FEMA's Long-Term "Strategic Plans" - My, How They've Changed:
So apparently, under James Lee Witt in 1997 and then under Michael Brown's college roommate and boss, Joe Allbaugh, in 2002, FEMA laid out two very different long-term plans for how the agency was to improve and how its success was to be measured. What becomes evident is a stark contrast between the Clinton-era emphasis on saving people and communities as goals in and of themselves and how the Bush administration's FEMA sees itself as serving "customers."
This is most starkly clear in both plans' Strategic Goal Number 2: to "reduce human suffering and enhance the recovery of communities, " according to Witt's version, or to "minimize suffering and disruption caused by disasters," according to Allbaugh's. In Witt's Strategic Plan, which was set to go to fiscal year 2003, although its goals were stretched out to fiscal year 2007, FEMA sought to "By FY 2007, reduce by 25 percent human suffering from the impact of disasters." Human suffering "is defined as the feeling of loss of control over one’s physical and economic state." In order to measure the success of this objective, FEMA would conduct "an assessment of the percentage of times that, within 12 hours of a disaster, the agency and its partners act on all identified State and local government requests to meet disaster victims’ needs for water, food, and shelter. The intention is to coordinate the provision of these basic needs within 72 hours of the disaster," among other things. Performance time is also a measure of the restoration of infrastructure to affected areas in this report. Read the whole report. It's so Clinton-era, with its imploring the reader to think about the psychological trauma suffered by victims. It's just so give-a-damn.
By contrast, the Allbaugh Strategic Plan, for fiscal years 2003-2008, reads like the manual for training desk jockeys at a paper clip company. Its emphasis is on quantity - the ability to handle four catastrophic and twelve non-catastrophic disasters at once. Other than saying that a "quick" and "timely" response is ideal, there's no measure of what "quick" means (unlike the hours stated above). A major part of the plan is to slough off responsibility for disasters. Whereas the Witt Strategic Plan was clear and forceful about the role of FEMA, Allbaugh's is all about delegation of duty, with goals of "Shared Responsibility in Managing Disasters" and the truly darkly comic caveat on page 14: "Increasing expectations of FEMA may cause mission creep beyond the Agency’s current focus and capabilities, but without accompanying resources.This could compromise FEMA’s ability to succeed at its core mission."
So, to summarize here, the Strategic Goals of FEMA have shifted from definite measures of effectiveness in emergencies, including the responsibility to feed, hydrate, and shelter victims in the first couple of days after a disaster, to a business-speak that leaves weasel room for any screw-ups. To put it plainly, FEMA had been neutered by the Bush administration, dehumanized and made robotic. Is it any wonder how Michael Brown could sit there today with a straight face and claim he did his job?
And when you read even the dry minimal performance goals, and you compare it to Brown's testimony, you quickly realize he simply didn't care.
We've kept this entry clean for the kiddies. But tomorrow: Why Michael Brown Is a Little Bitch.