Recently, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate testified before Congress about a new Presidential directive transferring long-term federal recovery and mitigation efforts from FEMA to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is a departure from past practice when FEMA stood point throughout recovery efforts regardless of how long it stretched out.
The goal, according to Administrator Fugate, is to speed up a rebuilding process that tends to linger long past a disaster’s initial response and recovery.
Questioning by Committee members focused on two important themes: Sandy recovery efforts and speeding up federal long-term public assistance and rebuilding activities. In response, testimony by Administrator Fugate and USACE Deputy Commander for Civil and Emergency Operations Major General Michael Walsh highlighted both agencies’ efforts, including the deployment of more than 1000 USACE personnel to 13 States affected by Sandy.
However, testimony from state emergency management officials provided graphic evidence of recovery shortcomings following Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana official Mark Riley told of lingering public assistance problems seven (7) years after Katrina and a Youth Study Center, which is not scheduled to see construction until 2016.
The President and federal agencies seem to have gotten the message, as early federal action after Sandy has been far more effective.
But the more telling decision was the President’s decision to appoint HUD to lead the long term rebuilding and mitigation efforts. HUD will chair a newly formed Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force composed of leaders from over 20 federal agencies. The objective of the Working Group is to cut through red tape to better serve State, local and Tribal rebuilding and mitigation efforts.
Public housing took a major hit from Sandy, so HUD is well positioned to lead housing rebuilding. HUD leading the overall rebuilding and mitigation efforts of 20 federal agencies is a more daunting task and HUD will need the President’s continued leadership and involvement to succeed.
On December 7, 2012, the President followed the establishment of the Task Force with a $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy supplemental request that includes nine mitigation projects totaling $12.97 billion. This set of projects is notable for its focus on evaluating strategies to improve coastal and community resiliency to extreme weather and climate change. That said, the projects’ futures are in question due to budgetary problems.
Administrator Fugate’s testimony was at a December 4, 2012 hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Rep. John Mica (FL). Witnesses included representatives from:
Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana emergency management officials
To stream the hearing, click here.
Dwight Beranek, P.E., CFM Senior Advisor
Dwight spent nearly 40 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including serving as Deputy Director of Military Programs.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.