<WASHINGTON – Almost six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf states, U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi today introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to re-establish the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an independent, cabinet-level agency, reportable directly to the President.
“When the Department of Homeland Security several years ago was created from many agencies, I questioned the wisdom specifically of placing FEMA, our first line of emergency preparation and response, within that department, anticipating all the red tape and decision-making paralysis that would result,” Senator Lott said. “Within hours of Katrina, my worst fears were realized, and even today, the impact of that decision is hurting our relief effort in Mississippi. Thousands of Mississippians remain without trailers and other support that should have been channeled through FEMA.”
Senator Lott urged the Congress to discard the layers of bureaucracy, the ambiguous chain of command, and the chronic accountability issues which led to FEMA’s failings after hurricanes Rita and Katrina by passing his bill. In addition to establishing FEMA as an independent agency within the Administration, Senator Lott’s legislation, titled the Federal Emergency Management Improvement Act of 2006, stipulates that FEMA remain the lead agency for the Federal Response Plan and be headed by a director appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Under the Lott bill, FEMA’s mandate would include all functions and authorities prescribed by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act with a mission of preventing the loss of life and property and protecting the nation from all hazards with a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program.
“Re–establishing FEMA as an independent agency, directly accountable to the President and Congress will contribute to a more manageable and comprehensible process for disaster victims, elected officials and agency personnel alike,” Senator Lott said. “Much of the agency’s actions continue to be inexcusable, but, as another hurricane season approaches, it would be even more inexcusable if Congress fails to take action to correct FEMA’s inefficiencies. Somewhere along the Gulf or Atlantic states, a hurricane likely will make landfall this year. We must get FEMA reforms in place before that happens.”