FEMA Incompetence

I did not start this web log as a forum to bash the President Bush and his administration; but, with the inept federal government response to the disaster in New Orleans, he and the cronies he appointed to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warrant criticism. After all, it took the federal government 3 days to get water and food to the 100,000, or so, folks who remained in New Orleans during the storm, most of whom were unable to leave. Then the FEMA director pronounced 3 days after the disaster that his agency was unaware of the thousands of folks stranded at the Super Dome, even though, in the wake of Katrina, folks were instructed to go to the Super Dome and that such was widely reported.

As for the President, the day after the Katrina struck Bush lectured those remaining in New Orleans must exercise personal responsibility (not that he has ever taken responsibility for anything) and the next day he exclaimed as how “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees,” despite the fact that study after study, including a FEMA “tabletop” exercise last year, has cited levee failure as a major concern from a storm hitting New Orleans, an event rated amongst the top three most catastrophic natural disasters that could strike the U.S.

I watched an interview of FEMA Director Mike Brown and was appalled that he simply repeated talking points in response to each question put forth by a CNN reporter who, surprisingly, did not let up on asking how it could possibly be that FEMA did not know about the folks stranded at the Super Dome, given the fact that such had been widely reported. He blamed state officials. Mike Brown, by the way, gained his emergency management experience as “Judges and Stewards Commissioner” to the International Arabian Horse Assoc., a position from which his was ultimately fired after rendering the organization into financial ruin http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/2/34622/68348 .

So why has FEMA, which during the 1990s James Witt reconstructed into a well respected, competent emergency response agency, failed so shamefully in its Katrina response?

The answer is apparent. James Witt is a professional manager who had emergency response management before his appointment as FEMA director. Mike Brown is a political hack with no emergency management experience. Likewise his predecessor, and benefactor who brought Brown to FEMA after his firing from the IAHA, Joseph Allbaugh, a long time Bush political crony and 2000 campaign manager, had no emergency response experience. Allbaugh left his FEMA position to establish a consultancy to peddle his influence in awarding contracts related to the destruction and reconstruction of Iraq.

Is it too much to ask of our elected officials to hire competent, experienced professional managers to direct delivery of essential government services to the citizenry, rather than political cronies?


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