Readiness in the Post-Katrina and Post-9/11 World: An Evaluation of the New National Response Framework

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) draft National Response Framework proposes much-needed improvements for disaster preparedness and response. As currently written, however, the framework also ignores--and is likely to subvert--key changes that Congress enacted in Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. Congress had compelling reasons to adopt those changes. The draft framework overlooks the concerns that helped shape the legislation Congress enacted, and would put the nation at risk to some of the same systemic failures that hobbled the Federal response to Katrina.

I will open my testimony by examining the framework's most glaring departure from the reforms Congress enacted in 2006: the proposal that disaster preparedness and response efforts be led by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, rather than by the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA). I will then briefly explain why I believe Congress made the correct decision in assigning that leadership responsibility and authority to the FEMA Administrator, and why the shift proposed by the draft framework would put the emergency management system at such risk. I will conclude by raising some additional issues that the Subcommittee may wish to consider as it reviews the draft framework, especially those involving the uncertainties that continue to surround response to catastrophic events.