Emergency Managers Call for Restoring FEMA to Independent Agency Status

Nov. 28, 2008
The U.S. Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM-USA) is calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be restored to its former status as an independent agency reporting directly to the president.

IAEM-USA also urges that the director of FEMA be designated as a cabinet-level position. More than 1,500 emergency managers attended the association’s 56th annual conference, where this position was adopted.

“We adopted this position with a unanimous vote of our board of directors,” said IAEM-USA President-Elect Russell Decker, CEM. “This is the right time to do the right thing.”

Numerous experts in emergency management and homeland security – including former FEMA Director James Lee Witt – have suggested that now is the time to remove FEMA from the bureaucracy within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“FEMA can regain its status as one of the most successful and admired federal agencies, as it was early in this decade, but it will take a concerted effort from the new administration, support from Congress and participation from stakeholders at all levels,” said Witt. “The first, and probably most important, step is to immediately begin the process of moving FEMA out of the Department of Homeland Security.”

IAEM-USA believes that mixing the DHS mission of preventing future terrorism events and the FEMA mission of disaster consequence management (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery) has significantly detracted from both missions. The re-establishment of FEMA as an independent agency reporting directly to the president, with a director designated as a member of the president’s cabinet, would allow federal, state and local government partners to better serve the American public during future disasters. The fundamental division of work would return to the paradigm of crisis management (protecting the nation by preventing and catching those who would commit an act of terrorism against the United States) and consequence management (dealing with the impact of any disaster – whether natural, technological or terrorism-related).

The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) has more than 4,200 members including emergency management professionals at the state and local government levels, tribal nations, the military, colleges and universities, private business and the nonprofit sector in the United States and in other countries.

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