(WASHINGTON) - Stressing the imperative need for immediate change, the American Federation of Government Employees recently asked Congress to “help rescue” FEMA and “restore it to credibility.” In a letter addressed to Cong. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), AFGE said that it had tried several times to raise its issues with FEMA Director David Paulison, but that all requests to meet in person had been denied. (Letter attached to email)
“Since Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has become associated with waste, incompetence, mismanagement, and the abuse of the power and resources given it by Congress,” said Leo Bosner, president of AFGE’s Local 4060, which represents FEMA employees.
“Somehow, the exemplary government agency of the 1990’s has become a glaring example of government incompetence,” he continued. “FEMA employees continue to report problems that hamper emergency operations, waste public funds, and hurt employee morale.”
Some of these problems include agency execs retiring to work at companies with multi-million dollar FEMA contracts, misspending, gross mismanagement of contracts and acquisitions, withholding program funds appropriated by Congress, replacing highly-skilled FEMA managers with outsiders who lack emergency management experience, continuing race and gender bias against FEMA’s minority and female employees, and ignoring and endangering FEMA employees’ health, safety and security.
“I believe that all of these problems can be traced back to two interrelated causes: A lack of strong leadership at the top of FEMA; and FEMA being a part of DHS,” Bosner said.
As such, AFGE recommended that
- FEMA be taken out of the Department of Homeland Security;
- The current FEMA director be replaced;
- Congress, either through the GAO or through some other reputable independent organization, conduct a full review of FEMA operations and remedy the agency’s problems while there is still time to do so.
“Since coming under DHS, FEMA has rapidly deteriorated, becoming a rudderless agency where problems are ignored or covered up, where funds are misspent and programs mismanaged, and where our best people are demoralized, many of them leaving the agency,” Bosner said. “Our orders increasingly come from political appointees and executives who clearly do not understand national-level emergency management. Experienced FEMA employees at all levels continue to get the message that their experience is of absolutely no value to FEMA or to DHS. In fact, FEMA experience now appears to be a detriment to advancement within the agency."