With Gustav closing in, FEMA still broken

In the three years since the drowning of New Orleans, FEMA still hasn’t gotten fixed – and there’s another hurricane coming

Lawmakers are concerned that the agency faces operational hurdles that could hamper its response if Gustav batters the Gulf Coast with a force approaching that of Katrina.

A Department of Homeland Security inspector-general report in March assessed nine key areas at FEMA relating to preparedness and found moderate progress in five and very little progress in one: managing resources and training.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who is chairman of the committee that oversees homeland security, credited Mr. Paulison and his staff with turning FEMA around. However, he said in a written statement, "FEMA still has a long way to go…before it will be able to respond quickly and effectively to a real catastrophic disaster."

In a draft of a letter Sen. Lieberman said he planned to send to Mr. Paulison Friday, he said: "FEMA still does not yet have a sufficient surge work force, leaving the nation susceptible to many of the same problems experienced in Hurricane Katrina." The agency lacks funds to further build its response capacity, Sen. Lieberman added in his letter.

Employees in the agency share that concern, said one longtime FEMA staffer. FEMA, for example, has yet to develop all of the "strike teams" Congress required the agency to build in the wake of Katrina.

Odd. I seem to recall that the urgency of fixing FEMA was the reason Senator Lieberman gave two years ago for breaking his campaign promise to hold hearings into Katrina

Senator Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently did a 180 and said that he will not hold investigations into the disastrous Bush administration(non-)response to Hurricane Katrina. He said, "We don’t want to play ‘gotcha’ anymore" and that "looking back… would be a waste of Congress’ time."

In an attempt to explain the inexplicable Lieberman’s spokeswoman Leslie Philips offered this somewhat bizarre statement: "The senator believes a more productive use of his time and that of his staff is to… ensure that a response to a future catastrophe is better."

mccain_lieberman_hug4.jpgWell, we weren’t distracted by pesky hearings into how all those people died, and two years later the senator and his staff, presumably grateful for White House assistance in his Senate race, haven’t ensured any such thing.

He is planning on writing a sternly-worded letter, though. And he and his staff have been busy.

They had to prepare his speech for that other convention. You know, the one about how much safer americans are with a Republican in the White House.

Joe Lieberman promises.

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