NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 9, 2005

While many of the immediate criticisms of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) -- the division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for coordinating federal disaster support to state and local governments -- were simply wrongheaded, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the nation clearly needs to improve its capacity to respond to catastrophic disasters, say James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation and Richard Weitz of the Hudson Institute.

Congress should:

  • Require that preparedness activities be consolidated under an Undersecretary for Preparedness.
  • Insist that FEMA be an independently operating agency focused on national response.
  • Insist that FEMA remain part of the DHS to ensure that response efforts are well integrated with all the critical homeland security missions.
  • Restructure the Homeland Security Grant Program to reduce the required minimum allocated to each state and distribute most of the money based on risk.
  • Demand that the DHS create a regional framework with the primary aim of enhancing information sharing and other coordination among the states, the private sector and DHS headquarters in Washington.

It is time to move past the blame game that makes FEMA the scapegoat for all of the ills in the national response to Katrina and start fixing the flaws. Congress can take steps right now to shift the federal government toward building the right national response system for the nation, say Carafano and Weitz.

Source: James Jay Carafano and Richard Weitz, "The Truth About FEMA: Analysis and Proposals," Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder #1901, December 7, 2005.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues