccountable to our elected representatives? And do we really have a shadow government that answers to no one?

I would certainly favor rigorous Congressional oversight of FEMA, the Patriot Act, Gitmo and a whole host of Bush administration policies. I wouldn't put much stock in Whitehead and the black helicopter crowd if I were you though.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-01 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Very funny article
Congressional oversight hearings are a great idea. Repubicans have been avoiding any Congressional oversight hearings and even refusing microphones and hearing rooms to Democrats to hold them.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-01 11:04AM | 0 recs
Bunkers and concentration camps . . .
I'm pretty sure this is the same set of deep thinkers that believe that the US Gov't uses HAARP to manipulate the weather . . .

(See, if you compare the magnetometer readings to Katrina's course and strength, you can see how they were steering the hurricane . . . right?)

by catastrophile 2005-09-01 11:10AM | 0 recs
Bush is responsible for the aftermath of Katrina
Hat tip to Josh Marshall:

We mentioned earlier the quote from Mike Parker, former Republican congressman from Mississippi who briefly served as head of the Army Corps of Engineers from late 2001 to early 2002 before being canned for criticizing administration budget cuts.

He's quoted in today's Chicago Tribune saying, "I'm not saying it wouldn't still be flooded, but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have."

It is very possible the damage could have been reduced:

A corps plan to shore up the levees began in 1965 and was supposed to be finished in 10 years but remains incomplete. "They've never put enough money in to complete it," Parker said. He said the corps' budget has been regularly targeted by the White House because public works projects are perceived as pork and aren't considered "sexy."

"Go talk to the people who are suffering in New Orleans," Parker said. "Ask them do they think it's pork."

Joseph Suhayda, an emeritus engineering professor at Louisiana State University who has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the corps simply didn't have enough money to build the levees as high as the designs called for.

"The fact that they weren't that high was a result of lack of funding," he said, noting that part of the levee at the 17th Street Canal--where one of the breaches occurred--was 4 feet lower than the rest. "I think they could have significantly reduced the impact if they had those projects funded. If you need to spend $20 million and you spend $4 or $5 million, something's got to give."

Read the rest of the TPM article about how Mike Parker was canned for the full story and criticism of FEMA by environmental groups:

Parker's nomination to head the corps drew heavy criticism last year from environmental groups pushing to downsize the agency, calling its flood control projects too costly and destructive.

Parker earned the ire of administration officials when he questioned Bush's planned budget cuts for the corps, including two controversial Mississippi projects.

"I think he was fired for being too honest and not loyal enough to the president," said lobbyist Colin Bell, who represents communities with corps-funded projects.

Bell said Parker resigned about noon after being given about 30 minutes to choose between resigning or being fired.

"Pretty much the Bush administration in a nutshell."

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-01 09:16AM | 0 recs

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