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Context of 'August 26, 2005: FEMA Focused on Katrina, but Not on Threat to Louisiana'

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, is secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of national emergency. Upon its establishment, FEMA absorbs the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) and the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which were previously responsible for the top-secret plans (see April 1, 1979). During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, FEMA’s budget and workforce are overwhelming geared towards the COG program (see 1982-1991 and February 1993). FEMA remains in charge of overseeing the government’s continuity plans up to present day. According to FEMA’s website, the agency’s Office of National Continuity Programs (NCP) is currently the “Lead Agent for the Federal Executive Branch on matters concerning continuity of national operations under the gravest of conditions.” [fema.gov, 6/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Office of National Continuity Programs, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Federal Preparedness Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

FEMA’s National Situation Update again leads with Katrina, anticipating that Katrina will regenerate today as it travels across the Gulf of Mexico. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The Update indicates that Emergency Operations Centers in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi have been activated at various levels. However, Louisiana is not even mentioned today’s Update. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] A team leader critical of FEMA’s response in Louisiana will later speak to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, asserting that there was no sense of urgency within FEMA at this time: “Nobody’s turning the key to start the engine.” He wondered, “Why aren’t we treating this as a bigger emergency? Why aren’t we doing anything?” [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] Note, however, that the Washington Post report that FEMA is operating at Level 1 at this time contradicts FEMA’s contemporaneous report, which states that it began operating at Level 2 on Thursday. The National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) will not transition to Level 1 until Saturday, August 27 at 7:00 am EDT. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress, stung into action by the Bush administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ineptitude of Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA—see Early September 2001), passes a law saying that President Bush must nominate a replacement who has “a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management,” and “not less than five years of executive leadership.” In a signing statement, Bush says that only he, the head of the executive branch, can decide who to appoint to offices. Therefore, he states, he is ignoring the prohibition. [Savage, 2007, pp. 239-240]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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