<WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate, by an overwhelming vote of 87 to 11 this week, agreed to reorganize and rename the current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The provision, offered as an amendment to the FY07 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, had the support of U.S. Senator Trent Lott who had introduced his own legislation earlier this year to make FEMA an independent agency.
“While I would have preferred to see FEMA reestablished as an independent agency outside of the Department of Homeland Security, this amendment does make FEMA a more autonomous agency within the Department, just like the U.S. Coast Guard,” Senator Lott said. “The new agency – to be called the U.S. Emergency Management Agency – will have direct access to the President and to the Congress. It will have its own command and control structure and have much more flexibility than did FEMA. If the extraordinary performance of our Coast Guard after Katrina is any measure, the new agency should be able to provide a more spontaneous and sure response when the next inevitable emergency comes.”
The Senate was expected to complete action this week on the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, and the bill, with the new FEMA reorganization, will have to be conferenced with legislation passed by the House before going to the President for his signature.
Senator Lott, who worked with Senator Susan Collins of Maine in writing the language to create the new emergency agency, said he did so when it was clear that there weren’t enough votes in the Senate to break FEMA completely away from the Department of Homeland Security.
“But I believe this plan will work and be infinitely better than what we had before,” Senator Lott said. “If Katrina taught us anything, it is that in times of unprecedented emergency, responders must have the authority to act quickly, without being burdened by a cumbersome, unbending, bureaucratic process that impedes the delivery of relief. I look forward to the conference and to building a U.S. Emergency Management Agency in which FEMA’s haunting mistakes are but a long distant memory.”