Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hidden Secrets of FEMA

Well this effort may not live up to expectations from the headline but here goes!
First, FEMA is a largely technophobic agency and refuses to provide much assistance to STATEs and their local governments on technology and communications issues. With two former FEMA Directors/Administrators speaking out on communications issues--specifically the auction of spectrum with opposing views one might ask for a FEMA position on the issue. None will be developed or submitted. In fact another dirty little secret is that few in FEMA, even in the Office of the Chief Counsel read the daily Federal Register and certainly seldom read federal register entries that might impact FEMA but are not published by FEMA. Even Presidential Executive Orders impacting FEMA are often dessiminated only by luck and seldom coherently discussed, implemented, and acted upon fully. Can they even read might be one question? Most are too busy to learn how their organization is being impacted by other parts of the federal government. Just in today's Federal Register the OPM publication of a new proposed definition of "National Security Position" will drastically impact FEMA but probably no one will realize it until OPM reg is final and too late.

Second! The failure of FEMA to view EM as a multidisciplinary activity and usually those with expertise are not rewarded or even asked for their input on FEMA policy development, implementation and operations. Example, look at the skill sets in the very expensive to operate and fund FEMA policy section under David Kaufman.
What do some of these people bring to the table and what successes of FEMA are based on that groups input and operations. Even the programs seldom include farout (being facetious) disciplines like water resource expertise,medicine, statistics, sesimology, geology, anthropology, physcology, economics to FEMA program operations or policy development. Proof is lack of significant numbers if any of personnel with these backgrounds.

Third! FEMA has consistently failed to submit legislation that is technical in nature and that would fix or assist problems of administrative feasiblity or even legal conumdrums. Basically FEMA is not a respected organization for legislative referral from DHS and OMB legislative types and certainly not technical organizations like the Department of Justice. In otherwords, FEMA is willing to spend hard hard earned taxpayer dollars without much expertise. Another approach would be to have FEMA list all of National Academy of Science, National Research Council, etc. reports on its programs, functions, and activities since its formation in 1979. Another view would be to ask the other federal technical agencies for their views on FEMA's contributions.

Fourth! Does FEMA truly believe in competition in procurement? Answer just look at FEMA contractors over the years and their "wins" for program contract support.

FIFTH! Does FEMA administer its programs, functions, and activities to make STATES and their local governments more resilient? NO and in fact FEMA administers most of its programs, functions, and activities in ways destructive to STATEs and their local government resilience and does so by its inadquate planning and evaluation of those efforts. The STATES and their local governments are seldom brought up short and to some degree FEMA is designed to cover up for STATES, and their local governments negiligence, even nonfeasance, and malfeasance.

SIXTH! Is FEMA an agency that respects legal niceties in its legal architecture? NO. Several reasons but chronis understaffing and underfunding of its legal support function is the key way. It has now broken up its litigation section and dispersed those lawyers to the direct support of the three divisions. This system is designed to politicize litigation and prohibit the training and skills necessary to support the most difficult and complex litigation. The litigation role of FEMA is in fact not independent but instead designed in reality to make sure that FEMA appointees and personnel understand that DOJ controls all FEMA litigation not the Chief Counsel. How many times has FEMA weighed in in writing on cases involving other departments and agencies with governmentwide impact. Not once since I retired in 1999 that I know of. And of course any case with identified government wide impact also impacts FEMA.

Seventh! Does FEMA its staff and appointees to develop their expertise through training and conferences and writing and teaching and thus forge national reputations in their fields, perhaps even international reputations? NO! This is viewed as not being loyal to FEMA management and policy.

Eight! Is the FIRE SERVICE a respected player and full member in the adminstration of FEMA programs, functions, or activities to the extent that profession might be considered useful? NO! Reason! The history of the FIRE SERVICE in FEMA and Washington not because they have nothing to offer. Example, has mitigation assitance ever been awarded for the fire hazard in the urban/wildland interface? Not to my knowledge. Climate change might really impact this issue.

NINE! The administration of overtime and comptime in FEMA has always been abused by the highest levels of FEMA and many of its DAE cadre. This waste is largely unpoliced and systems to police it are not in place.

Tenth! Why are so many FEMA people successful in other federal agencies when they depart from FEMA but were viewed as problem children in FEMA? Because basically FEMA has an authoritarian management style that is exactly what it does not need given its primary missions of collaboration and coopertaion intra-agency and inter-agency!

And of course this post is designed in the spirit that FEMA can do better. When personnel in FEMA wonder why other civil servants in other agencies have such a strong bias against FEMA they might start with the perception that FEMA always goes by the not-invented-here bias. Hey did you know some foreign countries are well ahead of FEMA on EM? Oh and did I mention that FEMA no longer has a library. Too many books in a library no doubt. Or maybe too many unread books. Having personnally given the FEMA library over $1000 worth of books (without deduction for taxes)that I thought were worth reading by all FEMA staff hoping that in breaking up the library they went somewhere useful.