Fire service groups urge Obama to keep FEMA in DHS
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
President-elect Barack Obama addresses the IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington in March, 2008.
Severing FEMA from the department could endanger U.S. emergency response capabilities, said the leaders of the IAFC, the IAFF and the Congressional Fire Service Institute in a letter to the president-elect.
In November, The U.S. Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM-USA) called for the agency to be restored to its former independent status, reporting directly to the president.
The organization said "mixing the DHS mission of preventing future terrorism events and the FEMA mission of disaster consequence management significantly detracted from both missions."
But the IAFC, the IAFF and CFSI said the separation of FEMA from the department would create a bureaucratic barrier between the agency and the other DHS preparedness and response components.
"America's fire service believes that emergency preparedness and response to all hazards is integral to our nation’s homeland security, and we urge you to keep FEMA in its current role as an autonomous component within DHS,” said the groups' leaders in the letter to President-elect Obama.
|Food for thought from |
|"I suggest that maybe its time to let FEMA (and by extension, the USFA and the National Fire Academy) get out of the broom closet and at least have a better seat at the table."|
— Truck6alpha in Let's Not be Too Hasty
In addition, they said the months of Congressional deliberation required to enact the change would create bureaucratic instability within DHS and FEMA, which would hinder FEMA's ability to perform its core missions.
The groups cited the improvements in FEMA since Hurricane Katrina, which saw the organizations working with Congress to restructure and strengthen the agency and improve its emergency response capabilities.
Those actions brought about the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act (P.L. 109-295), which helped create a "strong, autonomous FEMA within DHS," according to the letter sent to the president-elect.
"If FEMA were removed from DHS, we have serious concerns that the agency's core missions would be critically compromised, which would have a deleterious effect on the safety of the American public," it concluded.
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff was quoted in Newsweek as being against the split, saying it would create more bureaucracy and leave FEMA without easy access to key homeland security resources.