Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Change is Coming to FEMA

By Al Kamen
The Federal Emergency Management Administration, a tragicomic disaster since Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 -- and even before then -- looks to be getting a facelift under the Obama administration, sources tell us.

First off, the likely plan is to break off the agency from the Department of Homeland Security, a move that would in itself help restore the pride FEMA folks felt when it was an independent agency.

Second, there's increasing talk that former director James Lee Witt, who took over the then-troubled agency at the start of the Clinton administration and left it eight years later with a much enhanced reputation for getting things done, is coming back in from retirement to run FEMA for maybe six months to a year and whip it into shape.

After that, so the plan goes, his possible deputy administrator, Mark Merritt, who worked with Witt at James Lee Witt Associates -- where they made a fortune on disasters -- would take over the top job at FEMA.

Witt's no stranger to this clean-up role, lest we forget what he inherited when he took the FEMA reins back in 1993. FEMA was so badly ridiculed for botching relief efforts after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that outraged senators were threatening to zero out its budget and former senator Ernest Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) opined "they could screw up a two-car parade."

Witt, who was Clinton's state emergency management chief in Arkansas, was widely credited with reorganizing and re-energizing the agency.

However, Witt is likely to be grilled about his work on Katrina relief. Witt and Merritt began their work in the days after the hurricane, when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco hired their disaster recovery firm in an open-ended, no-bid contract.

An NBC News investigation of Louisiana state records found that James Lee Witt Associates was paid more than $40 million for its recovery work. Merritt, who had been the firm's top manager in Louisiana, tallied $506,000 in billable hours over the 10-month span from September 2005 through June 2006, NBC News found in its July 2007 report.
Witt Associates allegedly billed the state double what it actually paid its subcontractors, the report said. For instance, the firm subcontracted an Indiana company to manage recovery grants. That company's workers were paid $19 to $20 an hour, but they billed Witt Associates $37.50 an hour, and Witt Associates billed the state $75 an hour, according to the NBC News report.

On the other hand, Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is reported to have been most pleased the with firm's work there and has said he intended to keep them on.
Maybe they'll have a press conference with real reporters?

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 24, 2008; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  In the Loop  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Ogden a Top Candidate for Justice Dept. No. 2
Next: Big Economic Questions and Small Donors

Comments

DHS AUTONOMY HAS ALLOWED FEMA TO BECOME AN AMERICAN GESTAPO. ALL DHS AGENCIES SHOULD BE PUT UNDER OTHER CABINET SECRETARIES -- JUSTICE, DEFENSE, AND TREASURY.

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/american-gestapo-state-supported-terrorism-targets-u-s-citizens

WHAT IF THEY COULD SHOOT YOU
WITHOUT LEAVING A TRACE? THEY CAN.
http://www.nowpublic.com/world/zap-have-you-been-targeted-directed-energy-weapon-victims-organized-gang-stalking-say-its-happening-usa-1
OR members.nowpublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 25, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

"Change"....

MORE government regimentation...

MORE Federal takeovers of local laws

MORE taxdollars "liberated" to do it...

remember the rich dont pay taxes-they write the laws....the poor dont pay income taxes-they have nil income... and we ALL will LOSE MORE freedoms...the few remaining..

MORE servility to the Party in Charge....

MORE $400 hammers.....

MORE campaign donors getting jobs...

MORE militarization of America....just WHO will be put "temporarily" in the growing number of Halliburton built FEMA "temporary" dentention camps all over America?????????

will the "independent" FEMA work closely with the DoD and its increasing domestic crowd control operations????????

the "change" coming....the supine servile Americans deserve the "change"....good and hard.

Posted by: ChrisBieber | November 25, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Hey sherrykay08,
Obama hasn't even been inaugurated yet! You should wait until he's actually *done* something before you start making up your false accusations. Otherwise you might begin to undermine your credibility. ;-)

Posted by: zosima | November 25, 2008 3:45 AM | Report abuse

The below comment is one of the major factors why were are broke! $75 screws, $500 toilet seats and they continue to blame the mess on poor borrowers who got screwed with secruitization, a practice that should have been illegal! This must stop from both sides! Shame on Witt cheating the employees. That's what the temp agency's do to the poor!

"An NBC News investigation of Louisiana state records found that James Lee Witt Associates was paid more than $40 million for its recovery work...

Witt Associates allegedly billed the state double what it actually paid its subcontractors, the report said. For instance, the firm subcontracted an Indiana company to manage recovery grants. That company's workers were paid $19 to $20 an hour, but they billed Witt Associates $37.50 an hour, and Witt Associates billed the state $75 an hour, according to the NBC News report."

Posted by: jane57 | November 25, 2008 2:41 AM | Report abuse

although certain partisan people enjoyed the failed policies and destructive abuse of power of Bush and company, I think Obama has an opportunity to restore an agency like FEMA that was a national disgrace.

Having experienced people at the head of FEMA always seemed like a no brainer, like common sense, but unfortunately it took a disaster like Katrina to bring to light the depths of political ineptitude from all levels.

Posted by: HankDTank | November 25, 2008 2:15 AM | Report abuse

So by taking FEMA out of Department of
Homeland Security the Obama new Sec of HHS
Loser Janet Napolitano will not be able to
screw FEMA up like Napolitano the Arizona
Idiot did th State of Arizona,and when she
was US Attorney for Arizona and one of the
Janet Reno's bubble dancers as well..So
as an Arizona resident trust me Janet
Napolitano and Obama's Sec of Commerce Bill
"I'm Hispanic" Judeas Richardson will be
the biggest part of the end to the One Term
Barack Hussein Obama and Big Mouth Biden
Administration and which will be an even
bigger disaster then Bush/Cheney was as well. Dump the Democrats in 2010 and Impeach Obama and Biden in 2012!

Posted by: sherrykay08 | November 24, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Taking FEMA from under HS is ths best thing for that agency. As a free standing agency, it can get back to it's core responsibility. Earthquakes,Floods,Hurricanes, and wild fires are much more common occurances than tragedies like 911. To put this vital agency smack in the middle of a GEORGE BUSH created bureaucracy makes no sense. I wish serious consideration be given to GEN HONOREA, the one person that showed true leadership during the aftermath of KATRINA, to head FEMA!

Posted by: idallasj11 | November 24, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company