Thursday, September 01, 2005

FEMA to be dismantled

Knight-Ridder newspaper group has provided us with this cheery insight:
Federal government wasn't ready for Katrina, disaster experts say

WASHINGTON - The federal government so far has bungled the job of quickly helping the multitudes of hungry, thirsty and desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina, former top federal, state and local disaster chiefs said Wednesday.

The experts, including a former Bush administration disaster response manager, told Knight Ridder that the government wasn't prepared, scrimped on storm spending and shifted its attention from dealing with natural disasters to fighting the global war on terrorism.

The disaster preparedness agency at the center of the relief effort is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which was enveloped by the new Department of Homeland Security with a new mission aimed at responding to the attacks of al-Qaida.

"What you're seeing is revealing weaknesses in the state, local and federal levels," said Eric Tolbert, who until February was FEMA's disaster response chief. "All three levels have been weakened. They've been weakened by diversion into terrorism."

In interviews on Wednesday, several men and women who've led relief efforts for dozens of killer hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes over the years chastised current disaster leaders for forgetting the simple Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

Yeah, ok, prepared, sure. But who's doing the preparing? The Washington Post has this nugget:

... the advent of the Bush administration in January 2001 signaled the beginning of the end for FEMA. The newly appointed leadership of the agency showed little interest in its work or in the missions pursued by the departed Witt. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Soon FEMA was being absorbed into the "homeland security borg."

This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.

So let me get this straight: we're fighting over there so that the terrurists won't hurt us here, but when we are hurt, the 1) National Guard is in Iraq, and 2) the Department of Homeland Security is only supposed to fight terrorists so that they won't come here and lay waste to our cities, so that we won't have to send the National Guard overseas so they'll be here ready to help in ... uh ... ok, wait a minute. What the hell is going on here?

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