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 indyweek.com 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.