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FEMA's decline: an agency's slow slide from grace ("political hacks"!)

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UpInArms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 12:49 PM
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FEMA's decline: an agency's slow slide from grace ("political hacks"!)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and its recently deposed director, Michael Brown, have come under heavy fire for their delayed and uncoordinated efforts to support relief operations on the Gulf Coast. But experts and former FEMA officials say the weak response should not have been so surprising.

Over the last few years, the agency has suffered painful cuts in funding and staffing, they say - some in operations directly involved in responding to a catastrophe like Katrina. Further, they charge, seasoned leaders were being replaced by political hacks with no disaster management experience.

In recent years, warnings were prevalent that FEMA was no longer a model agency. Some came from the experts themselves.

"I'm extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded," former FEMA director James Lee Witt told Congress in March 2004. Witt, who led FEMA through the 1990s, is widely credited with turning around the agency, which previously had enjoyed a reputation as a haven for White House cronies and incompetents. "One state emergency manager told me, 'It's like a stake has been driven in the heart of the emergency management of this nation,' " Witt told the congressional panel.

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