Yesterday, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced to the House Homeland Security Committee that FEMA would remain a part of DHS. While it is not surprising that Napolitano made the decision, given her inclination towards having FEMA stay put in her January confirmation hearing, it has likely rankled a few folks bent on returning FEMA to its Clinton-era cabinet-level status.
But keeping FEMA at DHS is the right decision. FEMA is having tremendous success under DHS leadership—and there have been countless examples that demonstrate this case—from the California wildfires to the Midwest floods. A cabinet-level FEMA would simply be about stakeholders politics, and would be a step backwards in terms of progress since 9/11. Heritage has long supported FEMA’s role within DHS. In fact, Jena Baker McNeill wrote a WebMemo, Removing FEMA from DHS Would Be a Terrible Mistake, which provided the case for why FEMA should stay put. She emphasized how the FEMA mission is interwoven with all of the other directorates under DHS jurisdiction—and working together they could create a homeland security enterprise which prevents, prepares for, and responds to acts of terrorism and natural disasters.
Making FEMA into a political pawn would have been a disastrous move that would have made American less safe and less prepared. The Obama Administration should be applauded for this wise policy choice.