Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Was NAPA Correct in its 1993 Analysis

One of the predicates of the February 1993 NAPA report was not FEMA's actual performance in August 1992 during Hurricane Andrew. In fact it was a draft OIG/FEMA report that suggested that bureacratic infighting between the State and Local Programs Directorate, headed by Grant Peterson, and the National Preparedness Directorate, headed by Anthony Lopez were unable to cooperate.
I have always disagreed with this analysis and have now had scanned a document never transmitted due to the actual occurrence of Hurricane Andrew wherein a joint reply to the OIG/FEMA report was cleared for signature at the Associate Director level but again never issued final. I have that document if anyone is interested. It is sort of an "eye of the beholder document" but I did furnish the draft to the NAPA study group for their perusal. They took the document to mean their argument that FEMA was not managed correctly and unable to use or utilize all FEMA's resources in a large scale event like Hurrican Andrew. They also concluded that the President got the FEMA he/she wanted. I suggest readers of this blog obtain a copy of the document and draw their own conclusions.

What is of interest is that by August 1992 major efforts were being made to ensure that the Federal Response Plan [FRP] issued in May 1992 would or could be implemented. In fact, no one studying the FEMA efforts in Hurricane Andrew could reach agreement on whether all or any portion of the FRP had in fact been activated. [Ironically again in 2005 the National Response Plan, finalized in April 2005 had not been fully implemented by August 2005 and Hurricane Katrina making landfall]!
What we now do know is that FEMA's Director Wallace Stickney requested that he NOT be made the "Master of Disaster" in Hurricane Andrew and that went to a reluctant Andrew Card. This had several implications for FEMA's future when George Bush named Andrew Card as his chief of staff and even his VP Richard Cheney had strong opinions about FEMA's continued existence in his role as SECDEF during George H.W. Bush's Administration.
Whatever the bottom line of any President's understanding of FEMA and its role, the very fact that the Obama Adminstration has failed to clearly articulate why FEMA is not involved in the OIL SPILL not only shows the Adminstrations lack of understanding of the significance of that decision or non-decision but well may lead to the underfunded and understaffed FEMA being wrongly regarded as an unnecessary part of the crisis management and emergency management function of the Executive Branch. This will finally mean that FEMA has been the baby thrown out with the bath water or in this case sunk by the oleaginous mess the Adminstration finds itself.

Please read the thoughtful and careful CRS report available here and elsewhere on the Stafford Act and OIL SPILL carefully because it demonstrates the already the technical response to this catastrophic event in US history is far more than the technical response or non-response by the federal government and BP and instead literally a biopsy of the Executive Branch and its willingness to treat the abnormal for the Gulf States as an everyday event. By Labor Day the Gulf states will be so frustrated by the federal failures that IMO they will be permanently dissuaded from voting for any involved in this misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance for the next 3 decades. A tragic disruption of the American polity that may well be matched or exceed only by the Civil War itself.
Two things to remember: First the Adminstration never published or announced any reason for leaving FEMA in DHS.
Second, the Adminstration has failed to publish or announce any reason for FEMA's non-participation in the OIL SPILL!

This is no longer FEMA's failure but the decisive failure of the President and his Secretary of DHS who now wanders the sands of the middle east while her subordinates try and manage this catastrophic event. Her official passport should be taken away.