Saturday, August 13, 2011


Well I have had pretty solid confirmation that FEMA now approaches almost 5,000 Permanent Full Time (PFT) employees, appointees and others. With CORE and DAE staff much larger of course. This far exceeds anything existing even in that "golder age" wherein Director James Lee Witt was ordered by President Clinton to focus on natural disasters and in effect to let the National Security portfolio of FEMA slide. Of course the written Direct Presidential orders on the National Security side such as PD-39 and PD-63 and others and their ineffective implementation just confirms that natural hazards was the FEMA mission during the Clinton years.

And of course the OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL where I worked from 1979-1999 had a ceiling of no more than 40 including support staff and often less and no regional counsel (except from 1983-86 when a single lawyer was placed in 5 Regions)!

Now apparently almost 150 PFT in OCC (the Office of the Chief Counsel FEMA) so hoping that show of support to Brad Keiserman by W. Craig Fugate is paying off. Hopefully comprehensive legal audits of all programs, functions and activities are occurring. Hopefully all opinions and advice rendered to clients since April 1, 1979 of lasting significance are arranged and accessible so that OCC advice is consistent or when issued makes clear it is a change of direction.

One area that was weak in my time was delegations so hoping that the legal requirements for proper delegations is now covered completely. Almost no regulatory updates or changes being made in Title 44 including removal of obsolete sections and replacement of them or explanation why not occurring.

And wondering if all training materials and other documents furnished to both FEMA employees, states and their local governments, or even other federal agencies undergoing thorough legal review.

And of course procurement always a problem so hoping that is well covered legally. IN the one year I was senior procurement lawyer (1992) it was brought to my attention that over 6,000 unauthorized contracts had been issued by FEMA staff and offices.

And finally of course, hoping that many in OCC are cleared security wise for all FEMA programs and that those programs are completely and thoroughly undergone legal reviewed.

And just because you are cleared into a program does not mean that program has had complete legal review.

And of course hoping that when an issue arises in litigation a complete administrative record of consideration and decision comes with it and that program officials are no longer hiding even written documents from the litigation staff.

And finally of course hoping that the FEMA staff contains many highly qualified scientists, and engineers, economists, geographers, climatologists, seismologists, meterologists, etc. etc.

And perhaps the former Coasties as once being part of an HRO (highly reliable organization) have imparted some of that culture to FEMA generally.

Of course maybe the best have retired from the Coast Guard and now nicely double dip in FEMA and elsewhere in DHS for retirement and salary. Who can blame them?

But I would argue that one of the huge huge stories a decade after 9/11 is how badly treated the Coast Guard itself has been budget and administratively within DHS since its formation on March 1, 2003.

Well time will tell in the next catastrophe how "New" the "New" FEMA is in fact.