Friday, September 30, 2011

Personal History

Today marks the completion of a dozen years since I retired from FEMA on October 1, 1999. It also means the VACATION LANE GROUP has been existence 12 years. Happy Birthday VLG!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Landrieu's Stafford Act Reform Bill

Since GPO [note not GAO] has yet to get the text of S. 1630 up on the website here is more background:

For Immediate Release
September 23, 2011
Rob Sawicki, Landrieu, (202) 224-4893
Chris Gallegos, Cochran, (202) 224-6414

Landrieu, Cochran Introduce Stafford Act Reform Legislation
WASHINGTON –United States Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., today introduced legislation aimed at improving the nation’s capability to recover from major and catastrophic disasters by reforming the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
The bill, which is called the Disaster Recovery Act of 2011, builds on recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Emergency Management Association, the International Association of Emergency Managers, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Commission on Children and Disasters and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).
“As a Senator from Louisiana, I have witnessed numerous systemic failures, misguided policies, and squandered opportunities in the way we go about facilitating community recovery after a disaster and dedicated myself as a result of those experiences to fixing these problems,” Sen. Landrieu said. “This legislation will ensure the federal government has the right tools in its toolbox to help communities recover from disasters in a smarter and more efficient way.”
“Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught us some hard lessons. We learned that existing federal law is ill-suited to facilitate long-term recovery from catastrophic incidents. Over the past six years, we have often been forced to work on an ad hoc, congressionally-led basis to overcome the shortcomings and bureaucratic red tape built into the current law,” Sen. Cochran said. “Our bipartisan disaster recovery legislation takes what we’ve learned from the ongoing Katrina and Rita recovery efforts to improve future long-term disaster recovery from disasters of such magnitude.”
The Stafford Act authorizes various forms of federal assistance to state and local governments, certain nonprofit organizations and individuals in the event of a Presidentially-declared emergency or disaster. Since its enactment in 1988, it has been significantly revised by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. While these changes have strengthened FEMA’s capacity to support hazard mitigation and emergency response, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita revealed inadequacies in the law's ability to support comprehensive disaster recovery.
The bill would reform the Stafford Act by doing the following:
• Establishing pre-conditions and special procedures for a new catastrophic disaster declaration that would trigger more intensive tracking of funds, use of recovery metrics to measure return on federal investments, and a coordination structure to reduce waste, close recovery gaps, and ensure that programs work in unison rather than silos. The scale of the damage and the volume of federal funding that follow catastrophic events requires better management, transparency and accountability.
• Re-authorizing two expired pilot programs from the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act for rental housing and debris removal that were determined by FEMA and GAO to save taxpayers money and expedite recovery
• Providing incentives for state and local governments to adopt and enforce building codes, develop pre-incident recovery plans and pre-negotiate contracts. This will reduce damages and strengthen local capacity, which is why these ideas have support from Republicans in the House of Representatives and the insurance industry.
• Helping the environment by allowing locals to keep proceeds from recycled debris and encouraging energy-efficient rebuilding designs
• Addressing the unique needs of children in disasters, which will allow parents to get back to work and focus on rebuilding their home or business.
• Making the application process for public assistance more user-friendly for state and local governments with the help of a catalog of disaster programs and a consolidated application for federal recovery assistance
• Streamlining regulations and reducing bureaucratic waste by consolidating requirements for environmental, historic and benefit-cost reviews across different federal agencies for recovery projects.
• Improving training, certification, delivery models and information sharing for case management and crisis counseling and the faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations that provide these services.
• Establishing credentialing, training and evaluation requirements for FEMA employees, strengthening contractor oversight, requiring staffing plans for catastrophes, establishing project transfer procedures for rotating personnel, and encouraging the use of local hires in recovery field offices.
• Eliminating a perverse incentive in the law to use high-priced contract labor for emergency work instead of local government employees, which will save the federal government millions of dollars.
• Codifying temporary legislative measures that were enacted to facilitate a smarter recovery after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including third-party arbitration of prolonged disputes and lump sum payments for criminal justice systems, school districts and other facility owners to strategically plan their reconstruction program without having to rebuild every structure to its pre-disaster condition in the exact same location.
The bill introduction comes just one day before the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Rita. At its peak intensity, Hurricane Rita was the strongest storm ever to have entered the Gulf of Mexico, breaking a record set only three weeks earlier by Hurricane Katrina. When the skies cleared, Rita ranked as the third-most-expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.

As the news release states:
"The bill, which is called the Disaster Recovery Act of 2011, builds on recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Emergency Management Association, the International Association of Emergency Managers, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Commission on Children and Disasters and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD)."

It would be of great help if the full text of any written comments from the above furnished Ms. Landrieu would be posted on her office website or perhaps made available in the extension of remarks of the Congressional record. And those having OMB approval should be separately listed from those that were informally provided to Ms. Landrieu.

The President's Disaster Relief Fund [DRF]

Some may think that FEMA saved the day on the budget impass looming for last several weeks over Washington. Why? The DRF supposedly was almost empty. Then just the day before yesterday FEMA revealed it had adequate funds to carry on a few more days. The Fiscal Year 2011 ends on Friday of course and at midnight the 1st of October Fiscal Year 2012 begins with most of the Executive Branch without an approved appropriation act. The DRF of course is a revolving no-year fund which is why even the National Security STATE has tried to get its hands on it for many years.

But FEMA has as many as 1000 open disasters for which funds have been obligated. It could deobligate some of those funds at any time to fund higher priority projects or even focus on response not recovery. At least for a short period.

During my time in FEMA few if any knew the exact status of the DRF or the rate of payout at any given time. So praise for FEMA if it now has strict accounting and management controls over the PRESIDENT's DRF. After all the President does not have the time to do it. Why is it that somehow I still doubt the DRF has adequate financial controls and is administered properly? Well after all it is a relief program right, not an investment program? Apparently Senators Cochrane and Landieu want to make recovery an investment program with their new legislative initiative. I guess new federal investment in the low tax states of Louisiana and Mississippi usally far down on the lists of states in their efforts to help all their citizens believe their states deserving of all the repetitive disaster assistance poured out year after year. YUP! I will agree that without FEMA these two states would be in even bigger trouble. But when is enough enough? Perhaps FEMA might prepare a report on total disaster outlays since 1950 to all the states and rank based on population vis a vis dollars. Now that would be some statistic. But hey probably would have to be classified by DHS and its minions. The terrorists might find out what mother nature has always known--No variances for these states from their hazards!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Contagion-The Movie

In the recently released movie "Contagion" FEMA is only mentioned once. Perhaps I missed other references. But in that reference I do remember FEMA's only role in a Pandemic situation is to provide emergency food to the population. Assuming that MASS CARE which now has FEMA in the lead and support from the ARC [American Red Cross] and involves mass evacuation, feeding, sheltering, and emergency medical care perhaps this reference is correct.

However look at the Department of Agricultural role in E.O. 12656 as currently amended and in a so-called NATIONAL SECURITY EMERGENCY [note none has ever been declared and that term exists nowhere in the US Code] AG does have the emergency feeding role.

So my question is who or what organization is set up to feed the populace in crisis management situations? In most cases food on grocery shelves requires restocking every 3 days. Given theft and hoarding it might not even last 3 days before shelves are bare. Worth a study? I think so. My understanding is that there are three domestic manufacturers of MRE but not sure and not sure of international production sources.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

NDRF and PPD-8

I am reliably informed that FEMA believes that the language that follows allowed them to ignore the statutory mandated National Disaster Recovery Strategy mandate in PKEMRA 2006:

"The national preparedness system shall include a series of
integrated national planning frameworks , covering prevention,
protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. The frameworks
shall be built upon scalable, flexible, and adaptable
coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities
to deliver the necessary capabilities . The frameworks shall be
coordinated under a unified system with a common terminology and
approach, built around basic plans t hat support the all - hazards
approach to preparedness and functional or incident annexes
to describe any unique requirements for particular threats or
scenarios, as needed . Each framework shall describe how actions
taken in the framework are coordinated with relevant actions
described in the other frameworks across the preparedness

I respectfully disagree and wonder if Congress was so notified. I also note that the new NDRF does not comply with the language above. Why is FEMA so poorly administered that a statutory mandate that would be helpful to FEMA and the members of the Federal Copmmunity not be complied with by FEMA?

Friday, September 23, 2011

National Disaster Recovery Framework

Okay is it too much to ask for basic honesty in FEMA with respect to the various documents it issues? For example Congress called for a National Disaster Recovery Strategy in PKEMRA 2006 and apparently this recently issued FRAMEWORK is the response. Ignoring title and non-references to the statutory mandate or even prior drafts or other key documents like the lengthy SENATE letter to FEMA on the first draft of the Strategy why don't these documents indicate level of signoff, whether other federal agencies (OFA) or NGO's given review time for final version and whether prepared with assistance of a contractor or outside organization?

IMO all this helps to evaluate the potential usefulness of the document. I wonder if those struggling to recover in the North EAST after Hurricane Irene will find this document of ANY relevance or materiality to their current recovery efforts.

And why is this document not noticed for availability in the FEDERAL REGISTER? It does not have to be published full text there but given a response [at least in part] to a statutory mandate why not notice it officially?

FEMA is always dying for failure to get the details correct and wonder why this has been the entirety of its history!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Facebook Page

Please note that not all postings to my FACEBOOK page are related to FEMA, EMERGENCY Management, Crisis Management or disaster relief and recovery. Some are but often just article of interest on which I add a cryptic comment. Enjoy and remember their are some security issues with FACEBOOK that have NOT been fixed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Decade Later--State Capability Assessments

On October 25, 2001 the following FACT SHEET was issued by FEMA Public Affairs:


October 25, 2001


State Terrorism Capability Assessment

In coordination with the Office of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is conducting an assessment of State terrorism capabilities in order to determine the capability of States to respond to terrorist attacks. State governments already have effective all-hazards emergency management programs in place. However, in order to ensure that States are ready to adequately respond in the event of future terrorist attacks, we need to know their current levels of readiness and where enhancements are needed.

As announced by FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh at a White House press conference on October 19, 2001, this assessment will be conducted jointly between the Federal Government and the States in order to establish an accurate reading of readiness capability. The assessment is being conducted through FEMA’s ten regional offices and includes representatives from other federal departments and agencies. These interagency teams will visit each State and work face-to-face to conduct the assessment. The State Emergency Management Directors have been asked to include other emergency management and public officials, including the National Guard, in order to get a full assessment of the States’ capabilities. The data that is collected in the assessment will be used by FEMA and the Office of Homeland Security to identify areas in State readiness capabilities that need improvement for planning and budgetary purposes. This information will be transmitted to Governor Tom Ridge, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, on November 19, 2001.

Director Allbaugh will continue to work closely with Governor Ridge on the response posture of the States as well as on other issues regarding Homeland Security. FEMA is a critical link in the President’s establishment of a homeland security program. FEMA is unique in the Federal Government because of its role in saving lives and protecting property, its linkages with State, Tribal and local emergency management functions, and its partnership with first responders. Governor Ridge has been and will continue to rely on FEMA to support the Nation’s homeland security program.

For further information, or if you have any questions, please contact FEMA’s Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Division on 202/646-4500."

Okay that first post 9/11/01 state capability assessment was never released publically. Why not do so now and issue and updated assessments? We do know that one STATE capability assessment conducted about 2005-2006 utilizing SLG-101 but not the excellent Attachment G to that document issued in April 2001 focusing on Terrorism flunked almost 60% of the STATES. The SLG 101 had been issued in 1996. So now a new CPG-101 has been issued replacing SLG-101 but not mentioning Attachment G. Some state capability assessment has been conducted and reported to higher-ups in DHS and the WH and the Congress. Those assessments are not encouraging.

I have posted before on how some states are weak sisters in the efforts to participate in reducing the threat of terrorism. About $31B has gone out since 9/11/01 to the STATES and their local governments [this does NOT include health
preparedness]! No one seems to know what that investment bought.

Perhaps time for Congressional oversight of both STATE CAPABILITY and FEMA grants!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Extension of the NFIP--And meaningless measures?

IN sixteen days the NFIP authority to issue new policies or renew policies expires. I am predicting despite passage of bills in both House and Senate that a relatively clean 5 year extension will take place. Most of the measures could now occur by administrative actions but for almost two decades the NFIP managers have largely allowed Congress to dictate any changes to the NFIP administrative structure. Those measures have largely been repudiated by actual flooding events and the new ones are likely to do so also.

Despite a highly publicized effort to gather comments from many sources on NFIP reform [I myself submitted over 25] as far as I know the Administration submitted no recommendations on suggested legislative action.

In summary again the program has left behind the current managers and the competence of the Congressional staffs and lobbying interests to reform the NFIP and now it is at its highest risk ever as all begin to realize it did not impact disaster outlays from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in particular in Vermont, NY, and New Jersey.

Well time will tell whether my crystal ball is clouded.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is FEMA the Little Engine That Could?

Just as the one-eyed man is King in the land of the blind, FEMA when solvent has often punched well beyond its superficial weight in times of catastrophe and disaster. Why? It had bucks while other agencies did not and especially when fourth quarter events occurred, like September 11th, 2001, or Hurricane Katrina late August 2005.
Well with less than $900 billion in the DRF it is now certain that the massive number of declarations of disasters and emergencies stemming from various events from drought to Hurricane Irene and the slow-moving Tropical Storm Lee have presented an opportunity for both parties to really force the American public to understand the standoff in Washington. FEMA ops are currently being drastically impacted by the shortage of funding in the DRF [Disaster Relief Fund] no matter what W. Craig Fugate say on the record. With the daily Federal Register increasing the number of declared emergencies and disasters the ball has been kicked at the heads of the Congress in both houses who much put up or shut up on funding FEMA now, not sometime next year.

And of course the first instinct of Congress is to cut funding to other FEMA and DHS programs NOW and in the forthcoming fiscal year. So FEMA may move from stepchild in DHS to pariah as other DHS managers view FEMA as vampire. Yes, Eloise! To some degree Executive Branch budgets are a zero sum game. What one agency gets another does not.

A fascinating time to watch the FEDERAL Government see if it can govern, its basic purpose of course. And the ranks of those politicians that wish to govern as opposed to posturing have dwindled in numbers to the smallest percentage in US history. Why? The incumbents want to stay in Washington where the overwhelming number of lobbyists keep them wined and dined and corrupted even while the American people suffer drought and floods and other impacts from natural and man made hazards such as energy grid failures and pipeline explosions.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Drought and Fire!

The NWS has recorded the JUNE,JULY, AUGUST period as the lowest recorded rainfall for the entirety of the STATE of TEXAS in its history. Wildland fires have impacted urban areas there and elsewhere this year.

On its formation a Department of Agriculture, DOD, Interior Dept and FEMA MOU was signed on fire issues. Then lost to memory. By the time James Lee Witt arrived FEMA did not have organizational memory of that MOU or it past roles in fighting fire or the URBAN/Wildfire interface as now called.

Director Witt was actually on Long Island, NY, directing C-130s with chemical firefighting retardant when he was informed that FEMA was not in charge. GAO reviewed the issue and concluded that the current firefighting system was broke and suggested updating. Essentially concluding that FEMA had been trying to help and done the correct thing in doing so.

Some forget that firefighting is specifically addressed in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 100-707, that repealed in part, supplemented in part, and revised in part the Disaster Relief Act of 1974,
Public Law 93-238.

Also in the Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, as amended, is authority for a specific reimbursement program for firefighting on federal property and that authority implemented by 44 CFR Part 150.

All of this documented by the OGC of the independent FEMA when the US sued California for losses caused by activity of California state authorities in starting fires impacting federal property and eventually that case lost because DOJ in its ignorance lost it on a Statute of Limitations argument by California even though it helped to ensure that DOJ was up-to-date on Statute of Limitations affecting its affirmative litigation. The largest caseload of that nature is the US to recover damages from third parties who have injured active duty service personnel.

But all this deserves close Congressional and WH review before an Australian type situation burns its way into the USA news.

And good luck TEXAS because some experts think this is a 50 year drought or longer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Maybe FEMA should stay in DHS but MITIGATION and the NFIP should GO !t gta

GAO has issued a 226 pp report on the efforts of DHS since its formation. No mention of the word "mitigation" or "Prevention" or "resilience"! Suggest all start by reading Footnote #13!

IN any event it is clear that the NFIP should be immediately removed from DHS and with the SENATE marking up an NFIP extension bill this AM now is the time. The insurance aspects should go to the Treasury Department. The mapping and mitigation activity should go to NOAA and in particular as climate change starts to dominate issues in the NFIP.

FEMA may have barely survived incorporation into DHS but MITIGATION and the NFIP were largely destroyed. Since those efforts are largely technically driven and not subject to being analyzed as a law enforcement, homeland security, or homeland defense function it is more and more crucial that the NFIP and MITIGATION team be extracted as soon as possible from DHS.

And sad to say the ignorance and lack of capability of
GAO on insurance and mitigation policies and issues looms larger and larger with each passing year.

The life and death of the NFIP despite recent extensive and dramatic riverine and inland flooding from Hurricane Irene and other storms will be driven by federal coastal policies. The riverine and inland flooding of the NFIP should cease completely after a 5-10 year transition program to STATES and their local governments.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

FEMA--An investor or a relief agency?

It is interesting that the Public Works Committees in the Congress often view their authorizations and appropriations as "Investments" in the future of the USA. Yet their oversight of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707) that repealed in part, supplemented in part and modified in part the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-288) is never viewed as other statutes under those committees jurisdiction as an "investment"!

Perhaps the reason is that disaster funds don't ever get studied for an ROI [return on investment] is because of the 3100 county geographic areas in the USA the ones that receive most of the disaster monies year by year are the top 500 by level of relief since 1950.

Just as the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] has paid out over 30% of its claims to properties receiving damages from floods over and over, the federal disaster program often is paying out again and again to the same county geographic areas.

So as we (the USA) looks for cost savings in federal programs perhaps mitigation and prevention might become more important in the disaster relief effort by focusing on the problems and prospects of the top 500 geographic county areas. Does investment in NOLA for example make sense?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One Week to Go until First DECADE After 9/11/01 is Past!

It would be of interest if an exact accounting could be done of federal expenditures on NYC for post 9/11/01 response and recovery and a comparison after just six (6) years for Post-Katrina response and recovery. Casualties of course were over double in NYC. No measure there. Some deaths [about 167]at the Pentagon on that day.

The stories and articles and books about this first decade are multiplying day by day and of course what might be of interest is new information that they contain on events leading up to, during, and after 9/11/01 concerning the federal response.

What some may have forgotten is the SNIPER attacks in the fall of 2001 and the Anthrax attacks.

Would you be surprised to find out that health preparedness funding post the Anthrax attacks exceeds the STATE and their local governments preparedness funding by various FEMA grants [$2.1B just announced for this year]that are now estimated to be about $31B with little known of the end result of those grants in enhancing preparedness.
A recent article noted that California had purchased over 40 large screen TVs for emergency preparedness and homeland security that somehow disappeared into Californian organizations unrelated to the purposes for which the grants made.

My estimate is about $45B has gone out to STATES and their local governments for health preparedness but that result also questionable as budget reductions continue to impact staff and capability built in the STATES and Their local governments since the Anthrax attacks and enactment of the May 2002 law enhancing health preparedness.

And noting for the record a new leader for FEMA's REP activity and the North ANNA reactors in Virginia still in off status since the earthquake nearby.

Tropical Storm Lee has so far been less intense than predicted but has dropped about 10 inches of rain across the mid-southland with more to follow.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I have posted several new docs on this blog under FEMA Historical info on the homepage including a September 11th, 2007 on the organizational changes implemented by DHS to comply with the PKEMRA 2006. Note it is a Chertoff letter to Congress not a FEMA letter. That distinction is made because even today FEMA has not fully internalized the reorganizations of DHS that impacted its current organization. But that will be shown perhaps by the impacts of Tropical Storm Lee on NOLA.

Tropical Storm Lee may dump up to 20 inches of rain on Southern Louisiana and Missisippi.

For NOLA the result could be further calamity because while the USACOE did make some effort post-Katrina USACOE has largely not been in on the design of internal drainage for NOLA nor its implementation or operation. Seldom mentioned in analysis of Katrina and its collapse of NOLA flood walls is the difficiency in internal drainage for NOLA.

Will NOLA need a second post-Hurricane Betsy [1965] rebuilding only to be destroyed again?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The "NEW" FEMA struggles and juggles!

Away for a few days with a power outage. The DRF [Presidents disaster relief fund] down under a billion. So immediate needs only funded.

And a Category 1 hurricane is NOT a test of the new FEMA. Let's see how the month of September plays out.