menu

It’s over.  Janet has spoken.  We now have the answer that we’ve been waiting for since January 15, 2009, the date of her Senate confirmation.  FEMA stays put.

At her confirmation hearing, the then-Arizona Governor and DHS Secretary nominee delivered what can only be described as the coy Washington-esque, un-answer answer when talking about FEMA’s role in DHS.

In my January 15th posting the quote I have her saying is, “FEMA plays a key role in homeland security.” Her opening statement and other responses also talked about ‘mission integration,’ the Department’s units working together, etc.’  When questioned about further reorganization of DHS by Sen. Carper she responded, “I want to take the existing organization and make it all work better.”

I also recall her saying in subsequent hearings and media interviews on the FEMA In or Out subject that she had not spoken to the President yet as to his preferences for America’s disaster agency remaining in or out of DHS.

I guess she finally had that little talk with the Big Guy in the nice house on Pennsylvania Avenue because when she spoke yesterday, she didn’t just answer the question, she slammed the door on any hopes of the FEMA Independence Movement for a return to the ways things used to be.

As reported by CQ from yesterday’s hearing on the FY2010 Budget request before the House Homeland Security Committee, she said,

“It is my position, it is the position of the administration that FEMA should remain in the Department of Homeland Security…”

BOOM!

That statement is about as clear as the playoff schedule for the Washington Capitals.

FEMA, like the Caps aren’t going anywhere.  They’re staying put.  YAHOO!  [I’m Penguins fan!]

It’s more than about time for the FEMA answer to be given.  I would say for the majority of people following this issue, this answer has been more than apparent.  The fact it was given yesterday takes away a needless and nagging distraction to FEMA’s new leadership now that Craig Fugate has finally been confirmed as its Administrator.

Fugate has his marching orders; he knows what he’s supposed to do and now he doesn’t have to worry about this lingering question hanging over his head everywhere he goes.

Instead he’ll have to answer Sen. Vitter’s politically motivated naggings about issuing building permits and funds to replace structures that are in flood zones and are habitually in the path of storms and destruction and wiped out (always a prudent investment of taxpayer dollars).

Kudos to the Administration for making the RIGHT DECISION… about time.

The waste of time though begins at 11:00AM today when the full committee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee gavels a hearing on “An Independent FEMA.”

An issue long-championed by its Chairman, Rep. Oberstar (D-MN), the hearing will undoubtedly parade some of the usual voices calling for independence.  Unfortunately the witness list for the hearing was not posted so who knows they may have a surprise voice to add to this issue but all intents and purposes this issue is over.

FEMA isn’t going anywhere because the Administration has made its call.

Furthermore, FEMA isn’t going anywhere because the US Senate (other than maybe Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) who wants FEMA independent) isn’t going to take on this issue either.

Additionally there is no huge movement in the US House to remove the Agency from DHS either.

That’s what makes today’s hearing a waste of time.

It may be cathartic for the FEMA Independence Movement members to have one last vetting of its dreams and aspirations and reminisce about the ways things used to be, but it’s well past time to move on regarding this issue.

FEMA needs the support of the Congress for its more than active and aggressive mission in form of clear policies, funding, exercise support, moving the Stafford Act into the post 9/11 and Katrina eras and more.  Gathering around the campfire one more time to sing the songs about the ways thing used to be seems to be a waste of time given everything this country has on its plate.  Hurricane season begins in less than three weeks, and let’s face it, bad days can occur any time, any where and by any means and its FEMA’s job to be ready for them.

The fact is that FEMA is now part of a larger team and its integration with its team members is what we need to address the multitude of all-hazard challenges.

It’s a realization that the Obama Administration finally came too.  I hope others will too some day soon.

Maybe after today’s hearing and is gaveled to a close and the old camp fire songs are finally over.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More