Tuesday, September 13, 2005

FEMA staffer on Nightline

Leo Bosner, a 26-year veteran at FEMA, spoke on Monday's ABC News Nightline. He lays much of the blame for the mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort at the feet of Michael Brown, whom he describes as "a great guy," but unqualified to run FEMA. The new acting director, R. David Paulison, does have actual emergency management experience, which is a promising sign. However, unless major changes are made, FEMA is going to lose many of its career staffers — their pride in their work was their main reward, since they aren't making the big bucks, and now that pride has been taken from them because the top job at FEMA has gone to Congressmen who lost their re-election bids and to college friends of college friends.

Even more importantly, Homeland Security is impeding FEMA's rescue efforts. DHS staffers call FEMA, insisting that emergency responders drop everything to fill in the numbers so that Secretary Michael Chertoff can tell his press conference exactly how many pounds of ice were delivered to such-and-such county.

I would hope that the administration would realize they need to take this seriously, make FEMA an independent agency, and put someone in charge who has an emergency background. If they can do that, I can be an optimist; if not, I'll take my retirement. — Leo Bosner, 2005-09-12, on ABC's Nightline
The debacle created by President Bush's rampant cronyism is only beginning. Removing Michael Brown from the picture was a necessary, but not sufficient, step in restoring FEMA to the competence and dedication to duty that were once its hallmarks.