FEMA and Homeland Security


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, called on President Bush on Sunday to appoint an independent national commission to examine the relief effort. She also said that she intends to introduce legislation to remove FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security and restore its previous status as an independent agency with cabinet-level status.

This is nothing more than musing on my part right now, but I think it would be a good idea to think twice before jumping on the “Get FEMA out of DHS” bandwagon. To a large degree, after all, responding to a major natural disaster and responding to a major terrorist attack require a lot of the same things. It’s true that a terrorist attack might call for unique kinds of medical care and a broader security response, but the similarities make up an even longer list: food, water, medical attention, evacuation, temporary shelter, coordination with the National Guard and the Pentagon, search and rescue, and so forth. It really doesn’t make sense to have two separate agencies whose missions are about 80% identical.

I may change my mind on this later as I learn more, but this is something that requires more than a knee jerk response. If DHS has done a lousy job of responding to Katrina, what’s needed is a better DHS ? one that can respond effectively to both terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Moving the boxes around on the organizational chart isn’t necessarily the answer.

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