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The FEMA cure

| Monday, May 8, 2006

FEMA has come under sharp criticism from senators who say the nation's emergency response agency should be scrapped. But replaced with what?

Another central-planning bureaucracy that cuts relief checks first and asks questions later?

Clearly the ravages of Hurricane Katrina revealed a federal agency adrift in a storm. And the buffets keep coming:

  • A new Government Accountability Office study finds FEMA spent $3 million on beds for storm victims that never were used.

  • GAO audits revealed as many as 900,000 of the 2.5 million recipients of FEMA's emergency cash assistance after last fall's hurricanes submitted invalid information, according to The Associated Press.

    What FEMA's performance reveals is the folly of over-centralization. Yet a Senate report on the aftermath of Katrina urges replacing the agency with a stronger authority that centralizes preparedness and response activities under a single agency. That's not a solution.

    Disaster planning and post-disaster assessment begin at the state and local level -- which is where New Orleans failed miserably. The Senate's own report revealed as much.

    What's lacking at the federal level has been the preparedness in a national disaster to act immediately and efficiently .

    America doesn't need a more authoritative federal disaster agency -- just one better prepared to respond to disasters.

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