The #1 Problem With FEMA

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal online:
As I wrote about in Warnings, FEMA is -- far too often -- a mess that does little net good. Warnings was published in 2010 and, with Sandy and last year's hurricanes, the agency has continued to live down to my expectations.

Part of the reason is that there should not be 692 federally declared disasters in a single year.

IF there needs to be separate federal agency to coordinate response to mega-disasters than that is what it should do. Responding to every tornado, every flood, etc., takes time and the very limited resources of expertise away from the hurricanes like Sandy, Maria, etc.

Unfortunately, getting FEMA to focus is going to be nearly impossible.

  • Mission creep. There will be years with few major disasters. They do not want to be accused to twiddling their thumbs. So, they will find a smaller disaster or two or three.
  • Politicians love to fly to a disaster area -- with the media in tow -- with the federal disaster declaration in hand because it creates the appearance of caring and "free money." 
I don't know what the solution is. Yes, FEMA failed in Maria, just like it does in every major disaster. Disaster preparedness and recovery should rank higher on the list of Washington's priorities but I don't see that happening. 


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