Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another FEMA Drive Sprocket Leaves the Scene-Margaret Lawless

Well it had to happen! The GAL that rose from part-time to SES finally retired. When the rubber really hit the road ususally Margaret was there. A French Literature major and almost a PhD, Margaret was a FEMA institution. Hired by Richard W. Krimm and the real star of the Krimlings as I called them, Margaret used that magnificant brain to get many tough jobs done for FEMA. Perhaps the toughest was controlling the difficult task handed FEMA when President James Earl Carter handed FEMA offsite nuclear power plant saftey in 1980. There were two people vastly respected in FEMA by NRC and its staff level. Margaret was one. FEMA had been handed the job by Carter but almost no assets to handle the programs, functions, and activities that went with it. The original FEMA/NRC agreement was drafted by NRC personnel at both ends when NRC actually detailed personnel to FEMA to handle offsite safety and the rest came out of the Natural and Technological Hazards Division mainly from the National Flood Insurance Program. Since many talented people, like Margaret left the NFIP it damaged that program severely but Richard Krimm had no choice as principal manager for that effort. Given almost no help by the FEMA leadership, and almost no one in FEMA knew that the President's Reorganization Project had considered giving FEMA the FPA/NRC failed off-site safety program from the get go and long before the core-melt accident at TMI, the so-called Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REP) suffered from the opening bell due to understaffing and lack of expertise. REP almost ended FEMA. Anomolies in FEMA history in the first decade were often traceable to this program. Few in FEMA knew that Louis O. Guiffrida was an anti-nuclear advocate and had testified against the siting of Diablo Canyon long before heading FEMA. If the Reagan Presidential Personnel office had known that single fact he never would have headed FEMA. The Nuclear Power Industry learned that fact when it tried to roll lower level programmatic officials in the early 80's and LOG was quoted often as having stated that "he would never wear concrete boots" for NRC.

Well to the extent the REP program functioned from Margaret's transfer to it about 1981 to 1995 the program was Margaret. Many could complain about her, but to me Margaret was the outstanding civil servant in FEMA during those years. And in a job where the pressures were brutal and exposure of any one-sided beliefs pro or anti-nuclear destroyed a number of careers. Just the facts Mam-was Margaret personified. She will be missed but probably not until FEMA's next crisis.

So thanks for the memories Margaret Lawless and may the road rise up behind you and the Sun shine in your face. The best of the best. Not perfect of course.