The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) â€” the nation's beleaguered disaster response agency â€” should be abolished and rebuilt from scratch to avoid a repeat of multiple government failures exposed by Hurricane Katrina, a Senate inquiry has concluded.
Crippled by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding, FEMA cannot be fixed, a bipartisan investigation says in recommendations released last Thursday.
The 86 proposed reforms suggest the United States is still woefully unprepared for a disaster of Katrina's magnitude.
FEMA is "discredited, demoralized and dysfunctional," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate's Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which conducted the investigation. "It is beyond repair."
The recommendations, according to the Associated Press, are the product of a seven-month investigation.
"The United States was, and is, ill-prepared to respond to a catastrophic event of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina," the recommendations warn. "Catastrophic events are, by their nature, difficult to imagine and to adequately plan for, and the existing plans and training proved inadequate in Katrina."
The inquiry urges yet another overhaul of the embattled Homeland Security Department â€” FEMA's parent agency â€” which was created three years ago and already has undergone major restructuring of duties and responsibilities.
It proposes creating a new agency, called the National Preparedness and Response Authority, that would plan and carry out relief missions for domestic disasters. Unlike now, the authority would have a direct line of communication with the president during major crises, and any dramatic cuts to its budget or staffing levels would have to be approved by Congress.
It would also oversee efforts to protect critical infrastructure such as buildings, roads and power systems, as well as Homeland Security's medical officer. But the inquiry calls for keeping the agency within Homeland Security, warning that making it an independent office would cut it off from resources the larger department could provide.