Monday, October 29, 2012

Romney on FEMA

Liberals are pulling up a quote from Mitt Romney from a few months ago about FEMA, the federal agency that oversees emergency relief. The implication is that Romney wants the federal government to end emergency aid and leave emergencies to the individual states to manage out of their own resources.

Let's put this in context. If you Google FEMA mismanagement you get 200,000 hits. A few top examples:

  • FEMA mismanaged $40M IT system, IG says -- FCW
  • FEMA Mismanaged Katrina Recovery Effort, GAO Says
  • Emergency Mismanagement -
  • Commentary on FEMA Mismanagement | FreedomWorks
  • FEMA Presents: Mismanagement on Ice! | ThinkProgress
  • Homeland audit says Katrina contracts were mismanaged - The ...
  • FEMA Mismanaged $3.6 Billion in Katrina Contracts

When both ThinkProgress and FreedomWorks says that an organization has major mismanagement problems there must be something to it. Also, these links cover several years and multiple events.

Some of the criticism assumes that the problem was exclusive to the Bush administration and that a new administration could easily clean things up. That just isn't how huge government agencies work.

Romney's proposal was consistent with his platform in general - remove a layer of management at the top and let the people closer to the problem deal with emergencies. The more layers of management you have the worse the decision-making.

Here's one example of mismanagement. FEMA had 120,000 trailers constructed as emergency shelters after Katrina. These were found to have dangerous levels of formaldehyde vapors. Some of the surplus trailers made it onto the open market as late as 2010. There are also reports that they were being used as temporary shelter for workers cleaning up the Gulf oil spill in 2010.

Given their track record, why should anyone want to preserve FEMA? Mainly because the knee-jerk response from the left is that the solution to any problem is a federal agency. If that doesn't work then we need a bigger federal agency.

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