|Type of paper:||Course work|
|Categories:||Government Disaster Homeland security|
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's primary role is to help people recuperate from disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. FEMA came into existence through the merger of other disaster-related organizations such as the National Fire Control and Prevention Administration, the Federal Preparedness Agency, and the Federal Insurance Administration to maintain efficiency from one central point. But on March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (Kahan, 2015). While the aid of the federal government is welcome, some local and state officials claim that dealing with FEMA in more recent times has gotten more intricate since it is working under the umbrella of the Homeland Security Department. Most scholars argue that Members of Congress received prior warnings from policy experts against the merging of FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security since they believed that FEMA would not respond adequately to major natural disasters (Lucie, 2016). Despite words of caution, the amalgamation was successfully initiated. While most people will love FEMA to be out of DHS, it is fair to state that this agency will be more efficient and effective if it remains under the realm of the Department of Homeland Security.
As many people continue to argue that FEMA ought to be out of DHS, recent disaster responses such as Hurricane Ike and even the wildfires in California demonstrate how effective and efficient FEMA is operating within the Department of DHS (Lucie, 2016). The Congress and relevant bodies should reject calls channeled to make it a stand-alone agency. Those making the calls should consider the following;
Elevation will not Guarantee American's and Safety
Elevating FEMA to a stand-alone agency would not make Americans safer from either natural disasters or acts of terrorism. For sure, the first responders are the most critical players in containing a hazard when it strikes and not FEMA (Lucie, 2016). These first individual players are the ones that make a difference regarding property and lives that are saved. You can imagine now FEMA being elevated to a cabinet level, its response still will not be any more seamless. Its efforts should be not at the cabinet-level, but further up the food chain trying to improve disaster recovery and response.
Preparedness and Response
An emergency management organization, whether for human-made or natural hazards, should have a well-recognized cycle of dealing with an emergency which includes preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. These elements are essential and act like a four-legged stool; hence the removal of one of them will make the seat unstable. If FEMA, which deals with preparedness and response, is removed from DHS, homeland security will not operate effectively since these four-legged elements essential to its mission will be missing. For FEMA to be able to work efficiently and quickly, it needs to collaborate with other DHS agencies to provide an efficient and effective federal response when merited. Agencies such as the U.S Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration are integral partners to FEMA in disaster response efforts (Murray, 2019). By splitting FEMA from DHS would constrain this coordination by formulating bureaucratic barriers that never existed before to information sharing.
Synergy and Resources
The wealth resources available to FEMA through other DHS components such as the U.S Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration are the primary benefit that would never be available to FEMA as a stand-alone agency (Murray, 2019).
It Takes Years for a Complex Organization to Develop
Merging FEMA and DHS into a single organization was a complex undertaking which was not accomplished in a fortnight. Hence, removing FEMA from DHS will take both of them back years in development impeding the progress of this country in building a strong homeland security structure. The restructuring will take much time and would only set FEMA and the department of DHS back further in terms of disaster control and management (Murray, 2019).
Since the Department of Homeland Security's inception, it has been reshuffled for more than ten times. All these frequencies of reshuffling and reorganization have led to a decreased morale of stakeholders and an increase in confusion on the employees and stakeholders about the mission, responsibilities and roles of DHS (Lucie, 2016). Reorganizing DHS for the only sake of making FEMA cabinet-level agency would not be a good idea in terms of resource utilization and the long run, it will send a wrong message to stakeholders and employees. Any reorganization in DHS should be taken with caution.
Federalization is not a Good Idea
Over the years, federalization of disaster response and management has grown exponentially. This exponential growth is associated with the high number of federal disaster declarations increasing over the years. Federalization of disaster responses encourages local and state governments to be less prepared in tackling disasters when they struck since they claim that the federal government, in the long run, will intervene (Lucie, 2016). This precedent is a bad thing for all those faced with these disasters. The taxpayers too, are affected since being forced to over subsidize efforts to those affected. Thus, a better approach is to embolden the local and state government to formulate their capabilities. Imagine of a bigger FEMA bureaucracy that is at a cabinet-level status, will equally send an exact federal message equivalent that of the White House.
Challenges Facing FEMA
The recent flooding, hurricanes and wildfires have depicted the challenges FEMA faces in responding efficiently and effectively to natural disasters. Notably, 2017 and 2018, wildfires and hurricanes affected millions of people (Inserra et al. 2018). Equally, these disasters caused massive damages worth billions of dollars. In 2019, historic flooding was experienced in the Midwest that affected millions of acres of land that brought significant losses to infrastructure worth billions of dollars (Inserra et al. 2018). The highlighted and documented challenges that this agency faces include ones that stem from its workforce management, disaster resilience, response and recovery.
FEMA for a long time has experienced a long-standing problem regarding its workforce management. The workforce management challenges start from its inadequately staffed employees. Secondly, the workforce was not adequately trained in disaster response and management. For instance, both 2017 and 2018 disasters overwhelmed the workforce of FEMA due to its lack of adequate personnel trained to tackle them. Most employees of FEMA lack program expertise to handle mega-disasters, thus leading to complications in their response efforts. Despite FEMA's constant response in addressing both the shortage of staff and the instilling of expertise in the few employees, the relevant authorities tackling the deficit and adequately trained workforce has not done enough to tackle this challenge (Inserra et al. 2018).
It is so sad to state that the local and state governments all rely on the federal government to tackle any natural disaster even if it falls under their jurisdiction. The over-reliance on FEMA to bring much-needed relief when a disaster strikes in both the local and state jurisdiction has taken a toll on the agency (Kahan, 2015). Most states and local governments still rely on federal funds when faced with disasters. Most states and local governments have not built any capacity towards disaster resilience. Thus, FEMA has a long way to go in trying to educate both the localities and states how to utilize federal funds when faced with disasters. The agency has a big task ahead in deciding to invest in disaster reliance in both the localities and states.
Response and Recovery
Despite the recent progress in terms of response to disasters such as those in California, Texas, and Florida, FEMA's aided state officials took credit for their quick aided response to those disasters. However, the implementation of Public Assistance grants by FEMA was categorically singled out to be too slow. Equally, the FEMA official got it wrong on Public Assistance policies and guidance on Hurricane Maria. The Public Assistance policies and guidance on the FEMA side were too complicated hence slowing down the entire recovery (Inserra et al. 2018).
In line with the overall goal of FEMA, the following strategic plan should be adopted.
FEMA should Build a Culture of Preparedness
Preparedness is the most successful way to achieve disaster resiliency in disaster preparedness. Through building a culture of preparedness within our governments and communities will help support a national effort always to be ready to deal with the worst disasters (Kahan, 2015).
Reduce FEMA's Complexity
Since the nation faces an evolving threat and hazard environment, FEMA must be able to support and deliver assistance to individuals and communities in need by being flexible (Inserra et al. 2018). By so doing, it must also work to reduce complexity and bureaucracies, increase efficiency, and improve outcomes through the innovation of new technology.
FEMA Should be Ready for All Catastrophic Disasters
The readiness is critical for FEMA to ensure that there are quick responses and recovery to whatever catastrophic disasters may emerge that may result to disrupting the lives of people and hurting the well-being of the communities (Inserra et al. 2018).
Therefore, Congress should not fall prey to those overlooking the successful stories of FEMA under the DHS or disregard recognizing the achievements of FEMA thus far achieved for their partisan reasons. Congress should instead build upon FEMA's successive progress.
Inserra, D., Bogie, J., Katz, D., Furth, S., Burke, M., Tubb, K., ... & Bucci, S. P. (2018). After the storms: Lessons from hurricane response and recovery in 2017. Heritage Foundation. https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2018-04/SR-201.pdf
Kahan, J. (2015). Future of FEMA-Preparedness or Politics?. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 12(1), 1-21. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277607654_Future_of_FEMA_-_Preparedness_or_politics
Lucie, H. Q. (2016). What Comes Around, Goes Around (and Around and Around): Reviving the Lost History of FEMA and its Importance to Future Disasters. Homeland Security Affairs, 12. https://www.hsaj.org/articles/13214
Murray, Y. M. (2019). What FEMA Should Do After Puerto Rico: Toward Critical Administrative Constitutionalism. Ark. L. Rev., 72, 165. https://scholarworks.uark.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1065&context=alr
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