Random musings, observations, squeaks, whimpers and perhaps the ocassional rant. About what, I'm not sure.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Politics, From (A)bercrombie to (Y)oung...

FoleyI spent a good part of my day today doing something I’ve never done before – writing my elected officials.

Representative Mark Foley (R – Florida) had an OpEd piece in the Stuart News today on separating FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security and moving it to Cabinet-status. He’s sponsored a bill to that effect in the House… Its not a new idea… he originally suggested the move some time ago, but his resolve to do so has been steeled by issues related to Hurricane Katrina. “FEMA may be stuck and trapped in the bureaucracy," Foley was quoted as saying in the Palm Beach Post in April 2004. "That may not be helpful if we get a natural disaster.” To which I say… “You think?”.

In articles here, here, and here, the distinguished gentleman from Florida highlights his issues, as below:

Wednesday, September 7, 2005
WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (FL-16) announced today he has introduced legislation separating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“This is not solely a response to the tragedy in the Gulf; it is the result of the increasing evidence that FEMA should not be hindered by a top-heavy bureaucracy when needed to act swiftly to save lives,” said Foley. “After suffering through three direct hurricane hits last summer and watching my friends in the Gulf weather Katrina, I have seen one consistent problem—red tape and bureaucratic obstacles getting in the way of saving lives.”

Foley added, “Decisions that were once made quickly and efficiently at FEMA now have to go through a web of paperwork, authorizations and releases before they can be made -- adding further risk to people. We need to make FEMA the gold standard of emergency relief. Our goal is to turn that agency into the rapid-response and long-term response disaster agency that FEMA wants to be.”

Without going into the details, friends of mine literally spent the past 10 days on the phone with FEMA while the agency tried to figure out where they wanted them, and never really did make up their mind. The result was a lot of hungry first responders and FEMA personnel not getting hot meals during those 10 days, which is absurd. It wasn’t the GSA contracting officer, it was his chain-off-command, we expect.

Less Federal bureaucracy during a time of crisis would be a good thing, I think. Don’t get me wrong… DHS has an incredibly wide and important mandate, and I think they’re generally doing a great job. But FEMA is too large and has too discrete and critical a mission to be under the DHS umbrella, IMHO. Moving the agency to Cabinet-status, in addition to this week’s appointment of R. David Paulison, former director of the US Fire Administration, should help focus the agency on quick and effective response.

I hope Congressman Foley’s idea gains steam. Maybe the 539 letters we’re mailing tomorrow on that subject will have an impact… I hope so. Yup, we printed, folded, and stamped a letter on the subject to every US Senator and Congressman. You’d like to think the American political system responds to pressing needs, and to the will of the governed. I’m sure a lot of people feel like I do on this topic – I hope they speak up too.

Make a difference… write your Representatives and Senators today…

FYI - The Honorable Don Young represents Alaska in the House, and the Honorable Neil Abercrombie represents Hawaii. They're the senatorial/representative bookends, by name...


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