Why is FEMA MIA?

After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and collapsed in April, a gusher of oil has been spewing into the waters of the Gulf Coast.  Have you been wondering why there hasn’t been any news about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response to this  disaster that’s creating a poisonous dead zone along America’s southern shores?

I thought dealing with disasters was FEMA’s job. So I paid a visit to their website to see if I could learn anything about what they’re doing to manage this oil spill emergency. According to the agency’s website:

“FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.”

Okay. FEMA is responsible to respond to disasters like oil spills. But the only information I could find on their website was an offer to help affected citizens file a claim against BP.  Their website also notes that the federal agency became part of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.

So what is the DHS mission? According to that department’s website:

“This Department of Homeland Security’s overriding and urgent mission is to lead the unified national effort to secure the country and preserve our freedoms. While the Department was created to secure our country against those who seek to disrupt the American way of life, our charter also includes preparation for and response to all hazards and disasters. The citizens of the United States must have the utmost confidence that the Department can execute both of these missions.”

It seems that protecting the American homeland from hazards and disasters is also a DHS responsibility.  So what is DHS doing to respond to or protect us from this BP oil spill or potential future oil spills?

Everyone can breath a sigh of relief. You’ll be comforted to know that they posted a news release on June 4, 2010, titled:

“New Effort to Collect; Review Oil Spill Response Solutions Announced”

It seems that DHS is calling for white papers from scientist and vendors. Then the specially formed Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program workgroup and The Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center will:

“…screen and triage submissions based on technical feasibility efficacy and deployability.  This will be a federal process to ensure a fair, systematic, responsive and accountable review of alternative response technologies by interagency experts.”

I think that ought to do it, don’t you? FEMA and DHS can just wallpaper over the crisis with their white papers. This Katrina-era cartoon is a sad reminder about how much has not changed.  Looks like FEMA is still doing a “heck of a job” even without Brownie. What’s it going to take to salvage America?

~N. Logsdon Mandelkorn

2 responses to “Why is FEMA MIA?

  1. From my view point, I think there are two major reasons why DHS and FEMA are not greatly involved. First, they recognize that they are ill equiped to deal with this incident (they don’t want to call it a disaster) and if they declared themselves involved, they would show the world once again how incompetent and incapable they are. Second, I think Obama has some strategic motivation in not declaring ownership of the oil spill. If BP is the only party responsible in the clean up, all the pressure and financial obligations are on it, not the government. I would bet the feds are going to get involved in something like showing “compassion” by doling out assistance checks.

    • Tommy,
      Thanks for your comment!

      The total absence of any mention of DHS/FEMA in the news has been rather strange. I can understand why the Obama administration might decide that by not calling on them to deal with the disaster recovery it makes BP appear more accountable, but it’s still really odd that DHS/FEMA is not the main entity coordinating all other agencies. After all, DHS is the responsible department.

      I just posted a video comment by Chris Matthews because he is the first newscaster whom I’ve heard that at least mentions DHS among a long list of governmental agencies that should be dealing with this disaster.

      The Feds don’t need to dole out assistance checks. BP needs to pay for the damage its done. And Congress should redirect the millions of dollars in subsidies they dole out to the oil industry and channel it to the recovery effort.

      Perhaps they could use the oil subsidies to expand Vista and create jobs to help with the clean up, etc?

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