"Until the Northeast gets hit hard, Congress will not pass hurricane insurance reform" then Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, post-Katrina
FEMA's response to hurricane Sandy has received largely positive reviews. While not without its critics, it appears that the agency has come a long way from its inglorious hurricane Katrina performance.
I spent some time trying to figure out why and discovered a detailed report which successfully put me to sleep several times in its reading. Federal Emergency Management Policy Changes After Hurricane Katrina prepared by the highly regarded Congressional Research Service is a heartening read for anyone wanting to understand how systemic change can occur in government agencies.
The short version of the report goes something like this:
After 9/11, a large portion of FEMA's preparedness responsibilities were removed from the agency and distributed to the Border and Transportation Security Directorate and FEMA was shuffled into the rapidly growing Homeland Security Administration monster where it lost the type of autonomy needed for rapid response and was bled of its financial resources.
Through what many of us would find a slow and painful committee process, congress determined the cause of FEMA's failures and passed legislation returning FEMA to much of its post 9/11 stature and added a few bells and whistles about one year after Katrina.
It's easy to be skeptical of government, but there's substantial evidence that it could BE different.