FEMA Reorganization Legislation in the 109th Congress [July 12, 2006]   [open pdf - 119KB]

"Members of Congress have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to alter federal emergency management organizational structures and responsibilities, amend authorities that guide federal action, impose emergency management leadership qualification requirements, and make other changes. The proposals are based upon investigations conducted on the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other entities in the response to Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005. Some observers reduce the matter to one basic question: 'Should FEMA remain within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or should the agency regain the independent status it had before the creation of DHS?' The issue, however, is more complex than just one of organizational placement. Other questions include the following: What should be the reach or limit of the entity's authority? What degree of discretion should Congress extend to the President and executive branch officials to act in emergency situations? What functions or responsibilities should be transferred to the new entity? Which should be retained by other DHS entities? How can inter-agency coordination be ensured? To what extent should the White House be involved in emergency management on a continuing basis as well as during an emergency? How might Congress balance recognition of state sovereignty and primacy in the emergency management field while authorizing prompt federal response? If details such as personnel qualifications, training requirements, performance metrics, and inter-agency coordination mechanisms are set in statute, will federal agencies have the flexibility to adapt procedures and personnel to dynamic crises?"

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33522
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