Emergency/Disaster Management – the politics

Given the intensity of the pre-election political debate as well as the near-term arrival of Hurricane Sandy in the nation’s capital this is the time, several critical political issues probably will get some visibility (if not solutions) in the near term. Once the storm clears, there will be intense scrutiny of FEMA and the availability of federal funds and assistance to state and local governments for response and recovery activities.  More specifically,

(1) We can expect some debate about supplemental appropriations by Congress to pay for the expected tens of billions of dollars of damage likely from the catastrophic storm events.

(2) A review and discussion of the form and functions of FEMA.

(3) Effects of sequestration on FEMA.

Re (1) above, here are some details from Roll Call today; essentially saying that funds are available at FEMA presently to assist states with disaster response. Same topic as explained in the Wall St. Journal today.

Re (2) quite a bit a discussion ensued today:

In a  recent ( but pre-Sandy) interview, Romney indicated he wants to abolish FEMA and make the states assume responsibility for disaster relief and assistance.  There might also be a  privatizing effort in there too.

Today, CNN picked up this topic and the Romney spokesperson quoted this morning is sticking to the story.

By afternoon today, Romney is quote as saying he would not abolish FEMA, but gave no details about the agency would do if the states had the main role and functions.

Also this afternoon, a writer with Salon.com weighed in, saying abolishing FEMA was a terrible idea.

My opinion:  I fully expect that his position will change when his Republican colleagues who hold congressional offices in some of the 10 or more states affected by  H. Sandy want their share of federal money for response and recovery, under the current national emergency management system.

Oct.30- hate to say I told you so, but Romney has a”clarified” his stance on FEMA and federal aid about 24 hours after I wrote this posting.  See this report. It would be political suicide to do otherwise.

Re (3) Here is what Ezra Klein has to say in his blog re how costly cuts to FEMA will result from sequestration in 2013.


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