The fate of FEMA

Was the slow response to Katrina the "inevitable" result of putting the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security?

By T.g.

Published September 5, 2005 1:00PM (EDT)

The Bush administration is doing its best to blame state and local officials for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina, but state emergency officials and others tell Knight Ridder that there's another explanation: "The chaotic government response to Hurricane Katrina, which even President Bush said was 'not acceptable,' was the inevitable result of federal policies emphasizing protection from terrorist attacks at the expense of preparing for far more common natural disasters."

After 9/11, the Bush administration moved the Federal Emergency Management Agency inside the newly created Department of Homeland Security, where the focus isn't exactly on natural disaster preparedness or response. "There are no emergency managers at any level in the Department of Homeland Security," George Haddow, a former FEMA deputy chief of staff, told Knight Ridder. "It doesn't look like anyone's in charge to me because the system has been deconstructed."

So the good news is that we're covered if terrorists attack in the United States? Not exactly. "I am not at all confident, based on what we've seen, that we'd have the ability to handle that," says Jon Kyl, the Republican senator from Arizona who heads the Senate Judiciary committee that oversees homeland security.

By T.g.


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