When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, he was widely credited with transforming FEMA from what had been a backwater of cronyism into something like a model government agency. Five years later, a Senate committee is declaring FEMA so thoroughly broken that it ought to be taken apart and rebuilt from scratch.
"We have concluded that FEMA is in shambles and beyond repair, and that it should be abolished," Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes in a statement accompanying the committee's report on its Katrina investigation.
As the Washington Post reports, the committee's report faults the Bush administration for, among other things, "failing to fund and coordinate disaster readiness efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ... for emphasizing terrorism at the expense of natural disaster preparedness ... for bungling the storm response by neglecting warnings, failing to grasp Katrina's destructiveness [and] doing too little or taking the wrong steps before the Aug. 29 landfall."
The committee says that FEMA should be replaced by a new National Preparedness and Response Authority. Although Clinton elevated FEMA to Cabinet-level status, George W. Bush has insisted that FEMA should remain part of the Department of Homeland Security. As a result, the committee is suggesting that the new NPRA remain part of DHS, but that its head serve as the president's chief advisor on emergency preparedness and management.