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JP on FEMA

Jerry Pournelle has a short commentary on the organic problems with FEMA. He points out (presumably for the benefit of those not old enough to remember) that FEMA is the successor to the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, formerly the Office of Civil Defense, which was a coordinating agency that linked together local Civil Defense offices that operated mainly at the state and local levels, usually coordinating with the National Guard on disaster relief planning and occasionally on actual disaster relief work. There's a brief history of FEMA here. ISTR that the DCPA replaced the OCD because the main emphasis of Civil Defense had been maintenance of fallout shelters and similar preparations for nuclear war that became politically unpopular in the Vietnam era.

Anyhow...it seems pretty obvious to me that FEMA from the get-go was never intended to be a first responder to major disasters like Katrina, given that it was yoking together hundreds of agencies' disaster relief efforts. As we should have realized from watching the history of the Department of Defense, the CIA, and more recently the Department of Homeland Security, this never seems to work - you just get an additional layer of bureaucracy and a whole mess of turf battles as people from all the different agencies squabble for space in the pecking order.

I'd been thinking about this before I saw the link to Jerry's comment at Instapundit. Perhaps reviving OCD as an arm of the National Guard might not be such a bad idea. Other countries have dedicated military civil defense units, and this actually fits in rather well with the secondary role of the Guard. Of course, since it'll be part of the Guard, it'll still be subject to the same political considerations as any other Guard unit, but that wouldn't be any worse than what's happened so far. I also had the bright idea way back when to militarize airport security, which would have saved a few zillion in salaries and undoubtedly improved the quality of screeners, but if that was ever seriously considered, I never heard of it. Oh, well.