Friday, April 29, 2011

FEMA--An Engine for Economic Development?

A brief history! In the Senate hearings and debates over the formation of FEMA in 1978, Senator William Proxmire foretold a FEMA future as an ATM for the STATES and their local governments. That prediction was followed by the defeat in spring 1993 of the Clinton Administration's economic development and stimulus plan. Instead Clinton was fortunate to have the 12 weeks notice of the late spring 1993 floods in the UPPER Midwest and he used that opportunity for the first time in disaster history to actually meet with the impacted STATES governors and promise them disaster outlays to stimulate not just their economic revival but even expansion. This was done by Director Witt under the direction of the WH political staff. It was successful. Now the same thing looks like it is about to occur under President Obama, and strangely it is NOT the current tornado outbreak but again the prospect of historic levels of mainstem riverine flooding that will provide the opportunity. Whether this foreshadows a FEMA pulled out of DHS in the forthcoming series of federal reorganizations that will end HUD as a Cabinet level department with FHA being merged with FNMA and FHMC is unknown at this point but probable. Now most of the real brain power on disaster housing and long-term recovery is coming from HUD not FEMA.

Interestingly a number of the major powers in the Approps Committee in the HOUSE are from Alabama and Senator Jeff Sessions whom I met in Alabama when US Attorney have enough seniority and status that Alabama will indeed be getting huge outlays of fresh disaster dollars. Also the federal facilities in Alabama including the Marshall Space Flight Center, knocked out from support of the last shuttle mission, will be getting large amounts of money to restore its operations.

Strangely, the Economics Profession has never agreed on whether the disaster outlays revive the devastated communities or not. There are examples both ways. Kobe, Japan for example despite the largest single outlays of disaster relief and recovery funds in world history have created a bright shining new city and port. But oddly its container and shipping traffic still has not reached pre-disaster levels. Suffice it to say the DHS/OIG and GAO have never looked at disasters from the potential economic stimulus point of view but the OBAMABA Administration like the Clinton Administration is about to do so.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Some how tornadoes have always been my favorite for testing local governments in their immediate response capability. Warnings have improved with the Community Weather Service effort of NOAA but still it is not perfect. That program was scheduled by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978 the plan that created FEMA to be moved to FEMA and even was included in EO 12127 but it never happened. That order has not been revised but the REAGAN ADMINISTRATION reversed course on that issue in 1982. FEMA three times to my knowledge under Congressional pressure funded wide scale provision of NOAA weather radios to communities. Also note that community warning through social media has not really been supported much at all by the federal government although the FCC is now taking an interest. The FCC post-Katrina efforts on emergency communications have been outstanding but worrisome is the impact of events that knock out cellular communications as occurred in Japan's recent catastrophe.

Well tornadoes are NO NOTICE EVENTS and therefore little federal help except after the fact federal financial assistance can be provided. The last tornado that really had a fundamental impact on federal disaster policy was Xenia, Ohio in 1974 in which my memory is that over 800 people died. Survivors wandering the streets weeks later led to the enactment of the provision of mental health counseling in the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, Public Law 93-288. This was accomplished by personnel at NIMH over the objections of FEMA which seldom has sought expansion of its actual disaster relief authority and usually has opposed it even when enacted by bureacratically undermining the statutory mandate. Essentially because FEMA is largely immune from suit for its disaster activities it often chooses to ignore legal mandates. Perhaps Congress should review that exemption?


Okay more idle speculation!

1. FEMA will not be around in present form at end of the administration whatever the party that wins at the end of the administration beginning January 20, 2012. Why? W. Craig Fugate has been doing an admirable job but the shifting sands of Washington are simply beyond his ken and the ken of those now employed or appointed to FEMA positions.

2. The National Security portfolio of FEMA will be removed by the NSC and President before the end of this first (or last) Obama Administration.

3. DHS will be severely reduced in size before the Presidential election of 2016 no matter who wins in 2012.

4. A new Department focusing on federalism and STATE and local economic development will be in place by 2017. Why? Currently most of the Executive Branch is focused on contracting not grants to the STATES and their local governments. Few federal appointees or employees have experience in STATE or Local Government.

5. Restrictions on deployment of the National Guard for war fighting will be imposed on DOD!

6. AID [Agency for International Development] will be removed from the STATE Department before 2017.

7. Haiti, Chile, NZ, and Japan will suffer at least one more large-scale earthquake this decade. This will devastate the recovery efforts following their recent efforts although some like in Haiti are quite feeble. Also large scale earthquakes will impact Turkey, Iran, China, and huge vulcano eruptions in Indonesia.

8. The UN disaster mission effort will be enlarged.

9. The UN military intervention role will be enlarged with US approval.

10. The USA will join the ICC under duress before 2020. The ICC is the International Criminal Court. And in a sharp turn left SCOTUS will repudiate most of the BUSH/OBAMA national security state activity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FEMA and Catastrophic Preparedness

FEMA issued it Preparedness Task Force report to Congress last fall. An advisory committee had been authorized by Congress to prepare a report informing Congress of what it could do to enhance National Preparedness. It has been suggested that PPD-8 was one outcome of the Task Force report. I argue that the TASK FORCE under leadership of FEMA and DHS did not come close to helping Congress understand the problems in the current national preparedness setup and certainly did not provide any kind of information base upon which the Congress could legislate to fill preparedness gaps. Please judge for yourself as you read over the recommendations that follow. I would argue that all could be addressed without further legislation but are more a matter of will in FEMA and DHS and the Executive Branch. Perhaps someone will be addressing this deficiency in depth at some point after the next catastrophe.

Here are the Recommendations of the TASK FORCE:


Appendix A: Recommendations to Congress
Strategic Investments to Sustain and Grow Preparedness

Recommendations 1-25

#1: Include preparedness in the portfolio of strategic, futures-oriented analysis currently
conducted by the National Intelligence Council.

Desired Outcomes:

The National Intelligence Council integrates preparedness-related futures analyses into its
activities; and
DHS is able to use futures analyses to make authoritative judgments about future
requirements and/or capabilities, enabling anticipatory investments in key areas.

#2: The Department of Education, working with FEMA, should develop materials that school districts can use to implement a preparedness curriculum.

Desired Outcomes:
School districts around the country integrate preparedness principles and materials into
curricula; and Citizens entering adulthood understand the preparedness mindset and have taken basic steps to better prepare themselves individually or as a family at home, in the community, and in the workplace.

#3: Establish a system of financial incentives to encourage individuals, families, and businesses to train and materially prepare for emergencies.

Desired Outcomes:
Governments at all levels increasingly consider and implement innovative financial
incentives to promote preparedness; and increasing numbers of individuals and businesses engage in preparedness planning and activities.

#4: Provide incentives for jurisdictions to take pre-event steps that will reduce the length and magnitude of disaster recovery.

Desired Outcomes:
Jurisdictions take steps—such as those identified in the San Francisco Success Story—to
initiate advanced recovery planning efforts; and jurisdictions are able to recover from catastrophic events more efficiently, rapidly, and effectively.

#5: Ensure national cybersecurity efforts address local, State, Tribal, and Territorial preparedness implications.

Desired Outcomes:
Cybersecurity capability enhancement is prioritized at the local, State, Tribal, and
Territorial levels; and

#4. National cybersecurity policy is expanded to include considerations for the resiliency of increasingly cyber-dependent preparedness and emergency management activities at all levels of government.

#5. Policy and Guidance

Desired Outcome:

Transform existing advisory bodies into a “networked” overarching
preparedness policy advisory system capable of influencing policy
policy from initiation to implementation.

#6: Expand the reach of the National Advisory Council.

Desired Outcome:
The NAC functions as an intergovernmental focal point and forum for local, State, Tribal,
and Territorial participation in all stages of the preparedness policy process.

#7: Revitalize and “network” the Regional Advisory Councils.

Desired Outcome:

The RACs serve as regional nodes in a preparedness policy advisory system that
communicates regional local, State, Tribal, and Territorial perspectives and informs
national-level policy decisions.

#8: Embed local, State, Tribal, and Territorial officials in the FEMA National Preparedness Directorate (NPD).

Desired Outcome:

Embedded local, State, Tribal, and Territorial officials advise their Federal counterparts on emerging policy issues and serve as a conduit through which the NAC and RACs can
contribute to and keep informed of national preparedness policy.

#9: Establish a clear and consistent policy coordination process.

Desired Outcome:

DHS establishes a clear, consistent, and efficient preparedness policy process that better
balances the Department’s need for deliberative flexibility with its need to engage broader elements of the homeland security and emergency management enterprise in collaborative policy-making.

#10: Engage non-governmental stakeholders in a collaborative policy process.

Desired Outcome:
Individuals and non-governmental organizations are engaged in a genuinely collaborative
preparedness policy process.

#11: Planning-related policy and guidance should ensure that basic emergency plans match community demographics.

Desired Outcome:
Communities better understand and account for their unique requirements and plans reflect these realities.

#12: Establish and fund a national, comprehensive mutual aid system based on NIMS.

Desired Outcome:
Local, State, Tribal, and Territorial governments efficiently coordinate mutual aid before,
during, and in the aftermath of major emergencies and events requiring national or
interstate level responses through a national, comprehensive mutual aid system.

#13: Develop a strategic policy planning process to prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.

Desired Outcome:

The NAC futures analysis workgroup performs long-range assessments and policy planning to mitigate the risk of strategic surprise and optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of preparedness investments.

Capabilities and Assessment --Overarching Prioritize development and phased implementation of a national Recommendation preparedness assessment framework

#14: Conduct Threat and Hazard Identification Risk Assessment (THIRA) processes at all levels of government to establish a foundation to justify preparedness improvements.

Desired Outcomes:
All levels of government are able to assess their risks using appropriate methodologies;
Framework for preparedness Investment Justifications is established;
Preparedness levels and progress are measured from year to year by evaluating the gaps
between current and targeted capability levels across all levels of government; and
Investments made to close gaps in capability levels result in a more prepared Nation and
reflect a measurable return on investment.

#15: Prioritize ongoing efforts to update the existing Target Capabilities List with tiered, capability-specific performance objectives and NIMS-typed resource requirements.

Desired Outcomes:
All levels of government are able to assess their capability levels, with associated
performance objectives and resource needs;
FEMA works with all levels of government to identify and address capability performance
gaps; and
FEMA works with all levels of government to identify and address gaps in nationally
deployable NIMS-typed resources.

#16: Establish a NIMS-typed resource inventory for nationally deployable homeland security and emergency management assets.

Desired Outcome:
Homeland security and emergency management stakeholders have greater visibility into
and access to the range of nationally deployable assets.

#17: Use existing, familiar, user-friendly systems, such as NIMSCAST, to collect preparedness assessment and resource inventory data from all levels of government.

Desired Outcome:
FEMA provides a system for data collection and subsequent reporting that is transparent,
repeatable and defendable.

#18: Implement the elements of a preparedness assessment framework over a three-year period, with an integrated set of annual milestones.

Desired Outcomes:
All levels of government have an understanding of their threat and hazard profiles,
associated capability needs, and documented capability shortfalls;
Grant investments and other preparedness activities are linked to documented capability
shortfalls; and
All levels of government have access to a NIMS-typed resource inventory of nationally
deployable assets.

Grants Administration

Make targeted improvements to preparedness grant-related

Overarching coordination and collaboration, business processes, and
capability assessment linkages.

#19: Establish an interagency working group to better coordinate preparedness grants at the Federal level.

Desired Outcomes:

Federal agencies administering preparedness grants meet regularly to coordinate, as
appropriate, development of grant guidance, application/award timelines, monitoring, and

Federal agencies providing preparedness grants have visibility into grantee-developed

strategic documents and use these documents to inform grant allocations and awards;
Preparedness grant programs reflect more consistent timelines; and
Preparedness grant programs employ the system as a common system.

#20: Incentivize coordination among local, State, Tribal, and Territorial stakeholders regarding preparedness-related grant funds.

Desired Outcome:
SAAs for all Federal grant programs have increased visibility into grant initiatives,
resulting in more efficient and effective use of Federal grant funds.

#21: DHS should evaluate the role of match requirements in Federal preparedness assistance grants to ensure that match requirements do not disincentivize local, State, Tribal, and Territorial participation and that they support capability development and sustainment.

Desired Outcome:
DHS conducts evidence-based evaluation to understand how match requirements influence local, State, Tribal, and Territorial participation in preparedness grants.

#22: Federal agencies with decentralized grant administration and monitoring functions should ensure consistent application of standards.

Desired Outcome:
Grant programs are administered and monitored consistently by regional offices.

#23: Allow grantees flexibility to use federal grant funds to support sustainment and maintenance costs without limitation.

Desired Outcome:
Local, State, Tribal, and Territorial grantees are able to use federal preparedness grants
flexibly to sustain and maintain existing capabilities.

#24: To reflect the diverse goals and objectives of Federal grant programs, grant funding should be allocated using a variety of approaches, including: 1) baseline amounts for each state and territory; 2) amounts based on risk formulas targeted to specific areas; 3) category/programs specific grants; and 4) competitive programs that encourage innovation.

Desired Outcome:
Grantees have access to a full range of preparedness grants to meet diverse needs.

#25: More closely link grant programs with capability assessments.

Desired Outcome:

Assessment data supports local, State, Tribal, and Territorial stakeholders by identifying
how grant funds contribute to capability improvements.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1906-San Francisco

Rom today in history blog:

April 18: General Interest
1906 : The Great San Francisco Earthquake

"At 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, California, killing hundreds of people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles.

San Francisco's brick buildings and wooden Victorian structures were especially devastated. Fires immediately broke out and--because broken water mains prevented firefighters from stopping them--firestorms soon developed citywide. At 7 a.m., U.S. Army troops from Fort Mason reported to the Hall of Justice, and San Francisco Mayor E.E. Schmitz called for the enforcement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew and authorized soldiers to shoot-to-kill anyone found looting. Meanwhile, in the face of significant aftershocks, firefighters and U.S. troops fought desperately to control the ongoing fire, often dynamiting whole city blocks to create firewalls. On April 20, 20,000 refugees trapped by the massive fire were evacuated from the foot of Van Ness Avenue onto the USS Chicago.

By April 23, most fires were extinguished, and authorities commenced the task of rebuilding the devastated metropolis. It was estimated that some 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the devastating fires it inflicted upon the city. Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed, including most of the city's homes and nearly all the central business district."

VLG Comment: Not sure about the 20K evacuees on the warship Chicago but also true that several mass care shelters were established for the first time in US history. Also the use of troops was clearly unlawful although perhaps warranted. Humanitarian assistance only by those troops was lawful not law enforcement and such "shoot to kill orders" have long been determined to be unlawful across the board.

Recent appearance of an obsolete Field Manual from 1945 on the FAS website demonstrates however that until 1980 and the wrestling and tugging between DOJ and DOD was resolved by a brilliant monograph on use of the Armed Forces in riots and civil disorders by a now long deceased but brilliant DOJ lawyer Mary Lawton demonstrates that riots and civil disorders in the USA have long prompted violations of federal, state, and local law and the US Constitution. Shoot first and ask later not good enough.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bigger But is it Better--FEMA?

According to the BUR [Bottom up review published last July] this is FEMA's current on-board personnel strength:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):
A blended workforce of 16,590 with 4,200 permanent, 3,390 temporary and 9,000
reserve employees Headquarters and Supporting Resources (1,988: 1,539 perm; 382 temp; 67 reserve)
Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center (837: 669 perm; 166 temp; 2 reserve) National Emergency Training Center (NETC) training facility (243), includes:
Emergency Management Institute (EMI) (58 perm; 15 temp; 9 reserve)
National Fire Academy (NFA) (110 perm; 1 temp)
Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) training facility (50 perm) Regional offices (10) and Area Offices (3)
Region 1 (100 perm; 17 temp; 570 reserve)
Region 2 (107 perm; 10 temp; 608 reserve)
Region 3 (101 perm; 14 temp; 519 reserve)
Region 4 (156 perm; 91 temp; 1311 reserve)
Region 5 (126 perm; 17 temp; 439 reserve)
Region 6 (126 perm; 85 temp; 912 reserve)
Region 7 (97 perm; 58 temp; 446 reserve)
Region 8 (89 perm; 20 temp; 433 reserve)
Region 9 (126 perm; 22 temp; 473 reserve)
Region 10 (97 perm; 15 temp; 585 perm)
Texas Transitional Recovery Office (1 temp)
Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office (1 perm; 485 temp)
Mississippi Transitional Recovery Office (276 temp)
Disaster Reservists (9,000) Disaster Support Resources
National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) (1)
Regional Response Coordination Centers (RRCC) (10)
Federal Coordinating Officers (FCO) (1 perm; 37 temp)
National Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) (2)
Regional Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) (4)
Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) Detachments (6), each comprised of:
MERS Operations Centers (MOC)A-3
Incident Response Vehicle (IRV) capability Mobile Emergency Operations Vehicle (MEOV) capability Forward Communications Vehicle (FCV) capability
Logistics Distribution Centers (8)
Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers (MDRC) (60)

The information available to me is that the totals of personnel in all categories as of January 20, 2009 were under 9.000.

Assuming the BUR is correct what are the implications of this array? First FEMA is bigger than in any time in its history. Second. what training and background -education, training, On the Job experience and does this cadre have now not tomorrow?

FEMA definitely needed to expand from the under oath testimony of Harvey Johnson that the day before Katrina landfall FEMA had on board less than 1500 FTEs.

I have studied FEMA's budgets rather closely over the years. I find no evidence of funding in the budget for the numbers above so can only assume that the much is funded out of the President's Disaster Relief Fund.
Prior to FEMA's existence both OEP (WH) and then FDAA (HUD)were authorized to spend 5% of disaster outlays on administrative costs including personnel. In 1982 Chairman Boland of the House Appropriations Committee required FEMA to bring on budget a portion of its disaster personnel costs. This was a huge change as you might imagine. FEMA now had to plan ahead.

So it is interesting to speculate on what personnel costs, organizational costs are now off budget again and who has review that system and how those costs are allocated.

Perhaps at some point the DHS/OIG and/or GAO will provide information adequate to inform the Congressional Committees and interested members of the public. It should be easy to document needs post-Katrina. By the way I have never seen a formal delegation from the Secretary DHS to FEMA to the various Gulf Coast states FEMA Recovery Offices and wonder if such exists?

Monday, April 11, 2011

NEMA Conducting BUR for PA on Behalf of FEMA

According to a recent post on Disaster Zone by Eric Holderman NEMA on behalf of FEMA is conducting a BUR [Bottom up Review] of the PUBLIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAM pursuant to the Stafford Act. Based on the questions asked by NEMA it looks like Bill Carwile's organization is looking at PA hard for the first time since the
Disaster Relief Act of 1974 [Public Law 93-288] was enacted. One of the biggest changes that law wrought in PA was to allow payments to nonprofit organizations that provided community services. I have long argued that only nonprofits that were exempt from FEDERAL and STATE taxes should be eligible for that assistance. Many nonprofits exist that do not have that status and are not qualified for tax deductions for contributions by donors. The Vacation Lane Group is one such organization. Of course I probably don't provide community services either.
Many nonprofits are totally unregulated and exist only to duck under the audit scope of governmental organizations with their officers taking huge salaries. Over 10% of the GDP of the USA [meaning production of goods and services] are in the nonprofit sector. Perhaps a new MORTMAIN statute in the USA?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

FEMA and National Preparedness AS Expounded by PPD-8

There is only a passing reference to FEMA in new PPD-8!

That reference [italics mine] follows:

Nothing in this directive is intended to alter or impede the ability to carry out the authorities of executive departments and agencies to perform their responsibilities under law and consistent with applicable legal authorities and other Presidential guidance. This directive shall be implemented consistent with relevant authorities, including the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 and its assignment of responsibilities with respect to the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

I have previously examined in some detail PKEMRA 2006 on this blog and elsewhere. The text is available on the home page of this blog. See key statutes.

There were some assignments of new duties to FEMA in PKEMRA 2006 but almost no new legal authority to do anything or focus FEMA largely due to the fact that PKEMRA 2006 was written primarily by the Homeland Security Committee of the House of Representatives and that committee lacks oversight of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act! Thus a fundamental disconnect continues thanks to the incompetence of the Congress in organizing itself.

It will be interesting to see who reviews activities under the new PPD-8 to determine whether they are inconsistent with PKEMRA 2006. Not a small job IMO.