Monday, September 12, 2005

Washington Monthly: The Direction of FEMA

This post provides some interesting facts about the role that FEMA ought to have played , and hopefully now is fulfilling, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As I have said before, I think that partisan hostility is counterproductive in this situation, and I like that this article acknowledges the balance in the failures of various levels of government.

The real reason I took special attention and wanted to share this post was to highlight the previous director of FEMA, Joe Allbaugh, and part of his testimony from May 2001. It is fairly unambiguous and frightens me to realize that he was actually in charge of deciding the courses of action to take in serious crises for about a year:

"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. Expectations of when the Federal Government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of State and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, State and local efforts."

I am struck by the common GOP criticism of "entitlement program[s]" being applied to emergency management and disaster assistance. If Mr. Allbaugh really felt that Americans and the federal system had become overly dependent on the federal government to take the key role in protecting them from fires, floods, hurricanes, etc., then I wonder what his boss thought and still thinks. Will he tell us?


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