Slabbed Welcomes FEMA’s Rank and File Employees

Nowdy’s post on Janet Napolitano’s choices for the new FEMA Director has stirred a good bit of interest and commentary, including our newest commenter Fedresponse. I could be wrong but I think we’ve chatted enough and the many good hard working people that are FEMA first responders have read enough to understand we’re on the same page.  Along those lines we’re honored to publicize a scathing report on FEMA management issued today by local 4060 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA staff in the DC area.

In checking local 4060 out the first thing I noted was this June, 2004 letter to Senator Hillary Clinton from local president Pleasant Mann that was featured in the article, “A Disaster Waiting to Happen“:

In June, Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union, wrote members of Congress to warn of the agency’s decay. “Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded,” he wrote. “Our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.”

On August 29, 2005 that disaster did happen wih Katrina’s arrival. Brownie, in hindsight didn’t do a heckuva job and the agency took a black eye with the public. FEMA professionals and first responders alike suffered in silence despite sounding the early warning while Bushie political hacks like Michael Brown wreaked havoc both within and outside FEMA. The result is rather predictable:

This is an agency still suffering from a failure in leadership, the heavy influence of political appointees, a lack of strategic direction and coordination, poor and unqualified management, over-reliance on contractors, undervaluation of employees, hostile work environments, wasteful spending, duplication of effort, and a systemic failure across the agency to integrate proven principles and concepts of emergency and incident management into programs and operations….

Here is the full 91 page report and exhibits released today by AFGE local 4060 called “Shattering the Illusion of FEMA’s Progress: 10 recommendations for rebuilding a broken agency”. The executive summary contains a short road map:

1. Provide FEMA with strong and effective leadership at all levels, and the capabilities for that leadership to turn the agency around.

2. Evaluate management at all levels for appropriate relevant experience; and actively recruit new management and staff, both from inside FEMA and from outside agencies with first responder and emergency management experience.

3. Reduce the high number of political appointees in the agency; and ensure that all appointees have bona fide professional credentials in emergency management and a serious commitment to the reform of FEMA to ensure the agency’s long-term viability and success.

4. Implement tools for job rotations and employment partnerships to strengthen FEMA’s internal operations and its partnerships with Federal, State, tribal, and local government agencies.

5. Implement measures to stop the abuse, incompetence, and corruption permeating the ranks of FEMA’s mid- and senior-level management.

6. Evaluate program areas where the use of private contracts has created waste, inefficiency, and ethically questionable policy, for potential conversion to work that could be more efficiently and effectively accomplished by federal employees.

7. Immediately halt current agency hiring and reorganization actions until evaluations can assess their legality and appropriateness.

8. Implement mechanisms to ensure that FEMA’s knowledgeable and experienced staff are involved in strategy, management, and programs.

9. Build an agency strategy and organization based on the principles and concepts of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

10. Pursue removal of FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security.

Perhaps Nowdy will come along later and tag on to this post and if you are a FEMA employee who has something to add please feel free to comment.   A well oiled and working FEMA is in everyone’s best interests.


5 thoughts on “Slabbed Welcomes FEMA’s Rank and File Employees”

  1. Please keep in mind this is a federal agency. Would someone please point out a feredral agency that has performed when it was necessary. Leadership is void and “it’s the way we do things” rules the day.

    Cannot depend on the Feds!

  2. Sep 16, 2005 | George W. Bush relied most heavily on three trusted staffers in his bid for the White House in 2000: political strategist Karl Rove, communications czar Karen Hughes and national campaign manager Joe Allbaugh, who had been Bush’s chief of staff in Texas, when Bush was governor. The three were dubbed the “iron triangle” of Bush’s top staff. Allbaugh was “the enforcer,” says Texan Robert Bryce, the author of “Cronies,” about Bush and the oil industry. “And he looked the part: crew-cut, cowboy boots, and just slightly smaller than a side-by-side refrigerator.”

    When Bush moved into the Oval Office, Hughes took a job as counselor in a spacious White House corner office with a view of the Truman balcony. Rove moved in as senior advisor. Allbaugh, on the other hand, went down the road to C Street in southwest Washington to take over the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


    “Everybody thought [Allbaugh] was going to be White House chief of staff,” Robert Novak said on CNN at the time. “And your initial reaction is, boy, what did he have against Allbaugh? But as I talked to politicians, they say this was a brilliant maneuver because FEMA is very important, politically, to any president dealing with disasters.”

    The FEMA director has turned out to have political consequences for the president all right, but not the kind that Bush supporters could have ever envisioned. Critics say Allbaugh hastened the decline of FEMA — even before he turned the agency over to his buddy from Oklahoma, Michael D. Brown, the hapless captain when Katrina struck, whose political career appears to have been shipwrecked for good.

    As for the president, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 54 percent of Americans disapprove of his response to Katrina. Allbaugh, meanwhile, has risen above the morass. He and his wife, Diane, now work as Washington lobbyists and consultants for such companies as Halliburton and Northrop Grumman, companies involved in homeland security and disaster relief that do business with the federal government.

    Then it happened. In one short week the FEMA contract expert found themselves in their own disasters—

    Joe Allbaugh’s home burns to the ground–

    Brown flee’s fire–

  3. Sup – you’re just forgetting that a lot of the people working in government are not government employees! For all we know, it could be those in contractual positions giving public employees a bad name!

  4. Some contrator reports I have heard of were so hideous that they sounded like pure fiction. I’ve also met contractors who were very honest, hard-working individuals who genuinely helped the people. When I am in the field, I will go out of my way to visit with contractors, insurance adjusters, to see what quality of work they are doing. Also, its a subtle way to ‘police’ for fake identifications, possible thieves/looters, and a mild message to keep tabs on whats being told to homeowners (rumor control).
    As an FYI to y’all…check their ID’s. A FEMA Contractors ID Badge is usually in red lettering with the heading
    ‘FEMA’ and ‘Contractor’ underneath, including their photo.
    FEMA ID’s have dark navy blue lettering, our photo, and expiration date. Some of us FEMA personnel have expired dates due to the agency’s poor upkeeping of our badges. I’ve gone out in the field many times without an updated one.
    For ‘supsalemgr’:
    I have been deployed on assignments where we ‘hit the ground’ running so hard, that disaster victims literally had help within 24 hours with some reporting FEMA inspectors at their households, sending in immediate reports, and seeing financial assistance within a week to their bank accounts. So as per your comment to not rely on the feds, -you’d be astonished how fast the federal government can be effective.
    On Hurricane Ike, Texas:
    A couple lost their trailer home and all their belongings. They totally qualified for 100% federal disaster assistance, recieved a sizable sum of money, which helped them completely rebuild plus recieved a brand new trailer as well. Those 2 folks were so damned happy they sat there crying their eyes out. I sat and talked to them for over an hour listening to their evacuation ordeal and recovery progress.
    On Hurricane Katrina:
    I was having lunch with 3 of my teammates. A woman and her baby came up to talk to me. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The restaurant was packed, and all eyes were on us. This gal said “I know you you are!” fairly loudly to me. I was bracing for some harsh commentary and my teammates looked worried. She continued, “I don’t know if you remember me, but 3 weeks ago you helped my grandmother out with her house, and she got lots of help from FEMA. I just wanted to say ‘thank you and God Bless’.” She gave me a big ‘ol hug with tears. The lunch crowd sat speechless, looking a little guilty for expecting a negative situation. The restaurant manager tried to buy us lunch, but we politely refused ’cause we get federal per diem. The Manager further thanked our agency for providing trailers to their staff so they could stay on site to help keep the place open.
    These positive stories happen all the time, and us ‘ground troops’ are the first ones to hear or see it.

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