Saturday, December 31, 2011

Statutory Mandates and FEMA

FEMA in 2011 definitely staffed up but quality and competence yet to be established by the acid test of events. Still a start made on the decline in staffing from January 20, 2001 to August 29, 2005 {Hurricane Katrina]!

But it should be noted that extensive HUMAN CAPITAL mandates were included in PKEMRA 2006 largely effective on March 31, 2007.

It would be helpful if FEMA published more about its demographics and the cohorts involved as to length of service. That latter number is not outcome determinative as to competence and skills but it certainly is a marker.

And since in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, FEMA with its administration of the DRF makes some other agencies much less significant when it comes to actual numbers.

Again a year in which certain disasters such as radiological releases and terrorism not specifically included in the events subject to disaster declarations. This should happen.

A compilation of FEMA legislative proposals sent to OMB and Congress and outcome would be of interest. NFIP reform also died on the vine.

But hey thanks to those who offered reform legislation in both the Executive Branch and the Congress.

Happy New Year and welcome to the 2nd Session of the 112th Congress.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The End is Near! 2011 that is!

I had long speculated that President Obama would break the century mark for declarations this year. He may just be short of that figure for major disasters. Still quite a year. With 10 billion dollar disasters a good warm up year for FEMA and the big one or ones to come.

I find the most interesting story of the year the FUKISHIMA tragedy. It now appears that event alone may well knock Japan out of the top ten leading countries of the world this century. This should motivate USA Emergency Management and Homeland Security to understand the importance of their efforts to improve the disaster paradigm of preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. Note that "prevention" added by Congress in PKEMRA 2006 but undefined. Now defined in part by PPD-8 issued on March 31, 2011 and partially implemented.

Political and economic consolidation of the Eurasian heartland and extremes suffered some large blows this year but eventually perhaps 2 centuries down the road its history will have shaped a new dominant force in world history. One that if it can manage environmental issues and change that may last a long long time.

Despite a half-century of independence it now looks more and more like Africa will again undergo domination by foreign powers including those with resource shortages and the economic muscle to exploit Africa's richest.

And the USA and DHS and FEMA seem content to remain ignorant of policy impacts of new scientific developments and technology.

The most important development in the last decade has been social media and web 2.0 but few have really captured its potential or dangers to EM and HS.

Whatever the outcome of the 2012 elections it is apparent that self-delusion about American exceptionalism and ourselves will continue to be the dominating factors in American politics. It is never fun to watch people, cultures, or civilizations commit suicide so hoping none of that in 2012, but I may just be averting my eyes not escaping reality.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In two years the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 will be 40!

Well the 13th short term extension until September 30, 2012 is now law. Congrats to Congress for failing to understand what it has wrought.

As 2011 winds up the real question is what did the dramatic changes wrought by that 1973 legislative enactment accomplish for mitigation and the closely related mandatory "mitigation" placed in the Federal Disaster Relief Act of 1974, Public Law 93-288? Both laws were designed in tandem to hopefully reduce disaster outlays over time and use a quasi-insurance mechanism to make the communities with flood plains bear the full costs of that occupancy, in particular for placing houses in the flood plain.

I think it is plain that after almost 40 years part of the problem is that FEMA did not get the message when it was formed that it real job was preventing disasters and doing mitigation not creating a moral hazard with "free" disaster relief as was the worry of Senator William Proxmire and others in not opposing the creation of FEMA. There were no ATMs at the time in 1978 and 1979 but many worried that FEMA would just become another focus of federal largesse largely creating even more problems.

So as the year winds up announcing that the year 2012 will be the year flood insurance and federal disaster relief are reformed. How will be explained in a series of posts although much has already been laid out for the last few years here in this blog.

So here is the new FEMA mantra: Prevent Disasters Don't Promote them!

And as a subset further analysis will be made on how FEMA has in fact through its policies and bureacratic dishonesty undermined the STATES and their local governments in their preparedness, prevention, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts.

Hoping Congressional hearings will delve into these concerns this spring even as the spring runoff occurs.

A compliment to FIMA

The Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration should really be more honest and be named the Flood Insurance and Natural Hazards Mitigation Directorate. This may well be its last year in FEMA. However, I do have to compliment that FEMA Directorate for its helpful webpage on!

The webpage gives some history and lists current guidance in a quite helpful manner.

So thanks and happy holidays in that directorate. Wish all of mitigation in FEMA was housed with you. But hey I fought and lost that issue with a former GC of FEMA who did accomplish expansion of OGC FEMA DAE lawyers but little else.

Happy Holiday to all my friends and enemies in FEMA. 12 years and marking at this point since I left you behind.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Budget Cycle and FEMA

While the rest of US enjoy the holidays the budget nomes at OMB are doing their thing having given the departments and agencies pass backs on their budget requests for Fiscal Year 2013 that begins October 1st of 2012. This could be the last budget submission of any Obama Administration ever and if the Republicans win or lose it probably is dead on arrival when transmitted with the State of the Union Address or shortly thereafter in early February. So why is in even being submitted? Well for one thing required by law. For another serves as a marker for all the debates and appropriations efforts to follow. And finally it does to some degree reflect how the Administration sees the world and its own role in world and US history.

Most of FEMA budget is in the 045 category of fiscal codes--meaning state and local support. Most of the rest of DHS is in other fiscal codes. For example, General Government is fiscal code 800. It is hard to get ahold of how these assignments are made but they often foreshadow problems to come. For example, when Civil Defense left the 050 national security budget and became part of 045 it ended its role as being of any interest at all to the Armed Services Committees or the Armed Services Appropriators. Until 1995 FEMA always had one or two Associate Directors whose Senate confirmation ran through the Armed Services Committee. Once that stopped with repeal of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress, DoD pretty well shrugged its shoulders on FEMA issues, and did learn from the 1992 LA riots not to federalize the NG for riots and civil disorders. In another blog I have recently argued that the real state role of the NG is in law enforcement for the Governors in riots and civil disorders and that the current lack of training of the NG for that role is dangerous. Others disagreed. See blog Sic Semper Tyrannis.

In recent blog posts here and elsewhere I have argued that in fact the EM community is small and growing smaller. Even the rest of the PUBLIC SAFETY budgets are in danger of full scale erosion with over 500,000 State and Local workers laid off many in the Public Safety arena. Now FEMA has take a huge hit, over $2 billion IMO, to its support for the STATES and their local governments first response community. This is enough to make it almost certain that some capability will not be just lost now but forever.

With over 100 declarations in CY 2012 by the President for disasters, an all-time high, is part of this reflection of diminished STATES and their local government capability? DoD really does not care what happens to STATES and their local governments just hoping to be kept out of their problems. That is why on base housing and schools is such a big issue. Isolation from the General Public is a conscience DoD strategy for both force protection and ensuring that the Armed Forces are not burdened with the problems of STATES and their local governments.

In the meantime, I understand the OMB passback on the FEMA budget was devastating reflecting a definite change in policy by the President with respect to FEMA. Not the least the Presidential deferrment of construction money for FEMA at St. Elizabeths. So far only the US Coast Guard and the DHS support staff locked in for that location.

The bottom line--stand by for an absolutely amazing State of the Union address as the President sallies forth to meet the voters in the fall. None seem happy with current disaster policy or the NFIP either in FEMA or Congress or the Administration. The result could be dramatic in 2012.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FEMA and Climate Change

Would it not be interesting to know what FEMA's official position is on Climate Change and whether that comports with what most of its officials and employees believe? FEMA of course can only rely on second hand reports and analysis since no PhD Climate Scientists is now or ever has been on its payroll. In fact it is not exactly clear whether FEMA has ever held a conference or other public meeting wherein it gathered information on Climate Change and its actual or potential impact on its programs, functions, or activities.

Why? Well for one thing the culture in FEMA is not a scientific one, or a social service agency, or in fact anything that involves much intellectual curiosity about the natural world even though its business is largely natural disaster response and recovery. This is because it key Congressional Committee is Transportation and Infrastructure in the HOUSE the home of PORK.

Merely transferring the Stafford Act jurisdiction to almost any other committee would change how FEMA does business overnight.

And surprise surprise, all of the Republican candidates have quite unusual positions with respect to FEMA, disaster relief, and the role of FEMA in the federal system. Standby for some big surprises.

And did you know the President himself postponed efforts to house FEMA in the new DHS HQs building in S.E. Washington? Wondering why? Perhaps Climate Change?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The SNRA Synopsed!

A seven page document unclassified has been released by DHS discussing the Classified Strategic National Risk Assessment. Don't worry though because neither the released document or the SNRA appear to have been designed to accomplish much.

From the shorter document see this disclaimer:

"Impacts and Future Uses
The SNRA was executed in support of PPD-8 implementation and has served as an integral part of the development of the National Preparedness Goal, assisting in integrating and coordinating identification of the core capabilities and establishing a risk-informed foundation for the National Preparedness System. Participants mapped the core capabilities identified in the Goal to the events assessed in the SNRA to identify any additional core capabilities that may need to be included. In addition, the SNRA can be used to inform discussions on priorities for capability investment decisions. Finally, the SNRA results will be used to drive other preparedness priorities at the national level.

In addition, conducting a Strategic National Risk Assessment will support the National Preparedness System by providing a consolidated list of ―national level events for consideration and augmentation for Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment processes at multiple jurisdiction levels.

Although the development of the SNRA is an important first step, further analysis through the execution of regional- and community-level risk assessments will help communities better understand their risks and form a foundation for their own security and resilience. The Nation’s preparedness is dependent on a whole-of-community understanding of risk and comprehensive consequences at and across all levels of government. In conjunction with Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, the SNRA will be expanded and enhanced and will ultimately serve as a unifying national risk profile to facilitate preparedness efforts"!

So you can see most the work to be done not really yet completed and that was the statutory mandate. Well DHS will be gone before most of its key assignments will have been accomplished.

For some discussion of the SNRA see the posts of yesterday December 12th on the blog

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

GAO on NG WMD Preparedness and Response

Odd that I posted on November 29th on FEMA and DHS have almost no identified role in WMD preparedness and response. I also listed recently to an EMForum presentation on the Radiologically Resilient Community. Now GAO [not in so many words but in substance] concludes that the NG is not prepared or able to respond to a WMD incident/event. Perhaps it won't happen but who knows. The GAO report can be accessed on my other blog at!

It was in winter of 1995 that then Senator Sam Nunn panicked over the Executive Branch's failure to be able to explain either WMD response systems or terrorism response systems. Remember the Oklahoma City Bombing had been earlier that year and President William Jefferson Clinton has issued PD-39 attempting to delineate a crisis management role and a consequences management role for DOJ and FEMA. In driving on an answer before the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, Nunn had led enactment of a statute that mandated Executive Branch preparedness and response to both terrorism and WMD incident/events. FEMA begged off the state and local training role and so the President acceded to the statutory assignment to DoD of that mission for a three year period. Then the President was allowed to transfer it from DoD to some other Department or Agency. Again FEMA begged off and so DOJ took the role and created the NDPO [National Domestic Preparedness Office]supplementing the Office of Domestic Preparedness established in DOJ to administer the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. That Act had pass through monies to FEMA's USFA [US Fire Administration] to assist in training the FIRE SERVICE on terrorism exclusive of WMD.

And in DoD the NG created civil response teams that were to be the lead on WMD and terrorism preparedness and response.

Well given the GAO report you can obviously tell no one is in charge and few even understand the problems. Perhaps the terrorists will take advantage of this major error.

And did I mention that DHS was formed in part with the primary Executive Branch mission of WMD preparedness and response yet I can still not identify budget or staff devoted to anything but detection. And of course detection is good but does not really encompass preparedness and response.