Monday, October 3, 2011

S.1630-Stafford Act Reform Bill

On September 23rd, Senator Landrieu introduced a bill to reform the Robert T. Stafford Act along with Senator Cochran. Most of this bill could be accomplished adminsitratively and instead of giving or taking away administrative authority it is largely and exercise in futility.
But it does some interesting things that perhaps should be developed more fully by hearings by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the Senate. First it substantially documents the states as the weakest link in the federal response and recovery system. Probably the top 1/3rd of STATES have at least some capability to respond to events confined to their state. The middle 1/3 can operate somewhat in that context. And the bottom 1/3 are almost totally incapable of helping their citizens even in an event confined to that state.
The bill would have the federal government document the reasons STATES cannot respond or recover to disasters. Now it is the Governors who largely unreviewed except in the crudest context that determine an event is beyond state capability. The new authority that is already in existence and repeatedly dodged by FEMA and the STATES in the requirement for STATE capability assessments might be very interesting if FEMA was allowed to and able to document STATES waste, fraud, and abuse and inherent factors in prohibiting or restricting adequate response and recovery. A recent report on TEXAS and HURRICANE IKE documents how state mismanagement has delayed recovery. So we all know that many federal programs came out of STATES incompetence or reluctance to modernize or just throwing up their hands and say let Uncle Sugar do it.

So while the bill will go not very far, a hearing on its proposed language and committee oversight of the need for it could be very interesting in an election year. We do know that FEMA is largely a contractor managed agency now as opposed to governmental employees. Key decisions are taken by contractors not FEMA and of course most mission assignments to other federal agencies (OFAs) are performed by that agencies contractors. No one seems to know what these contractors can really accomplish except to bill UNCLE SUGAR. Well perhaps time to refocus the "new" FEMA on preventing disasters and mitigating them rather than encouraging them by reckless administration. AS for the STATES some might do better to just go out of business. And we certainly don't need 90K plus units of local government.