Senate Panel Calls for FEMA Dismantling
Hurricane Katrina’s latest fatality should be FEMA, the nation’s disaster response agency, a Senate inquiry concluded in calling for a government overhaul to avoid future failures like those the devastating storm exposed.
The Associated Press reported that 86 recommendations by the bipartisan panel indicate the United States is still woefully unprepared for a storm of Katrina’s scope with the start of the hurricane season little more than a month away.
The recommendations conclude that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is crippled beyond repair by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding. They call for a new agency – the National Preparedness and Response Authority – to plan and carry out relief missions for domestic disasters.
Although the proposed changes do not place blame on any official or government agency, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., will offer “additional views” to the panel’s findings in a statement accusing President Bush of failing “to provide critical leadership when it was most needed.”
“The United States was, and is, ill-prepared to respond to a catastrophic event of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina,” said the recommendations. “Catastrophic events are, by their nature, difficult to imagine and to adequately plan for, and the existing plans and training proved inadequate in Katrina.”
The recommendations were released today (April 27) and will be included in the Senate panel’s full report to be issued next week.
The recommendations, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, are the product of a seven-month Senate investigation. The probe follows similar inquiries by the House and White House and comes in an election year in which Democrats have seized on Katrina to attack the Bush administration.
Katrina, which struck on Aug. 29, was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. The storm killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, left hundreds of thousands of homeless and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.
The new authority would communicate directly with the president during major crises, and any dramatic cuts to budget or staffing levels would have to be approved by Congress. But it would remain within the Homeland Security Department and would continue receiving resources from the department.