Thoughts for Independence Day

Why Coronavirus Is an ‘Existential Crisis’ for American Democracy. Danielle Allen has a 2,500-year view of democracies, wrote Harvard’s pandemic resilience road map and thinks American government is like a Ferrari we haven’t learned to drive. But she’s not totally pessimistic: We can take hope, she says, from New Orleans.

This is a good time to reflect on governance issues raised by the response to Covid-19

New GAO Report on Disaster Recovery Framework

Hot off the presses, this report on Disaster Recovery from the GAO. As the Diva noted a few days ago, the Frontline TV Show featured the huge problems with recovery and with the National Flood Insurance Program after Hurricane Sandy. One would expect that the show would have generated a lot of scrutiny. But as we all know a GAO takes many months to complete. So it is an interesting coincidence that this report was released today.

Disaster Recovery: FEMA Needs to Assess Its Effectiveness in Implementing the National Disaster Recovery Framework. Report is 45 pages. GAO-16-476: Published: May 26, 2016.

For those of you as impatient as the Diva, the first 16 pages of the report describe what should happen, and then on pages 17 -30 the report digs into what actually happened and the problems identified. The conclusions and recommendations for action are on pages 30 and 31.

FEMA’s Public Assistance Program Change Out for Review


FEMA Public Assistance Program Proposal: 60 Day Comment Period: Closes March 21

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is considering the establishment of a disaster deductible, requiring a predetermined level of financial or other commitment from a Recipient (Grantee), generally the State, Tribal, or Territorial government, before FEMA will provide assistance under the Public Assistance Program when authorized by a Presidential major disaster declaration. FEMA believes the deductible model would incentivize Recipients to make meaningful improvements in disaster planning, fiscal capacity for disaster response and recovery, and risk mitigation, while contributing to more effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars. For example, Recipients could potentially receive credit toward their deductible requirement through proactive pre-event actions such as adopting enhanced building codes, establishing and maintaining a disaster relief fund or self-insurance plan, or adoption of other measures that reduce the Recipient’s risk from disaster events. The deductible model would increase stakeholder investment and participation in disaster recovery and building for future risk, thereby strengthening our nation’s resilience to disaster events and reducing the cost of disasters long term. FEMA seeks comment on all aspects of the deductible concept.” More details are available here.

Thanks to Ed Thomas, President of the Natural Hazards Mitigation Association, for the information. He noted that his associations hopes to assemble a group to make comments on this proposal which has tremendous potential for promoting hazard mitigation/climate adaptation at the local level. And he commented that Craig Fugate is scheduled to be doing outreach to the Governors and NEMA.

Are There Too Many Federal Directives and Guidance Documents?

Based on the recent question I posed about what documents readers are/are not interested in, and fueled by several conversations with federal officials and contractors dealing with the aftermath of H. Sandy, I wonder whether the U.S. emergency management system at the federal level has become excessively demanding.  And are the directives and requirements excessive with regard to current state and local capabilities and budgets?

My personal view is that President Policy Directive #8 (PPD8), issued in march 2011, and the various documents and requirement flowing from it, was the tipping point. It seems to me that the directives get more abstract, difficult, and lengthy, yet the the staff and budgets at various agencies, organizations –and particularly state and local government–are sloping downward.  Added to those problems, federal grants are down significantly and many federally-supported educational efforts have been cut.

Even with all domains of society involved in disaster response and recovery, the likelihood of achieving the lofty goals and objectives  of the above-mentioned directives and frameworks with current resources is not promising.

Now, what is your view about this topic?  I am curious if I am alone in climbing out this branch of the tree!

NOTE: Be sure to read the comments. They make the point better than I did.