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Archive for Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Congress focuses on changes at FEMA

June 27, 2006

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Ten months after Hurricane Katrina exposed failures at all levels of government, Congress is seeking to avert another debacle the next time the country faces a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist attack - and its focus is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The public debate has centered on calls to take FEMA out of the Department of Homeland Security and allow it to again report to the president. The White House opposes such a move, and many in Congress say it is unlikely. Experts say the argument obscures older, deeper problems that undermine the nation's preparedness.

They cite unresolved questions before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Who should be in charge of domestic disasters? Should power be centralized in the White House or spread out to civilian agencies, the military and the states? And for what kinds of emergencies should FEMA prepare - a nuclear strike, terrorists using weapons of mass destruction, or natural disasters?

"Spinning off FEMA doesn't really get to the root of the real problems," said Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute.

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