Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ultimate Reform of the NFIP-Termination?

Quoting from the NWF (National Wildlife Federation) letter of January 25, 2011 to the NFIP Deputy Adminstrator for Mitigation:

"FEMA has proposed four “straw man” proposals that largely focus on changes in rate structure.
These proposals are: (1) optimize the existing NFIP framework; (2) privatize all or part of the
NFIP; (3) move to community-based insurance policy options; and (4) switch to federal
assistance policy options. However, many critical measures are either not adequately included or
excluded from these “straw man” proposals that would achieve many of the needed reforms in
the NFIP without relying primarily on changes in rate structures. Many of these measures can be
implemented by FEMA now and will have immediate positive impacts in protecting floodplain
resources, safeguarding people and communities from floods, and saving tax dollars.
These comments will detail problems with the current NFIP and changes that are needed."

Both the NWF and the American Rivers organizations submitted lengthy and detailed comments and all are worthy of conideration by the program. My slant is somewhat different.

I believe given fiscal constraints and environmental developments including climate change dictate that the NFIP be terminated. Thus, the program should completely sunset by 2021. I would however also argue that this 40 year experiment in federal landuse regulation and indemnification of STATES and their LOCAL governments negligence could be continued after that date if these important changes in the NFIP were adopted in the next decade. They are designed to reverse the moral hazards and adverse selection of the program, restore insurance principles, minimize outlays, and give incentives to those who want the mapping to continue to provide disclosure of flood hazards to continue.

So these are my proposals to allow NFIP continuation beyond 2021:
1. No community can join the NFIP and participate to get any NFIP insurance for its citizens unless they entirety of the community is willing to mandate every structure within the 1% annual occurrence flood, A or V zone has bought flood insurance and maintains it is force. The community could itself sell and collect premiums for the NFIP if it so choose. Properties can be exempted by the community from purchase only on presentation of scientific or technical evidence including elevation without any fill that they are above the 1% annual occurrence flood. Outside of such a mapped participating community no flood insurance will be offered by the NFIP. If private entities wish to provide it and State Insurance regulatory agencies allow it then it can be provided.
2. All STATE and LOCAL structures must buy and retain flood insurance from the NFIP when located in the communities in number 1 above.
3. All coastal V zones on NFIP maps will contain the assumption that a one (3) meter sea-level rise this century will occur. This is a political compromise between the known for certain one (1) meter rise and the possible eleven (11) meter rise some have suggested. It is recognition by the Congress of a political compromise but necessary to protect construction of structures after 2021 that may be inundated by sea-level rise.
4. No federal NFIP insurance will be provided anywhere where a structural protection work is in place and may or may not fail by design exceedence or structural failure. This exposure will be left to the private insurance business and the STATES and their LOCAL governments.
5. Flood Mapping in all Coastal counties in the US participating in the CZM managed by NOAA will be mapped by NOAA with new NOAA maps being issued by 2021. Flood mapping in all inland/riverine flood areas will be conducted by the STATES and their LOCAL governments with a block grant from the federal government based on river miles and stream miles as currently depicted on base maps of the NFIP. The STATES will also support reestablishment of the non-statutory River Basin Commissions disestablished by the REAGAN Adminsitration.
6. All FEMA activities including flood mapping, disaster relief, reconstruction of water resource projects and other related activities will incorporate to the extent possible the Principles and Standards for Water Resource Projects, either as currently concieved or amended.
7. The administrative oversight by me of the omission of the Endangered Species Act in the 1975 proposed and 1976 FINAL Rulemaking will be immediated corrected by formal rulemaking.
8. 50% of all NFIP premium taxes paid to the STATES will go to STATE floodplain management programs, or alternative no premium tax will be given to the STATES on NFIP policies.
9. The existing so-called emergency program will be ended by FY 2016.
10. Any residential property in the US not now having flood insurance in force and not otherwise required to maintain NFIP insurance, and for which NO claim has ever been paid on the property will be given a free flood insurance policy and with that free policy a disclosure that no further federal disaster assistance or relief for that property will be provided as of the effective date of that policy. The disclosure will also indicate that after each paid claim an appropriate adjustment will be made in the premium for that property based on assessment of its risk. Property owners will be informed of increased costs of construction should the property be brought up to current FPM standars and given the option of purchasing such coverage.
11. All federal mapping of inland/riverine flooding would end and as of the end of FY 2021 STATES and their LOCAL governments or preferably a River Basin Commission technical staff would conduct that mapping.

Since I doubt that any of the above will be adopted NFIP insurance should in fact terminate with appropriate policy runoff at the end of FY 2021.

Oh! Oh! Rob Portman now on SENATE COMMITTEE on HS

I may have posted on this issue before. Basically it is the intelligence, competence, drive, and motivation of the Current Congress. Several outstanding new Senators have arrived with the 112th Congress. Two are Republicans! Rubio of Florida--Cuban/American. And Portman. Portman formally headed OMB and is top notch just wrong party. And the one DEM who is awesome and will be a power is Blumenthal of Conneticut. All these will even as freshmen show their power.

Unfortunately, in many ways the brains are now with the Republicans and no indication yet whether the intellectual firepower of Obama's appointees to SCOTUS will hold up to those others.

Why is PORTMAN so important to FEMA. Because he knows FEMA cold and its problems with policy, waste, fraud, abuse and generally being a creature of the STATES and their LOCAL governments. That is the basica reason OMB did not defend FEMA from the spin-down under ALLBAUGH and RIDGE and then Chertoff. He knows budget codes cold. 050 is National Defense. 450 is state and local assistance. Portman knows the bulk of FEMA is in the latter category. He is so knowledgeable that I fully expect him to Chair the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after the 2012 elections when the SENATE is held by the Republicans.

My understanding is that he even reviewed (as did Richard Darman when heading OMB for BUSH 41) individual Damage Survey Reports that would lead to large disaster outlays. Nothing like building 6 new hospitals in California by FEMA under President Clinton will be occurring this round. What will be curious as to how he launches an attack on disaster outlays. Legislative or through the Senate Finance Committee that he also sits on. Or both.

This will be one to watch and as far as I am concerned what Jacob Lew the OMB Director does to FEMA is now almost irrelevant and the real test is what does Rob Portman want.

By the way the proposed budget for FY 2012 is due from the Executive Branch to the HILL on February 14th. My guess is DOA.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

FEMA Leadership

FEMA Leadership

As of October 13, 2010

Administrator - W. Craig Fugate

Deputy Administrator - Richard Serino

Chief of Staff - Jason McNamara

Director, Office of Executive Secretariat - Elizabeth Edge

Chief Counsel - Brad Kieserman

Deputy Administrator, Protection and National Preparedness - Timothy W. Manning

Assistant Administrator, National Preparedness - Corey Gruber

Assistant Administrator, Grant Programs - Elizabeth M. Harman

Assistant Administrator, National Continuity Programs - Damon Penn

Director, Office of National Capital Region Coordination - Steward D. Beckham

Administrator, U.S. Fire Administration (Acting) - Glenn A. Gaines

Associate Administrator, Response and Recovery - William "Bill" L. Carwile, III

Deputy Associate Administrator, Response and Recovery - Elizabeth Zimmerman

Assistant Administrator, Response - Robert J. Fenton, Jr.

Assistant Administrator, Logistics - Eric Smith

Assistant Administrator (Acting), Recovery - Elizabeth Zimmerman

Director, Office of Federal Coordinating Officer Operations - Theodore A. (Ted) Monette, Jr

Associate Administrator, Mission Support Bureau - David Garratt

Deputy Associate Administrator, Mission Support Bureau - Albert B. Sligh, Jr.

Chief Financial Officer, Mission Support Bureau - Norman S. Dong

Chief Administrative Officer, Mission Support Bureau - Delia Davis

Office Chief Procurement Officer, Mission Support Bureau - Jacob Hansen

Chief Information Officer, Mission Support Bureau - Jeanne Etzel

Chief Component Human Capital Officer (Acting), Mission Support Bureau - Kathy Fields

Chief Security Officer, Mission Support Bureau - Burt Thomas

Acting Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration - Edward Connor

Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator, Insurance - Edward Connor

Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator, Mitigation - Sandra Knight

Director, Office of Equal Rights - Pauline Campbell

Director, Office of External Affairs - Brent Colburn

Law Enforcement Advisor to the Administrator - Charles F. "Rick" Dinse

Director, Office of Policy & Program Analysis - David J. Kaufman

Director, Office of Regional Operations - Patty Kalla

Director, Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives - David L. Myers

Director, Office of Disability Integration & Coordination - Marcie Roth

FEMA Regional Administrators:

Administrator, Region I - Don R. Boyce

Administrator, Region II - Lynn Gilmore Canton

Administrator, Region III - MaryAnne Tierney

Administrator, Region IV - Major Phillip May

Administrator, Region V - Andrew Velasquez III

Administrator, Region VI - Anthony "Tony" Russell

Administrator, Region VII - Beth A. Freeman

Administrator, Region VIII - Robin Finegan

Administrator, Region IX - Nancy Ward

Administrator, Region X - Kenneth Murphy


Federal Emergency Management Agency Directors

Name Term of Office

* Gordon Vickery April 1979 - July 1979

* Thomas Casey July 1979

John Macy August 1979 - January 1981

* Bernard Gallagher January 1981 - April 1981

* John W. McConnell April 1981 - May 1981

Louis O. Giuffrida May 1981 - September 1985

* Robert H. Morris September 1985 - November 1985

Julius W. Becton, Jr. November 1985 - June 1989

* Robert H. Morris June 1989 - May 1990

* Jerry D. Jennings May 1990 - August 1990

Wallace E. Stickney August 1990 - January 1993

*William C. Tidball January 1993 - April 1993

James L. Witt April 1993 - January 2001

*John Magaw January 2001 - February 2001

Joe M. Allbaugh February 2001 - March 2003

Michael D. Brown March 2003 - September 2005

R. David Paulison September 2005 - January 2008

* Nancy Ward January 2009 - May 2009

Craig Fugate May 2009 - Present

* Acting director

Structural Modifications of the Floodplain-Levees

Congress in 2007 mandated a comprehensive study of levee safety. The draft report can be found at: National Committee on Levee Safety website. Or just go to my other blog at

What I have recently learned is that USACOE and the Levee Safety Committee has no intention of finalizing the report but is using 20 interface with interested parties meetings to come up with a new legislative proposal.

So USACOE has another reprieve in their decades long effort to prevent oversight and modification of their levee activities by Congress or the WH. And note how strictly defined "levee" is by USACOE to avoid contaminating their efforts on "Hurricane Projects and Levees" and "Flood Wall"!

There benefit cost analysis has been demonstrated to be makebelieve but FEMA is even worse by not using any benefit cost analysis or the P&S in their massive outlays to repair water resource projects built by the USACOE and others and in particular levees.

Hey the beat goes on! Congressman Darrell ISSA won't be issuing subpoenas to USACOE. After all is he from California.
The agricultural levees masquerading as flood control levees in the Sacremento River area and also the Salton Sea are problematic for any major effort without federal assistance. As some realize the development of the 20th century of the US was largely an interaction with energy, WWII, and then federal post-WWII programs with California receiving the most federal disaster dollars, often on a repetitive basis since WWII.


Well the confirmed death toll from Cholera in Haiti has now passed 4,000. FEMA is claiming and DHS saying the same that the deployment of DHS/FEMA staff for Haiti issues and in response to the earthquake and other reasons exceed over 1,000 live bodies of DHSers, including FEMA. Wondering how this was paid for? I keep getting word that OFDA now stiff arms FEMA involvement in anything. So interesting relationship.

Of course all should know that I am for taking OFDA disaster mission from OFDA and giving to DHS/FEMA so perhaps with government reorganization on the table after the SOTU that is what really worries OFDA.

And did I mention that almost all OFDA assistance and US AID assistance goes out through stateside contractors and NGO's. And no audits ever performed by OIG AID on religious NGO's overseas that are Christian in their beliefs. Well another interesting issue or issues for Congress to look over when trying to discover how the Executive Branch really works.

Check the Semi-annual audits by OGE of AID and OFDA for interesting reading.

FEMA RESOURCES- Blog Home page

I continue to add documents to both the FEMA Historical info section on the HOME PAGE of the Blog and Baseline docs.

I recently added to the FEMA RESOURCES info a disaster handbook for staff officers written for the CALL of the US ARMY. This is the Center for the ARMY LESSONS LEARNED CENTER and I found this document a useful overview and its existence makes me wonder why so little comes out of FEMA of a similar style. After all, my knowledge comes from years of living not necessarily position or intelligence and documents that provide overviews for newcomers which always will exist in EM and for real world events would be very helpful IMO!

Oddly Marilyn Quayle when she sat for several years on FEMA's then existing Advisory Committee suggested much the same and also a more extensive program of training DAE's long before any deployment. Many other useful suggestions came from those meetings all transcribed in some fashion but certainly now all lost to time and FEMA's incapacity to retain its history in all events. Destruction of the FEMA library certainly one evidence of that lack of interest in the past. Perhaps that is why FEMA continues to make the same mistakes and create the same problems over and over.

Time will tell the accuracy of the conclusion above.

Friday, January 28, 2011

DHS/FEMA Guidance

Lengthy guidance materials were issued by DHS/FEMA in the Bush administration concerning emergency planning and preparedness. In August 2007 several documents were issued discussed in the Preface to one of them, the National Preparedness Guidelines. Extract follows:

"Homeland Security Presidential Directive-8 (HSPD-8) of December 17, 2003 (“National Preparedness”) directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a national domestic all-hazards preparedness goal. As part of that effort, in March 2005 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the Interim National Preparedness Goal. Publication of the National Preparedness Guidelines (Guidelines) finalizes development of the national goal and its related preparedness tools.
The Guidelines, including the supporting Target Capabilities List, simultaneously published online, supersedes the Interim National Preparedness Goal and defines what it means for the Nation to be prepared for all hazards. There are four critical elements of the Guidelines:
(1) The National Preparedness Vision, which provides a concise statement of the core preparedness goal for the Nation.
(2) The National Planning Scenarios, which depict a diverse set of high-consequence threat scenarios of both potential terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Collectively, the 15 scenarios are designed to focus contingency planning for homeland security preparedness work at all levels of government and with the private sector. The scenarios form the basis for coordinated Federal planning, training, exercises, and grant investments needed to prepare for emergencies of all types.
(3) The Universal Task List (UTL), which is a menu of some 1,600 unique tasks that can facilitate efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from the major events that are represented by the National Planning Scenarios. It presents a common vocabulary and identifies key tasks that support development of essential capabilities among organizations at all levels. Of course, no entity will perform every task.
(4) The Target Capabilities List (TCL), which defines 37 specific capabilities that communities, the private sector, and all levels of government should collectively possess in order to respond effectively to disasters.
The Guidelines reinforce the fact that preparedness is a shared responsibility. They were developed through an extensive process that involved more than 1,500 Federal, State, and local officials and more than 120 national associations. They also integrate lessons learned following Hurricane Katrina and a 2006 review of States’ and major cities’ emergency operations and evacuation plans."

Since that time DHS/FEMA have issued several preparedness reports in partial compliance with statutory mandates. One in January 2009 and another in September 2010 both of which can be found on the baseline documents section of this blog's home page. Oddly there was almost no calibration to the formal guidance documents issued and now after over two years of the Obama Administration most of the announcements/pronouncements of the DHS/FEMA leadership makes no real reference to understanding the fairly comprehensive guidance outstanding to both STATES and their LOCAL GOVERNMENTS and the federal community generally. You almost never see reference to these guidelines in DHS/FEMA or outside DHS/FEMA. Why not?

I would argue this is just another example of lack of "grip" of the agencies leadership. Perhaps Tim Manning who I discussed in a recent post could issue a comprehensive status report on how the documents referenced in these posts are currently being utilized, their adequacy, and their utility in accomplishing the DHS/FEMA new paradigm of "Resilience"!

Again a Congressional hearing on these issues might also be useful. What I find of great interest is that almost none of the principals of the Bush administration have issued articles or books discussing what they really accomplished during their time in DHS/FEMA. The Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff books revealed almost nothing about the inner workings of the Department. I am eagerly looking forwards to the Michael Brown book scheduled for release this month. So far I would have to conclude that most of the key Bush administration guidance and reports were written by contractors and little actual knowledge of those documents is present in the working levels of DHS/FEMA! Hoping I am wrong of course.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FEMA's TWO Deputies-Tim Manning & Richard Serino

The position of a Deputy to a high ranking official is fraught with peril. The best executives following a Peter Drucker type analysis of their own strengths and weaknesses would look for the gaps in their own skills and competencies to be filled by a Deputy. Often however ego and hubris keep corporations from having neatly planned successions.
The federal Executive Branch is slightly different and under the Vacancy Reform Act the first deputy ususally is by law to replace the principal appointee if that appointee for some reason is sick or unavailable.
FEMA has the luxury or curse of two deputy Administrators. Also typically the head of an independent agency or a department ususally selects a deputy that fits the pattern as to whether the principal wants to be a MR. or MS. Inside or Outside. If the latter, the Director or Administrator or Secretary often is a road warrior seldom at home and currying favor with the outside individuals and organizations that are either beholden to the organization, wish to influence it, or are regulated by it. FEMA main constituencies are other governmental units and non governmental units involved in the FEMA missions, programs, functions, and activities. It appears to this observer that Craig Fugate has chosen to be the principal Road Warrior for FEMA, but given the agencies mission there are plenty of others. The interesting thing about Fugate, Manning, and Serino is this might be the most interesting job they have held. My FEMA job [jobs] was the most interesting I ever held.

Only one Director of FEMA, James Lee Witt, and one Deputy Director of FEMA, Harvey Ryland, parlayed their appointments into jobs that continued to at least partially or entirely relate to the FEMA mission. Talent in EM is so short that anyone who can help the EM mission even vaguely post-FEMA employment is doing the country a service IMO. The ethics of post-employment I will write about at a later time. Oddly even the Secretaries of DHS have not done very well post-employment after DHS if clout is the test, meaning policy clout. Both James Lee Witt and Harvey Ryland retained considerable clout in their new positions.

Discussion of Deputy Serrino will come later. But some background on Tim Manning demonstrates to me his full qualification as the Deputy Administrator for Preparedness. Because FEMA has announced it will no longer publish its delegations and organization in the Federal Register it is difficult to understand from the outside exactly what the programs, functions, and activities Tim Manning is accountable for. None-the-less the following background is provided:

"Hazmat, Mountain-Rescue Experience Gives FEMA Deputy Administrator Big-Picture View

By Mary Rose Roberts

Fire Chief

November 16, 2010

Tim Manning is FEMA’s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. He is responsible for preparing the nation to protect against, prevent, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism and natural disasters. Through the coordination of the National Preparedness Directorate, Grant Programs Directorate, Office of National Capital Region Coordination and National Continuity Programs Directorate, Manning oversees the agency’s readiness initiatives including national training, education, exercises, assessment and community-preparedness programs.

Manning is a former firefighter, EMT, rescue mountaineer, hazmat specialist and hydrologist, and brings almost two decades of diverse, frontline emergency management experience to the agency. Prior to joining FEMA, he served as the secretary of the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and homeland security advisor to Gov. Bill Richardson in 2007. In addition, he holds a bachelor’s of science in geology and is a graduate of the Executive Leaders Program at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School.

What is your experience as a firefighter?

I went to EMT school while I was in college, and I grew up around the fire service. My dad was a firefighter; my brother went into the fire service. When I moved to New Mexico in 1994, I started as a volunteer firefighter with Bernalillo County Fire Department. And in the 1990s, I worked as a volunteer for a small town in the mountains outside of Albuquerque.

What kind of fires did you fight?

The Bernalillo County Fire Department covers a larger, rural county. I worked in the south valley of Albuquerque. It was an urban fire department that did a lot of wildland firefighting. So, we did your traditional house and commercial fires, industrial and then all spring and summer wildland fires in the mountains of New Mexico.

You also were a rescue mountaineer. What type of search-and-rescue incidents did you address?

I worked with the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue team and eventually became the president and rescue chief. We did state- and region-wide, high-altitude technical mountain rescue work. We climbed into the high elevations above timer-line, did avalanche rescue … everything from multi-day, weeklong searches for lost hunters in the forest to fallen and injured climbers on 1,000-foot cliffs.

You also have hazmat training.

Yes. My full time job was as a hydrogeologist doing hazardous materials where I’d visit sites of accidents. In some cases, I would respond as a firefighter to an accident and then, weeks later, end up as a geologist and hazmat specialists working the cleanup and the impacts from that accident.

What skills learned from your volunteer service do you bring to your FEMA position?

The most important part of that experience is the people I’ve worked with, the other dedicated volunteer, rescue professionals that are around the country. I’ve learned there are extremely high performing people who give what little free time they have to their friends and neighbors, to bettering their community. There is a strength in our communities that here at FEMA, we have the opportunity to support. We can leverage and help build those communities to help make a stronger, more resilient America.

How will your wildfire experience help you in your FEMA position?

There is not a job in the fire service you can do by yourself. Working on an engine or truck or even a simple incident requires working within a team. In wildland firefighting, you see that on a larger scale. A large wildland fire may have hundreds or thousands of responders, and the incident may last weeks or months in some cases. There’s a magnitude you see in those events that you don’t see in any other kind of incident and time frames that are well beyond what you see in a house fire or even a large industrial accident. So having worked as part of a crew in the backcountry cutting fire line, then working in emergency management where our job is to support such responders, that really helps all of us in leadership understand the need of the response, of the incident commander and the individual firefighter.

What has your search-and-rescue experience taught you?

There’s a lot in common with wildland firefighting and backcountry mountain rescue, in the duration, in the complexity and the timeframes. But Administrator [Craig] Fugate … has said there’s a huge capability gap in the country. There are special skills, equipment and capabilities required. We could do a lot more to support our responders around the country with building that experience. [Sic] we can do more to provide the resources, the training and more funding to allow the fire service to do their job as safely as possible.

What would you say to fire departments that lack adequate funding?

The budget crisis has hit the fire service hard. We have grant programs to help the fire service stave off layoffs and rehire firefighters, like the SAFER grant. We’ve heard and lived the concerns of the fire service, and we reflected that in the way we changed the way grants work and guidance, what’s allowable. We will continue to do that. We will continue to listen closely to the fire service and do whatever we can do to help. We need to keep people on the engines, on the rescue apparatus and equipped to protect their communities. If we can’t do that, we can’t respond to the catastrophic disasters. So we have to do what we can to sustain and maintain the capabilities around the country.

Based on the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill response, how should fire chiefs plan for a corporate-run clean up?

We have been successful in the last 20 years in building an emergency management capability in our country that builds relationships between the fire service, law enforcement, public works — all of the people we work with every day. Chiefs need to preplan for an event at any large manufacturing or chemical plant in their jurisdiction, so they know the plant managers and the facilities. Facilities all have risk management plans, so it’s important that those are gathered. It also is important to get to know county and state homeland security coordinators and emergency managers. They are people responsible for working those multi-agency plans.

What should fire chiefs do to improve their skill sets to serve FEMA and its goals?

They can let us know what we can do to support them. FEMA is part of a very big team. Our job is to support the governors and the responders around the country. So I ask the chiefs, the fire service, to keep doing what they are doing — protecting their communities."

My hope is that Tim Manning given this excellent background can help to leverage the professions that are involved in EM and get them to cooperate and collaborate as much as possible. This is not an easily accomplished task.

For example the historic antipathy of the FIRE SERVICE to CBRNE preparedness and response has led to at least one entirely new profession even though often collocated with the FIRE SERVICE--the EMT profession, and perhaps a second also the HAZMATS professional. After all these two professions have to master either medical science or chemistry or both. Not an easy task.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Well did we learn much from either side tonight? Glad to hear that Obama would phase out subsidizes to the fossil fuel extractive industries. Interesting topic but seriously doubt this Congress (the 112th) would make the effort. No tackling of issues like eliminating the home mortgage deduction when in excess of $250k. Speech much like ones in gave in campaigning in 2008. Trouble is this is 2011. And his across the board freeze proposal is amatuer night.

I did find interesting his mention of reorganization of the Executive Branch. Well time will tell on that one.

My laundry list of what would NOT be mentioned in my Monday post seems pretty accurate unless I fell asleep. Will review the speech in the written record tomorrow to check for sure.

Ryan gave the speech he wanted to so I guess that makes he and the President equal. Neither gave a leadership speech which is what the country needs.

Basic conclusion on Obama as President so far? Too inexperienced and not tough enough. Governing is a brutal business and not for the faint of heart. Betting many trips in next two years overseas while he winds up his presidency.

More on NFIP Reform

The departure of Carol Browner who led EPA for eight years under President William Jefferson Clinton and has headed the WH Oceans and Energy slot since the start of the Obama Administration should not really be news since we know that the Republican House of Representatives takeover kills any climate legislation for the next decade. That even while announcements are made almost daily that the Greenland glaciers, most over land not water, shrunk more in 2010 than any year recently. Poor Polar Bears.
Well where can the President make an environmental statement. It does increasingly look like the NFIP will be statutorily modified this session of Congress. Essentially a land use not an insurance program clearly its insurance aspects have attracted numerous followers, and it is life and death in the NOLA and HOUSTON and perhaps some Florida areas. Reform is being driven by claims payments during Hurricane Katrina where many in NOLA although not mapped as flood prone were smart enough to buy very cheap insurance coverage.
So my leading reform would be that NO FEDERAL FLOOD INSURANCE IS PROVIDED OUTSIDE THE DESIGNATED 1% ANNUAL OCCURRENCE FLOOD DESIGNATED AREAS TYPICALLY "A" AND "V" zones. This would give an additional incentive to not contest the new maps being issued by the NFIP that because the technical data is overlayed on better contour interval data often are expanding the designed "100-year" flood plain by up to 30% causing political headaches for the program, which frequently is delaying map adoption and enforcement for political reasons.

This does not help in the reduction of "FREE" federal disaster outlays which was also a prime purpose of the NFIP as the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (P.L 93-288) and the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 (largely effective December 1994)adjusted to the events of Tropical Storm Agnes where once again the NFIP in its early stages had not resulted in widely spread purchase of insurance. In fact between program inception in June 1969 when the first policy was issued until December 1977 the premium income roughly equaled claims payments with some adjustment for expenses.

The NFIP is too big and too important an effort to be left to the whims of DHS/FEMA and a WH coordinator who really understands the impacts on the environment, water policy and resources, the building industry and future community development should be leading a multiagency approach to reform.
This person could start by leading the effort to update based on technical and scientific knowledge developed since their first issuance, Executive Order 11990 on WETLANDS and Executive Order 11988 on FLOOD PLAIN MANAGEMENT. Both could be made much more effective than presently.

President Obama still does not seem to understand that the American people will vote in 2012 on results not promises. And Harry Truman as President had it right in stating "THE BUCK STOPS HERE!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Technical Uncertainty and Flood Mapping

Soon to be almost 30 years since the publication of the article:
Baram & Miyares,
Managing Flood Risk: Technical Uncertainties in the National Flood Insurance Program , 7 COLUM. J.
ENVTL. L. 129 (1982)

And little academic literature or litigation dealing with what as head of HUD Flood litigation for the FIA and then FEMA from July 1, 1974 to July 1, 1986 I feared the most difficult challenge to the NFIP. Well I guess mission accomplished.

To focus more clearly on my concern I quote [with footnotes deleted] from the article:

"Legal challenges to the FIS can be expected to arise, at least in part, because technical uncertainty inevitably results in some divergence between results and objective reality. If the party challenging a floodplain management decision is successful in overcoming the usual judicial deference to agency expertise and secures judicial invalidation of the challenged decision, this can reduce or
destroy the credibility of the underlying FIS.
However, in the few reported decisions thus far concerning
NFIP, courts have shown much solicitude for the difficulty of the Agency's mission, and somewhat less for incidental injury to landowners. The court in Roberts stated: "factual certainty is not necessary, and an agency may regulate even though facts do not illuminate a clear path." The question of whether a single number (or elevation) can be the basis of regulation when, because of unavoidable
technical uncertainty, only a range of numbers can be
supported by the underlying studies has been considered by courts in other contexts."

I reviewed this language closely when the article was in draft and firmly believed then and now that it put those impacted and benefited from flood maps issued by the NFIP on notice.
What I have lost track of over the years as to whether better and more accurate mapping methods exist or have been developed to resolve any technical uncertainties or promote scientific correctness.
And my understanding of the very expensive efforts of the program to remap the country by first a consortium led by Michael Baker and also IBM and now a more extended array of contractors was doing anything more than providing updated contour interval data for the underlying display of the 1% annual occurrence flood plain. Notable exceptions for the maps from designation have in the past been areas behind the levees, dams, floodwalls, etc that at least in theory provide protection from the so-called 100 year flood. That standard by the way which I worked hard to incorporate in the NFIP regulations and even the statute and survive a study of its appropriateness mandated by Congress in the 80's was a compromise between the annual spring runoff and the flood of record. Note the STORM of record is never mapped. Also a ferocious efforts to reduce the mandatory insurance purchase reqirement to the 50 year flood standard was launced while the program was still in HUD. Instead some have argued for mandatory purchase in the 500 year flood plain.

When the program started mapping little of the country had 1Ft contour maps. Some of the country had 10ft contour maps and some had 100ft contour maps, all produced by the USGS. These all relied on calibration points of the NGVD control markers that unfortunately often are in flood prone areas in which soil subsidence makes them inaccurate sometimes up to several feet. NOLA and Houston are two good examples of such areas.
Efforts at reform of the NFIP are underway and most if not all do not consider mapping issues. I argue that the time has come to minimize conflict over the maps by having federal flood insurance policies, typically issued by the WYO companies, only issued where there is a designated 100 year (1% annual occurrence flood) and V zones which are Coastal High Hazard areas and largely mapped using different methodologies.
Still overall hoping someone will take on a discussion of mapping uncertainty and its actual application today as opposed to the early years of the NFIP.

National Disaster Recovery Strategy

Hey folks! I know its only January 24, 2011, and the first anniversay of the release of the draft NDRS not yet arrived[Released on February 5, 2010 as the Natinal Disaster Recovery Framework- and note why not use the statutory term "strategy"] has not yet passed so hoping for the best. The draft is posted on the baseline doc section on the home page of this blog.

Also at URL:

That letter also posted on the FEMA Historical references Docs section on the Homepage of this blog.

The National Disaster Recovery Strategy was mandated by PKEMA 2006, enacted October 2006 and effective March 31, 2007.


(a) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator, in coordination with the
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Administrator
of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Agriculture,
the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of the Treasury,
the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Small
Business Administration, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs
of the Department of the Interior, and the heads of other appropriate
Federal agencies, State, local, and tribal government officials
(including through the National Advisory Council), and representatives
of appropriate nongovernmental organizations shall develop,
coordinate, and maintain a National Disaster Recovery Strategy
to serve as a guide to recovery efforts after major disasters and
(b) CONTENTS.—The National Disaster Recovery Strategy
(1) outline the most efficient and cost-effective Federal
programs that will meet the recovery needs of States, local
and tribal governments, and individuals and households
affected by a major disaster;
(2) clearly define the role, programs, authorities, and
responsibilities of each Federal agency that may be of assistance
in providing assistance in the recovery from a major disaster;
(3) promote the use of the most appropriate and costeffective
building materials (based on the hazards present in
an area) in any area affected by a major disaster, with the
goal of encouraging the construction of disaster-resistant
buildings; and
(4) describe in detail the programs that may be offered
by the agencies described in paragraph (2), including—
(A) discussing funding issues;
(B) detailing how responsibilities under the National
Disaster Recovery Strategy will be shared; and
effort to provide recovery assistance.
(c) REPORT.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 270 days after the date
of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to
the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing
in detail the National Disaster Recovery Strategy and any
additional authorities necessary to implement any portion of
the National Disaster Recovery Strategy.
(2) UPDATE.—The Administrator shall submit to the appropriate
committees of Congress a report updating the report
submitted under paragraph (1)—
(A) on the same date that any change is made to
the National Disaster Recovery Strategy; and
(B) on a periodic basis after the submission of the
report under paragraph (1), but not less than once every
5 years after the date of the submission of the report
under paragraph (1)."

OKAY SO WHERE IS IT? How about a status report?

STATE of the UNION-January 2011

Well the big one is tomorrow night. Personally I believe a short note to Congress reminding them of the sorry plight of the UNION and caused by both the machinations of the Executive Branch and Congress (and perhaps feckless voters?) would be in order. No requirement for a speech.

Betting against any mention of the absolute crisis in STATE and their LOCAL governments finances. Also no mention of crisis management, HS or EM, or FEMA or military/civil issues or policies, or lack of a domestic crisi response and recovery system.

No the concentration will be on the private sector creating new jobs when he knows that they won't or cannot. In the meantime government payrolls in big trouble even now and attracting the best and the brightest to government service very far from the thoughts of Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, and independents.

Also no mention of CORRUPTION at all levels of government and in the business world. No mention of oligarchs in US. No mention of the efforts by the top 1% income wise in US avoiding paying their fair share of taxes and hidding income overseas.

No mention of the $12 Trillion the FED backdoored to a totally corrupt and incompetent FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate)!

No mention of the largest oil spill in US history and its implications.

No mention of the need for changes in FOREIGN POLICY and FOREIGN relations with the example of TUNISIA.

No mention of HAITI and how US let polio and cholera break out and how and why it now is that STATE recommends against travel to HAITI. No mention of any W. Hemisphere country or implications for US. Such as cartel wars in neighbor Mexico.

In fact my guess is the speech will be largely devoted to a coverup effort in a vain hope that re-election in 2012 will occur. And did I mention that NO MENTION will be made of the new Republican majority in Congress.

Well perhaps WIKIPEDIA and WIKILEAKS will get a mention since the later seems to have terrified the DAVOS class.

Predictions for 2011! More revolutions in the world especially Arabia. More fighting in the middle-east. More destruction of democratic norms elsewhere and in the US.

And of course a further 10-20% decline in the residential real estate market. Rolling over those commercial real estate loans also will not be easy.

But hey Mother Nature may just hand OBAMA the big one or even several small ones this year. No doubt he thinks the NEW FEMA is fixed and the fact that he was lucky in not having major disasters like ANDREW or KATRINA was due to his good efforts.

And efforts to reform disaster relief and the NFIP will occur but will indicate complete ignorance of the real policy issues.

And of course hoping for the best!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hurricane Katrina-Post Script

President George W. Bush was a principal in the Hurricane Katrina response. I am very unhappy in general with the quality of the analysis of that event that has appeared in academic circles although obviously there are some really meritorious analysis.
Because the Bush Administration successfully fought the creation of a Commission to examine and document the reasons for the failures in the Katrina response efforts to capture certain data from outsiders has been difficult. One thing that continues however is the outpouring of federal monies to a region that still seems to have no clue that surviving requires a different form of practice post Katrina. And NOLA for example had some really close calls before Katrina in both Hurricanes Betsy and Andrew for example.
I am eagerly awaiting the book by Michael Brown, the Under Secretary for Preparedness and Response in DHS at the time of FEMA. He was never actually confirmed as the FEMA Director either before or after the creation of DHS and will be of interest to see if that fact is made clear in his new book when released.
My focus is more on the crisis management by the White House of the event. And therefore include the following blurb:

Bush on Katrina

CBS Sunday Morning

November 14, 2010

Failure to act could be the subtitle of the chapter on Hurricane Katrina. This man who saw "decisive" as his political brand ("I'm the decider") found his presidency undermined by his delay.

When asked why Katrina was one event where he took too long to decide, President Bush said, "I got caught up in the legal system. [it's] not an excuse. I'm just giving you the facts. And that's the purpose - "

"But you're the President of the United States," Axelrod said.

"No, I know. But that, the purpose of the book is to show you the decision-making process. And in this case, it, in order to send troops into New Orleans, the law says that the governor must declare an emergency and request [them], or I have to declare an insurrection.

"In retrospect, now, knowing what I know today, which is, you know, it's not exactly what you get to do when you're sitting there, I would've sent in troops a lot quicker."

"There was a common feeling that after Katrina, you could never fully regain the trust of the American people," Axelrod said. "Did you feel Katrina was a fork in the road for your Presidency?"

Well some would say the George W. Bush Presidency started on 9/11/01 and ended with Hurricane Katrina. We do know that if the flood walls in NOLA had not collapsed no where near the damage or disaster and NFIP outlays would have occurred. The event was not a CATEGORY 5 although Katrina at one time had that meterological reading. It was not even a CATEGORY 3 when it made landfall. And note these scales are not storm surge or flood ratings, such as the 100 year flood (actually the 1% annual occurrence flood) or the 500 or 1000 year flood.
In a book report I did for JSHEM I referred to a major MEA CULPA by the USACOE of their 50-60 year involvement in NOLA which has three completely different flood threats, maybe even four. First, main stem Mississippi River flooding. Second, MRGO flooding. Third, Lake Ponchatraine flooding. And finally internal drainage and runoff.

Another fundamental error was that few in DC seemed to know that the Superdome and the Convention Center were two different structures and that neither were capable of handling the mass care issues by the transportation dependent in NOLA. The point is that FEMA which had been burned for failure in damage assessment numerous times, most devastatingly in Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, once again failed in this mission. The FAS teams established post Andrew largely by Chief of Staff William Tidball had withered to nothing by August 2005 with the result that FEMA personnel had to beg, borrow and steal heliocopter rides to do damage assessment in a highly unstructured and unorganized manner. This is what Michael Brown and his team could be blamed for.
Thus, I am going to exonerate Bush for having been let down by the FEMA he had in August 2005. Now the fact that he had let it be stripped by Secretaries Ridge and Chertoff to fund elements of DHS that had no budget is another matter.
As NAPA (National Academy of Public Adminstration) concluded in its important February 1993 report "Coping with Catastrophe" Presidents get the disaster response system they want. Well that is my conclusion. Even though a former Governor, and coming from a state with weak Emergency Management, in which the USACOE and Texas National Guard do most of the heavy lifting in disasters, Bush was never really briefed on how badly FEMA was treated. Why is the question for historians? Was it because it was viewed as one of President William Jefferson Clinton's successes? gaegoa99National

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Bills are going to be introduced this week in both House and Senate to indicate how the Republicans in Congress would capture $2.5 Trillion in reductions to the federal budget. Probably will not go anywhere. But one item is of interest.

The Foreign Assistance Act which stems from the 50's and has it parallel in DOD Military Assistance which in many years is far greater than the total of Foreign non-military assistance (yes the US is the largest Merchant of Death in the world)
also has provisions for OFDA (Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) in the AID (Agency for International Development) housed in the STATE Department.

Disclosure: When failing to become the Deputy GC in FEMA in 1986 I applied to be Counsel to the OIG in AID. Herbert Beckington was the IG and after selecting the insider he later called me to tell me I was the runner up and he wished he had selected me. Ifs don't count of course. I told him I appreciated the call but was sort of glad to not have gotten the job since I had no interest in counting Imelda Marcos' shoes. he also stated to me that I was the only outsider interviewing that understand completely how AID operates and that those operations were largely through domestic US contractors and NGOs.

At any rate, low and behold, in November 1985 guess who became confirmed as FEMA Director? Julius Becton a retired 3 star who had been head of OFDA. He also brought over a very bright Executive Assistant Ms. Heidi Meyer, whose husband happened to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs or some such title.

Anyhow recently a FEMA staffer relatively new asked me what I knew about FEMA/OFDA relationships? Little did he know?
Julius Becton, unsolicited by FEMA, had as head of OFDA sent a draft MOU to FEMA to create a permanent relationship between the two agencies. Shortly after sending that document to FEMA, well maybe months after, he was confirmed as FEMA Director. So in one of his very first acts as FEMA Director he asked to have someone find out what happened to the OFDA draft MOU/MOA? After diligent search the document could not be found which shows perhaps the level of grip the Director's office had on the lower orders in FEMA when Becton was confirmed. Louis O. Guiffrida had departed unwillingly in July 1985 and Robert Morris, the confirmed Deputy Director of FEMA had been running things. At any rate, Director Becton solicited the new head of OFDA to send over directly to him the draft MOU/MOA. When he got it without any real staff input he signed it as Director of FEMA. The document probably still exists at OFDA but apparently has been long lost or long ignored by FEMA.
The key element of the document was that OFDA would rely on FEMA for technical disaster assistance, not money, and FEMA would be reimbursed by OFDA. That actually happened a number of times and earthquakes in Italy or volcanic eruptions were one I remember. A fine gentlement who worked until recently and now in his 80's named Ugo Morrelli who also spoke Italian led the FEMA team to Italy.

So what is the purpose of this post. Well I would transfer all the staff, funding, and whatever to DHS/FEMA for not only cost savings but so that effort of foreign disaster assistance could have more technical and other experience from domestic disasters. Oddly, while I bray about FEMA technical expertise or the lack thereof, it does have some even though often by accident. OFDA has money but often lacks technical expertise but it does have some. And FEMA which under Director James Lee Witt and Associate Director Kay Goss signed over 100 agreements with foreign countries, including many in the former Soviet Union, and Canada [where unbeknown to the powers that be in FEMA were nearly 50 such agreements)these easily could incorporate OFDA agreements. Since one of my featured harangs on this blog is the insularity of FEMA I think the linguistic and cultural abilities of OFDA staff could make for a nice mesh. Well perhaps the "new" FEMA has no interest in international disaster work, its charter is very limited in that respect, and this change would not be welcome.

But I would not just eliminate OFDA for several reasons. First, as the oldest and richest democracy how we perform the disaster relief mission is looked to for understanding by the rest of the world. Although that looking to is often by foreign militaries and now NORTHCOM in the USA. Well I still will always beleive disaster relief and recovery and the resilience paradigm of prevention, protection, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery is a civilian function and the military has or should have better things to do to occupy its time learning about how to organize violence against the other rather than treating disaster victims as the other.

So let's do some studies and hearing on this subject. After all a volcano is a volcano, a cyclonic storm is a cyclonic storm (including Nor'Easters)and manmade events are often demonstrations that man's technology is spread world wide.

The Annual Report on Preparedness

PKEMA 2006 mandates that FEMA produce annually a report on the state of preparedness in the US at all levels of government. The statute became fully operative on March 31, 2007, and the first required preparedness report was issued in January 2009 at the very end of the Bush Administration.

FEMA did seem to issue a preparedness report last summer but as usual did not indicate whether one of a series, in compliance with the statutory mandate or whatever. That report was prepared with the help of an advisory group and indicated it was in compliance with another statute. That report is included in the Baseline Docs on this blog.

So what could be one of FEMA's most critical obligations and chance to influence events and EM has been left to some future time. My hope is that FEMA would take official notice in some way of the enormous cutbacks in STATE and LOCAL Government capability due to budget restrictions. This blog reflects my belief that STATES and Their Local Governments are at least 25% less capable than in January 2007 just before the annual report mandate became law.

And as to FEMA preparedness, fewer than 10% of FEMA staff have completed NIMS training. This is a Guestimate!



Driven by the huge outlays in Hurricane Katrina that have yet to be fully analyzed either by program officials or academicians or interested parties such as the ASFPM (Association of State Flood Plain Managers), GAO or others including Congress and its committees it looks like the NFIP has reached the launch pad for reform. Whether that happens of course will perhaps await the addition of fuel to the rocket. So here is some fuel that is repetitive in part with past posts but breaks some new ground.

First, the program must never, repeat NEVER, pay claims for any hazards it does not map. I believe this is already the statutory hurdle for claims but apparently the program continues to believe it can offer cheap coverage for flood-related structural failures, flood-related mudslides, flood-related erosion and on and on without mapping these hazards. WRONG IMO.
Second! No offer of federal flood insurance outside of designated V zones, or A zones on NFIP maps. Leave that to the private insurance business and STATES and their local governments.

Third! Enhance mandatory compliance by lenders by forcing all properties in all coastal counties as designated by the CZMA to have flood insurance whether mapped or not. This would force the in and out of the flood insurance determination industry and agents to stop playing games with the program. Yes there is some high ground in the coastal counties and perhaps unfair but these counties represent the major risk to the program now even with the total collapase of the real estate market in some areas.
This would help with forecasts of sea level rise, climate change and other factors and as all should know the NFIP needs the rest of this century to prove that it is a better approach than free federal disaster relief, administered without real environmental restraints, and increasingly politicized from any cost benefit analysis standpoint. But hey am reforming the NFIP not the federal disaster program which seriously needs both study and reform.
Fourth! Take all coast flood plain mapping away from the NFIP and its contractors and staff and give it to NOAA with its much vaster capability in storm surge analysis, SPLASH and SLOSH modeling and expertise. FEMA has destroyed its own technical mapping staff and its knowledge base long ago and even newly appointed Sandra Knight, PhD would recognize how week her staff is technically. Even the contractors seldom put first tier engineers and scientists on NFIP mapping efforts anymore.

Okay folks that is for a start!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Request for Analysts

I have started a search to find someone who might have an interest in preparing an academic article on WMD Preparedness and Response in the US; and an academic article on civil/military issues. I would be glad to help on any basis including non-attribution but with many many documents that I could provide and my knowledge base I think these topics deserve coverage over the last two or three decades.

Please send an expressions of interest to me at

Predisaster Mitigation Act of 2010

Public Law 111-351 extends the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program for three years. The only committee print was almost 18 months earlier and the Committee was led by Congressman Oberstar who is no longer in Congerss due to his defeat in the 2010 election cycle. He was a good friend of mitigation. His Committee Print is H.Rept. No. 111-83.

I am increasingly worried however that FEMA is now using mitigation funding to alleviate political pressures on the disaster and flood program.

When I see the funding flowing to the NOLA area that will be damaged again in the very near future because USACOE protection efforts are minimal despite the expenditure of billions it could end up being a prime example of poor mitigation.
I am still not certain how much NFIP claims and disaster relief totaled after Katrina but there should be a complete and unbiased evaluation of that funding streams accomplishments before MOTHER NATURE again strikes the area.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Haiti and Tunisia--The Illusion of Control

It is interesting how the US continues to pretend that demographics will not dictate history in some countires. Increased mortality and morbidity in Haiti as part of demographics certainly are beginning to generate pressures that the US cannot control. The recent arrival of Baby Doc back in Haiti cannot bring a smile to the face of a State Department that seems almost totally at a loss when dealing with the Western Hemisphere, from Canada and Mexico to further south. And Tunisia of course has alerted the entire Arab world to the fact that if a large element of the population is willing to assert itself--sometimes called a revolution--then there is little that the government and security services can do except commit mass murder to try and control the streets. After all that did work for Napoleon as he was the only artillery commander willing to turn the French cannon on those street protestors. But hey it is always of interest to me how little studied revolutionary impulses are by the academic community. The fascination of those who do study with the victors and outcomes ususally far overshadows why.
Which perhaps brings us back to FEMA and DHS and whether after 32 years for FEMA and closing on a decade for DHS outside events will dominate their future or internal reorganizations. It always fascinates me how those who interface with the American public and other organizations involved in the same mission are such a miniscule part of federal organizations.
Well perhaps, Congressman Issa can get the details from the Executive Branch about how exactly and who in each federal organization interacts and deals with the public. Director James Lee Witt labeled this interface customer service but somehow that simile falls short of the critical trust nod that is the US government dealing with its own citizens and residents.
And before there is one, why not have Congressional oversight of the role of DHS and FEMA in any US domestic riot and civil disorder, whatever the cause?

Monday, January 17, 2011


I posted a comment on a NYTimes editorial on Haiti at

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Additions to Baseline Docs

New Docs keep getting added to the Baseline Docs on the Homepage. To highlight recent additions a statement to that affect now appears. Enjoy.

Also after much struggle the URL for the new blog is now:

That blog is less FEMA centric and more generic.

The Wizard Behind the Curtain-Flood Plain Management

AS Dorothy discovered in the Wizard of Oz there was only one person behind the curtain running things. Well FEMA does slightly better!

Based on open source information it looks like about 25 people in FEMA mainly in the Regions actually do the complaince and enforcement task of seeing the following occurs:
(1) Offical FEMA maps and their revisions are adopted by the 20,000 participating communities.
(2) Visiting communities even after maps are adopted (all communities are given 6 months to adopt the NFIP maps and changes after they have been finalized and published in the Federal Register as to availability) to see if maps are understood by the persons identified in the community to enforce building and zoning restrictions and that they are used to control new development.
(3) Providing technical assistance on flood plain mangement including review granting of variances and new conditions that impact the current maps.
(4) Policing LOMAs and LOMARs to see if patterns of abuse are developing.
(5) Following flood plain management case law in each state so as to understand whether the entirety of a state can provide the necessary law for flood plain management.
(6) Reviewing post flood the calibration of that event, its size, and the NFIP maps.

Folks the country is just too big. Over 500 people minimum should be involved in this activity. It is not just a paper audit function.

With over $2.5 Billion having been spent on mapping by the NFIP this investment is totally wasted unless there is an adquate program of compliance activity.

Most communities have long since figured out that failure to adopt the NFIP maps is stupid. But many fail to keep up with revisions in their ordinances. But failure to enforce is systemic and means that much new construction escapes NFIP compliance.

Without compliance, the Program is only slightly better than the FREE DISASTER RELEIF that competes with the NFIP and undermines MITIGATION and FPM!

An absolutely brilliant set of monographs to assist communities in ordinance adoption and enforcement was created by Michael Rushman, later head of Cushman and Wakefield and now a prominent developer in the Southwest when he worked for the NFIP during law school at Georgetown University. With a background and degrees in planning, Michael ended up No.1 in his night law class at Georgetown.

These documents were invaluable and were closely review by OGC FEMA as were all programmatic documents in my time for legal sufficiency. Even all the insurance documents and information were review by OGC before going out to companies, agents, insureds and other interested parties in my time. There needs to be at least 20 highly qualified lawyers, with engineering, planning, Zoning, code enforcement background to assist in the compliance effort. Like the destruction of the SEC by reduction of its budget and staff, the same has occurred in the last 40 years of the NFIP by both Congress and those in charge of the program. This millions spent for disclosure in the mapping program, which is the enforcement arm of the NFIP in reality, is being largely wasted because of follow-up failure by the NFIP and FEMA.


Retirement of Rick Skinner--DHS/FEMA OIG

Rick Skinner was Deputy IG at FEMA when I retired. He deserves some writeup here and will do so after his announce "resignation" date. He is fully qualified for federal retirement so wondering why he uses that word in his goodby letter. Perhaps a story there, perhaps not.

Go to:

Haiti-One year later!

Okay I have read as many reports as I can about the passage of the one year mark in Haiti's recovery efforts. NY Times reporting Haitian government has documented in excess of 330,000 deaths in last years earthquake. WOW! And just 700 miles offshore!

No disaster declaration or emergency declaration for either Haiti or BP oil spill. Mistake on both accounts IMO!

The BP spill Commission report is out and seems to have some sensible recommendations. Some are very confused.

Bottom line in 2012 both events likely to impact Presidential elections. In particular black turnout only way President Obama can win in 2012 and Haiti will by then demonstrate inherent racism in US disaster policy. Of course if we full militarized the response, a DOD in rapid decline after over a decade of warfare in the faroff marches would probably be glad to repeat the 1915-1933 occupancy of Haiti. Maybe the Haitians would also. But hey isn't Paul Bremer tan, rested and ready? Also the Chinese, Cuban, and Venzuelan
involvement in Haiti is still undocumented by MSM.

Perhaps Haiti is why President's Obama and Sarkozy were doing so much hugging and kissing. Neither publically blamed the other and both have helped destroy the first black ruled nation ever in the modern era starting from the revolt of Toussaint L'Overture. Looks more and more like Katrina and Haiti have lots in common. So let's look at demographics of black population in US and disaster proneness! A good article in JSHEM this month about Social Vulnerability and development of an index to identify problems in advance.

By the way President Obama should rescind the Executive Order giving DOD precedence in overseas disasters and replace that leadership role with Department of STATE. Give State Department the USAF.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Military Support for Civil Authorities-32 CFR Part 185

An important final rule was published in today's Federal Register at 76 Fed. Reg. pp2246-2253!
The rule claims to have been signed off by DOD lawyers, DHS lawyers, and DOJ lawyers. All of the above correspondence on the rule should be immediately released for interested public perusal IMO.

Certain assumptions in the rule are questionable but one particular definition in the body of the rule I question its validy on Constitutional grounds based on the following:
1. Mary Lawton's 1980 Monograph on Military Support for Civil Disturbances--and note she was the DOJ expert on these/those issues until her untimely death in the early 80's.
2. DOJ/OLC opinions I don't have but saw during my 20 years in FEMA concerning this subject matter.
3. The formal withdrawal of an earlier effort resulting issuance of a draft/proposed rule by DOD on Constitutional grounds in the early 1990's.

The offending language is set forth below:

"Emergency Authority. A Federal
military commander’s authority, in
extraordinary emergency circumstances
where prior authorization by the
President is impossible and duly
constituted local authorities are unable
to control the situation, to engage
temporarily in activities that are
necessary to quell large-scale,
unexpected civil disturbances because
(1) such activities are necessary to
prevent significant loss of life or wanton
destruction of property and are
necessary to restore governmental
function and public order or (2) duly
constituted Federal, State, or local
authorities are unable or decline to
provide adequate protection for Federal
property or Federal governmental

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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Substantial Improvement Definition and the NFIP

A reform momentum is likely to see changes to the NFIP during the 112th Congress. Perhaps some administrative report also.

All readers of this blog should know that I consider this program to be a land use program, not an insurance program. As part of the reform effort the NFIP administrators asked for suggestions. I submitted a total of 25 and the item below was one of the suggestions.

So for the larger record here goes:

Substantial Damage & Substantial Improvement

Extract from Title 44 CFR Part 59

'Substantial damage' means damage of
any origin sustained by a structure
whereby the cost of restoring the
structure to its before damaged condition
would equal or exceed 50 percent
of the market value of the structure
before the damage occurred.

'Substantial improvement' means any reconstruction,
rehabilitation, addition,
or other improvement of a structure,
the cost of which equals or exceeds 50
percent of the market value of the
structure before the ‘‘start of construction’’
of the improvement. This term
includes structures which have incurred
‘‘substantial damage’’, regardless
of the actual repair work performed.
The term does not, however,
include either:
(1) Any project for improvement of a
structure to correct existing violations
of state or local health, sanitary, or
safety code specifications which have
been identified by the local code enforcement
official and which are the
minimum necessary to assure safe living
conditions or
(2) Any alteration of a ‘‘historic
structure’’, provided that the alteration
will not preclude the structure’s
continued designation as a ‘‘historic

These two definitions together with start of construction represent one of the most basic political compromises in the regulations of the National Flood Insurance Program. Start of Construction represents another and will be separately addressed in a blog post.

How do I know? I was there! Four people during the time the NFIP was located in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Insurance Administration during its first major regulatory adoption in 1975 and 1976 were involved. James Ross McKay, J.D, a program official, now deceased. Larry Rubenstein, later a J.D. Dr. Jon Kusler, PhD (contractor) and myself representing HUD OGC. I was asked to brief on a closed meeting basis J. Robert Hunter and one or two other staffers after preparing the final rule that was issued in March 1976. Bob Hunter, then Acting Federal Insurance Administrator after the departure of George K. Bernstein, asked me to brief him on the implications of the rule and problematic areas. The definition of SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT was immediately identified by me as being the most problematic portion of the entire final regulation. Why? I asked each of the attendees to tell me what they thought it meant and to explain it to me. Bob Hunter had one version and the other attendees other versions. Bob asked me “which is the correct interpretation?” priding himself on his parsing skills and background as a Certified Insurance Actuary. I answered all of them. That is the problem. It is both patently and latently ambiguous on its current language. I told him that I thought the language should remain ambiguous but should be tightened up later. It was further modified in the early 80’s but still is subject to different interpretations. The result stands as above. It is intentionally ambiguous and perhaps unenforceable except that each of the 20,000 governmental units participating in the NFIP probably understands its purpose and has administered it in a certain way.

I believe that a fundamental reform of the NFIP would be to rework these definitions and make them as clear as possible since these definitions are crucial to ending grandfathering of improved real estate in the NFIP.

All the readers of this blog know that I believe it is still a very short period of record, 40 odd years, for the NFIP and much has been learned but much needs to be learned. I expect statutory revisions to the NFIP in the 112th Congress and this issue is worthy of oversight.

Good luck to the revisers and yes blame me for allowing a regulatory ambiguity to exist all these years.

ACUS Recommendation on Preemption

Administrative Conference of the US (ACUS) a federal agency has issued its first formal recommendation in 15 years after its reconstitution from zero budgeting in 1994. The recommendation deals with Preemption in federal rulemaking and consultation with the states prior to adopting final rules with preemption implications.

Go to:

The recommendation was published in the Federal Register at 76 Fed.Reg. pp 81-83 on Monday January 3, 2011.

I had sent a letter to ACUS before their final adoption session which is available from this blogger. It was not specifically discussed in the adoption meeting/hearing but was specifically chuckled about by those present. Perhaps he who laughs last laughs loudest?

The word "preemption" appears nowhere in the US Constitution but reflects two separate clauses of that document.

The first is the so-called "Supremacy" Clause which reads as follows:

"Article VI.

. . .This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof, and all Treaties made, or which shall be made under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. . ."

Section 8 of Article 1 provides in part:

. . .To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes. . ."

That second clause is the so-called "Commerce Clause"!

The ACUS recommendation does not address precisely the type of regulation issued by the Executive Branch components, whether a Commerce Clause regulatory action or not. Nor does it refer to the "Supremacy Clause" of the Constitution.

Because I discovered the effort to consider adoption of the ACUS recommendation very late in the game I did manage to get a letter to them filed in the record which at least tangentially raised the issues by inference. Still all in all the recommendation appears sound.

What may startle some analysts is that I don't know of any Commerce Clause regulatory authority vested in the Department of Homeland Security or FEMA. Which means that Constitutional challenges to DHS action must be defended on some other basis. Perhaps for example the US Criminal Code at Title 18 of the USC. Or Article I Section 8, the so-called Tax and Spend Clause of the Constitution. Recent litigation on health care has begun to focus on the last paragraph of Article I Section 8 which reads as follows:

"To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

We may be in for a fundamental rethinking of the grant of authority to the President and Executive Branch in the next decade by SCOTUS should they live up to the so-called strict construction theory of Constitutional authority. The vast majority of SCOTUS members are Catholic or Jewish and both have religious traditions based on the Bible and Torah where efforts to defend a strict construction of those books have consumed many lives directly and indirectly. Too bad there is not a believer of Islam on the Court so that the traditions of the Quran could join the other major Western religons represented. And like the President the persons nominated to SCOTUS must express some evidence of belief in any religion to make it to the Court through confirmation.

Federalism is a form of secular faith. Belief in separation of powers and checks and balances. Let US see how this comes out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blog Evolution!

AS many know I have not encouraged comments on this blog and do not intend to encourage them. But I am starting a new blog on Wordpress with the caption Vacationlanegrp! Comments will be welcome on any postings on that blog. As always e-mails may be sent directly to me at or more simply at

Over time I am hoping the evolution of the two blogs will result in clear evidence of the distinction between them. The Vacation Lane Blog will be more focused on FEMA and its history and the Vacationlanegrp blog on current events and the milieu of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

By the way Australia (either the world's largest Island or the 7th Continent-Making Papua/New Guinea the largest Island)is definitely having a mindboggling flood at present. Guess safety on top of Ayres Rock.

Political Assassination and Homeland Security

The impact of the Arizona shootings continues to have fallout nationally!

IMO it will be lasting for two reasons: First the survival of Congresswoman Giffords is still in doubt but her treatment and recovery are a huge human interest story both because of her politics and personality!

I am guessing is that the TEA PARTY will survive because its survival is based on the corruption in Washington that will continue. That continued corruption does seem headed on a collision course with our democracy (actually a REPUBLIC of course)! And members of both parties that take on Washington corruption will be favorites of the TEA Partiers and the majority American party, the Independents. Obama's selection of DALEY is instructive because DALEY is a strong leader and his personal corruption still an unknown at this point! My respect for him is such in another blog's comments I suggested he become the domestic President while the President and VP focus on foreign policy and relationships. The President, VP, and Secretary of State are the strongest foreign policy lineup for the US in almost 4 decades. Not sure if they will succeed but they will have a chance.

ALL OF COURSE ARE AT RISK OF POLITICAL ASSASSINATION! But this risk must be dealt with carefully.

They should start with Haiti and Pakistan! They also need to reject 50 years of a failed Cuban policy! New emphasis on Germany also needs to be accomplished. EURO or not Germany the biggest winner from collapse of Soviet Union. And the US should end its NATO role and strengthen Britain's role as window on EUROPE by fully integrating defense policy and weapons to the extent the British will allow it. Also the US needs to face nuclear proliferation issues directly and build up another ACDA (Arms Control and Disarmament Agency) that is bipartisan and also deals with conventional weaponary.

Remarkably political assassinations seem to cluster so watch out! Just watch Mexico next door to see how killings of media persons can change the course of history. Also Russia! The MSM is not a threat in the US to our system of governance because they really no longer have the capability or desire to take on corruption. Why should be self explanatory. They are part of a corrupt system and process. So they are safe here unlike Mexico and Russia.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Additional Research Aids

I have transferred the docs listed below from a friends owned by Clinton Anderson. The blog still exists but is not currently active! Enjoy!

1 Disaster Declaration Process (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 37
2 Earthquakes (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 49
3 Natural Hazard Mitigation (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 37
4 Catastrophic Health Events (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 39
5 Children and Disasters (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 40
6 Federal Acquisition Reform (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 46
7 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review - Feb 2010 (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 58
8 FEMA's Next Catastrophe (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 66
9 FEMA Response to HAZMAT (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 172
10 America's New Normalcy (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 50
11 Who's in Charge? (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 94
12 Nongovernmental Long-Term Disaster Recovery (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 42
13 Federal Preparedness Report (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 49
14 FEMA's All-Hazard Progress (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 67
15 CBRNE Preliminary Observations (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 47
16 Target Capabilities List - 2007 (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 46
17 DHS Appropriations Act, 2010 (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 39
18 DHS/First-Responders/All-Hazards (BASELINE) William R. Cumming 48
19 NSDD #47 William R. Cumming 60

The docs can still be accessed on and the numbers indicate hits and dowloads of the docs!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Congress Loses A Member But also Self-destructs!

The tragic temporary or maybe permanent loss of a member of Congress due to assasination in Arizona reminds US all of our impermanence and that random violent acts can impact our history! The Republican Majority in the HOUSE out of respect has recessed for the next week. Whether that gesture is totally a result of the assasination is open to question but in good faith assume it is a worthy gesture to a member of the loyal opposition damaged by gunshot, and perhaps killed or perhaps worse permanently crippled.

But so much for the Republican leadership in the house. With the tremendous disadvantage of being in the minority the DEMS have recessed for two weeks awaiting the guidance of the President's STATE OF THE UNION address. I think matching the Republican majority would have been sensible but the minority DEMS so far have shown no convincing evidence they are willing to organize sufficiently to defend their party and its positions against the newly installed majority.

Bottom Line: January has been frittered away by both parties and the Administration due to fate and indecision and lack of leadership. I suspect that history will not also show forbearance of those who squander their time.

I am hoping the phrase "Gabrielle I barely knew you" does not apply to this tragic loss of Representative Giffords and even now wondering how she survived politically REPUBLICAN dominance in the STATE of ARIZONA. Bless her and her family and friends throughout the days and weeks and years ahead!

FEMA Delegations-A Fundamental Flaw?

On April 3, 2009 in the Federal Register FEMA published the following statement:

Update to Part 2 Subpart A, ``Organizations, Functions, and Delegations
of Authority''

FEMA's organizational structure and delegations of authority are
not appropriate for the Code of Federal Regulations, and are not
required to be published in the Federal Register. Pursuant to the
Federal Register Act (44

[[Page 15329]]

U.S.C. 1505), only Presidential proclamations, Executive Orders, and
those documents or classes of documents that either the President has
determined to have general applicability and legal effect or by Act of
Congress are required to be published in the Federal Register. FEMA has
determined that it is in the interest of both the agency and the public
to remove descriptions of its organization and functions from the

The entire document is available on this blog under the FEMA Historical docs category which can be clicked on and then click on FEMA resources!
Repsectfully I disagree that this legal postion correctly reflects either the Adminstrative Procedures Act of 1947, as amended, or the Federal Register Act, as amended! Whether or not it is the correct legal position
it effectively destroved accountability over and within FEMA! It is not possible to determine the legal authority of any official or organization within FEMA after publication of this document,and perhaps that was the intent. In an 1803 SOCTUS decision Little v. Bareme, Chief Justice Marshall held that any citizen is entitled to know under what authority any federal officer is acting! That is not possible with respect to FEMA!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Andrew J. Bachevich, PhD

Please read Professor Bachevich's most recent writings including his Atlantic article. He is a worthy successor to Chalmers Johnson and his American Empire contributions.

When history is written it will be apparent that Presidents Ronald Reagan, William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama failed to understand military/civil issues and the militarization of US foreign policy.

Sadly, none have understood EM/HS policies and issues also. The Bachevich writings provide a context for this conclusion. The militarization of domestic policy is revealed by the militarization of local policing.

These trends are not hopeful to me and more to follow!

Friday, January 7, 2011


RAND has issued a new overview report on Haiti! It will be posted on this blog under baseline docs at some point! It concludes that the government of Haiti should be made more "resiient" by International aid and NGO's!

There is NO mention of corruption in the report and no mention that there is in fact NO functioning government in Haiti! Perhaps a topic for academic study. Also there is no real analysis of the failed UN effort in Haiti or the source of the Cholera now racking the country.

In her year end report of DHS success stories in 2010 the Secretary announces over 1000 FTE spent time Haiti Earthquake response. There is no breakdown or analysis of what exactly this DHS consisted of in fact.

All of this should be the subject of Congressional and GAO oversight!

I argue that Haiti was and is a domestic disaster and it further demonstrates the President and Administration has no idea that Haiti is the equivalent of Bill Clinton's nonfeasance in Rwanda. By the way Bill Clinton's efforts in Haiti have now been specifically criticized in some MSM!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 First Post---FEDERALISM!

Ah! The first post of a new year! Republicans have entered into the majority in the House and a critical vote on Health Care Reform looms. I predict the repeal resolution will be defeated.

More important news continues to drip out of various federal sources during this opening week of the new year. The most important for Homeland Security, EM, and crisis management in the US is a new report by the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. Now official, including pension funding, state and local governments are in the worst fiscal shape ever financially. During the Depression two states went bankrupt and over 500 cities. Well a tough record to match but that could well occur between now and January 2013!

Suggestions: (1) Federalize pensions of some or all state First Responders that support the National Response Framework. In return federally mandated training and equipment standards and operation of national First Responder data base including job opportunities. Fungibility in that is the correct word would be the objective! Also Identify all federal employees that are First Responders for the National Response Framework! This would include the 55,000 DOD civilian firefighters. All would be considered eligible for deployment for national needs not just their specific agency needs.
(9)Delegation to Secretary of DHS of authority to ndeclare non-catastrophic disasters with authority retained by the President for catastrophic disaster declarations. What is the distinction? A catastrophic disaster is one in which govermental capability for response by a State Government or the Mayors ir Chief Executive of metropolitan area of more than 500K in population is adversly impacted!
(10) 100% federal funding of first 30 days after disaster declared and then cost sharing based on demonstarted plans and needs.

Okay Happy New Years!