Thursday, June 3, 2010

State Capability Assessments

In April 2000 FEMA and NEMA [National Emergency Management Association] jointly issued a new STATE CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT document. That document, available from this blogger, contained the following language in the forward:

"In the year 2000, we again strongly support and encourage each State, Territory, and Insular Area’s active participation in the Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR) survey. This survey will be the second CAR survey, the first having been conducted in 1997 with the full support of the State emergency management community. The CAR you now have has incorporated lessons learned from the first survey, as well as input from a series of Federal and State Customer Feedback Workshops designed to enhance the entire CAR process, instrument, and supporting materials.

Prior to 1997, emergency management officials lacked a nationally accepted assessment process whereby States, Territories, or Insular Areas could judge their emergency management readiness and capabilities. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) joined together in partnership to develop a prototype readiness and capability assessment instrument and process. The result of this effort was the CAR.

The CAR provides a common format for a self-assessment of emergency management capabilities and areas needing improvement by a State, Territory, or Insular Area, usually working with representatives from a FEMA Regional Office. The resulting assessment provides information crucial for strategic planning of emergency management programs and budgeting of resources.

The CAR process has the full support of both NEMA and FEMA. We look forward to all States, Territories, and Insular Areas working with us in completing CAR 2000."

The Constitution of the US does recognize a federal system in its language and history. Unfortunately, the almost total reliance on the STATES prior to the NEW DEAL to provide the necessities of life in a complex world was limited for many reasons, not the least the will of the politicians. It was this failure and the recognition that nation-states in Europe were developing social policies, often to support their militarism [as in Bismarck's Germany with its adoption of a system of social security so that men at the front would have the knowledge their survivors would be cared for by their government] almost forced the US to do the same. Social Security is not an insurance program but an intergenerational income transfer program and in the early years those who had worked but did not qualify were blanketed into the system with small payments.

What does this have to do with STATE CAPABILITY ASSESSMENTS. First, FEMA even in its days of independence was under statutory, regulatory, and Executive Order mandates to give an eye out for the current capability of all levels of government and emergency management. It seldom did this as revealed by the language of the foreward above. What it did do was essentially treat its grant programs as fire and forget funding of the STATES without really understanding how the STATES and the local governments used that money. A friend once told me that a $7M check showed up and the Mayor of Malibu called him to find out what it was for? The check of course came from the DRF and FEMA. Hey, no problem Malibu has lived off disaster monies as much as any other community its size in the country over the last 50 years. Fires, floods, landslides etc. is the real history of Malibu.

Okay partially out of frustration and partially to reduce pressure from Congress and OMB to the HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, FEMA several years ago actually hired a contractor to study STATE levels of capability. Of course at least theoretically, the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act requires statutorily that disaster relief be supplemental to STATE efforts and the funds are to granted only when beyond state capability. This standard has existed for a long time even before the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-288). One of my favorite disaster declarations was one by the President for 26 houses in Santa Barbara sliding into the ocean, one owned by Olivia Newton John. Hey I am sure it was NOT beyond CA capability to handle that event but that again was just federal money covering state negligence in allowing unwise development.

So the study conducted by Titan Corporation under the leadership of Grant Peterson several years ago used the baseline document SLG 101 [the version used issued 1996] as the measuring stick. That document was a successor to the old CPG-101 that through a number of versions was the measuring stick for the former federal civil defense program under Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress. The survey did NOT use Attachment G Terrorism to SLG 101 that had been formally issued and distributed by FEMA in 2000. That attachment dealt with "terrorism" preparedness and response.
What is of interest is that using SLG-101 which had been actively lobbied by the STATES to reduce its coverage and depth of analysis resulted in failure of over 50% of the states by that measure. With attachment G it is my belief that almost 75% would have failed.
And remember this is after over almost half of century of the federal government providing grants to the STATES and locals for preparedness and response.
So now under CPG 101 which has superseded SLG 101[my memory is that guidance was issued in 2008] I know of no new analysis of level of effort by the states under that new guidance.
Why is any of this important. The STATES by their noncompliance and misuse of federal funds to build preparedness are now left with the situation that they "MUST" get disaster funding for smaller and smaller disasters or risks political reaction from their voters. The effort over the last several years by politicians at the federal level elected from Louisiana has become almost desperate as they realize their states inability to do even minor levels of preparedness, response and recovery without federal assistance. In a way Lousiana and states that have cowtowed to their extractive industries have allowed their natural resources to be drained away for private profits while they are stuck holding the bag. Now the game is can those same states leave the federal fisc holding the bag. My guess is that system is about to catastrophically fail--meaning the federal largess to bail out the states from their self created problems and lack of will. Why will this happen?
The national interests in Louisana have been the same for many years, as an example. No it was not tourism and gambling. It was Mississippi outflow and inflow shipping and trade and the oil and gas to produce for national consumption. These issues are the only issues that really concern the feds no matter how hard Louisiana's elected politicians push. For example, we know, perhaps partially driven by racial political issues, that the federal government does not care that Louisiana lost large populations in the last decade largely due to migration of refugees from Katrina. This Decennial Census is a make or break one for Louisiana even befor the impacts of the current oil spill.
Well I am picking on Louisiana because my guess for the first time ever the federal government is about to abandon an entire state to live or die on its own resources because except for political pressures the national polity and rest of the members of Congress and even the current Administration has now despite its expressed regrets largely written off or discounted the impact of Louisiana in national life and national politics. I am just guessing of course but it does seem that "washing of hands" is now the official and unoffician federal policy towards that state.

What does this mean as many other states face equally likely massive events that may disrupt their politics and economies?

The feds now are facing the survival of their form of national government, really corporate socialism,and their fear is for their own interests and lobbying gratuties to maintain their lifestyle. With superior lobbying, a stronger federal tax system, and reallocation of national priorities I see Louisiana as the litmus test of this evolution, perhaps revolution. FEW politicians in the Executive Branch or Congress care a hoot about Louisiana. What is fascinating of course is that in forming the United States and "reforming" government that existed before the Constitution existed it was clear that the individual states would be able to veto federal or federalist type approaches to the nation's well being. Perhaps this is all a leap from FEMA's failure all along to do its job in measuring state and local capability. But I make that leap. And now of course is the basic fact that if FEMA grants are viewed ans not really being necessary for national purposes, FEMA which is closely tied to the STATES and Local governments, is not a necessary factor in the scheme of national government either. Thus, the exclusion from a major oil spill role may indicate the decline of FEMA as an indicator of national interests in the success of the STATE and LOCAL governments that again is not just a tell-tale in the wind but a sign that the federal system is now dying despite its Constitutional protections.