What should FEMA’s role be in an emergency? Plus the DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • November 5th. That’s the day would-be Presidential Management Fellows can begin their applications for the prestigious program. The highly competitive and very thorough application process is incredibly hard to successfully navigate. But we here at GovLoop are here to help. Click here for the full recap.

But First: What the role of FEMA?
Hurricane Sandy and the contentious election have put the disaster relief agency in the spotlight. And Governor Mitt Romney’s comments on the agency back during the primaries are making national headlines.

ABC News reports in a July 2011 GOP primary debate, Romney said that he would largely delegate responsibility for disaster relief away from the federal government to the states, a statement that suggested large cutbacks to the agency that is playing a major role in helping pay for the response to Sandy.

But now Romney has edged back his comments. He told the Associated Press yesterday that, “as president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters,” the candidate said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senators and the President have all praised FEMA.

With Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s Press Secretary going as far as to say, “FEMA has been extremely helpful and has been embedded with us at the emergency operations center since before Sandy hit the state. Under President Obama’s leadership, FEMA arrives before the disaster hits and is ready and willing to help in whatever capacity is needed.” FEMA’s resources have been a tremendous asset in Maryland.”

The Hill Newspaper reports, Democratic senators from New York and New Jersey are praising the federal government on Thursday for increasing disaster funding to clean up the devastation from Hurricane Sandy — but are also demanding more.

Normally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) only needs to kick in 75 percent of the costs of disasters, but it has agree to increase that to 100 percent for fixing power and transportation networks.

So we want to know. What do you think of the role of FEMA? Should more money be given directly to the states? Let us know.

The Six stories that impact your life

  1. The General Services Administration, using some 4,000 teleworking employees on days when Washington government offices were closed, has been fulfilling its role in standing federal emergency plans and rushing equipment and supplies to victims of Superstorm Sandy. GovExec reports, the agency’s Disaster Relief Program is providing federal agencies, state and local governments, and the nonprofit Red Cross accelerated access to such items as first responder equipment, food and medicine. GSA also has deployed information technology and telecommunications systems monitoring thousands of federal facilities in the path of the storm to assess damage and ultimately return all locations to full operation.
  2. A DHS contractor is accused of fixing an airplane with paper clips. NextGov says Jerry Kuwata, a former executive with WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., concealed facts about repairs from customers and did not ensure that repairs were done according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, said U.S Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California. WECO’s clients included the Homeland Security Department and the City of Los Angeles.
  3. FCW talks about managing with analytics. Leaders from FEMA, TSA and the IRS are showing how using analytics, or being “data detectives,” can be beneficial in decision-making, AOL Gov reports. For example, Carlos Davila, director for the business management division of FEMA’s Recovery Directorate, launched an analytics program to see how effective services such as debris removal, housing and financial assistance were.The Treasury Department said it will reach its legal borrowing limit by the end of the year. But the department said it has emergency powers to let it keep borrowing into the first quarter of 2013, or until Congress acts. The current debt ceiling is just under $16.4 trillion.The Wall Street Journal reports, the protracted fight over the last hike in the ceiling undermined confidence. And that forced the government to pay higher interest rates. Plus the U.S. lost its triple A credit rating.
  4. Agencies are easing federal requirements for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Environmental Protection Agency is waiving some Clean Air Act requirements in 16 states and the District until Nov. 20. That will let stations in those areas sell conventional gasoline, instead of the ethanol-infused version. Administrator Lisa Jackson said the storm may be hindering fuel transportation. The Internal Revenue Service is extending yesterday’s deadline for payroll and excise tax returns for one more week. The Education Department is giving school districts in the affected areas until Nov. 7 to apply for Race-to-the-Top grants. For other districts, tomorrow is still the deadline.
  5. DHS staff have lower morale, on average, than the rest of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office said that could hurt the department’s success. DHS knows it and has been trying to figure out the root causes of the morale problems. GAO said the department should better measure its efforts. It should look for patterns according to demographics and benchmark against similar organizations.
  6. And on GovLoop, are you in DC? Sign up for NextGen Plus. NextGen+ is an extension of the OPM approved Next Generation of Government Training Summit that takes place every July. This added half-day training provides sessions that are jam packed with information focused on educating, inspiring and training emerging government leaders to further enhance their day-to-day career and the betterment of government overall. You can sign up here.

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • Is the military ready for zombies? We’ll find out, as hordes of zombies attack a counterterrorism summit in California to be attended by Marines and Army and Navy personnel, along with police, firefighters and other first responders, the Associated Press reports.
  • Can the government really go paperless by 2019? OpenText and the Government Business Council – the research division of Government Executive Media Group – polled 150 government managers ranging from the GS/GM-11 through SES level in defense and civilian agencies. The findings showed that although managers acknowledge the importance of electronic information management, they still have a ways to go.

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