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Reassessing FEMA and Its Role in Preparing the Nation: Recommendations to Respond Effectively to Disasters (From Understanding and Responding to Terrorism, P 344-351, 2007, Huseyin Durmaz, Bilal Sevinc, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-224814)

NCJ Number
Siddik Ekici; David A. McEntire
Date Published
8 pages
This paper assesses the emergence and the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in preparing the Nation to respond effectively to disasters, with attention to the impact of hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, exposed significant deficiencies in the ability of FEMA and State and local agencies to respond to a natural disaster with the force and attendant environmental collapses associated with Katrina. FEMA’s failures are best explained in terms of overstated priorities (obsessive concern with counterterrorism after the 9/11 attacks), misguided budgeting, ineffective organizational structure, and poor managerial performance. In hindsight, the Federal Government had focused too much on terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, as the President and his advisors had ignored the more likely occurrence of natural disasters. Also, the budgeting process was skewed toward terrorism as the dominant priority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the umbrella department for FEMA. Although FEMA’s income has increased since President Bush took office, the amount of funds allocated for natural disasters decreased significantly in order to boost funding for counterterrorism. In addition, the structural positioning of FEMA in the Federal hierarchy under DHS changed its previous close ties to the White House. Under the new structure, the Director of FEMA has to go through DHS to reach the president, causing decisionmaking delays. Further, poor managerial performance is regarded by many as a key feature of the culture in DHS. Finally, after 9/11, the challenges facing all public administrators have become more complex and challenging. 9 references