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PPA 573 – Emergency Management and Homeland Security Lecture 3 b - The politics and budgeting of federal emergency management
Source ¢ R. T. Sylves. (1996). The politics and budgeting of federal emergency management. In R. T. Sylves, & W. L. Waugh, Jr. , (Eds. ), Disaster management in the U. S. and Canada, 2 nd. Ed. (pp. 26 -45). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Introduction Mega-disasters during the 1990 s and 2000 s have moved FEMA into the public spotlight. ¢ Disaster management is more closely associated with presidential management and politics than it ever was in any time in the past. ¢
The World of the FEMA Director
Presidents and Disasters ¢ FEMA has come to have a special importance to recent presidents. l Over the past 20 or more years, presidents have taken greater interest in disasters, particularly major ones. • • • l l Carter and Mt. St. Helens. Reagan and Mississippi flooding. Bush and Loma Prieta, Hugo, Andrew. Clinton and Northridge. Bush and 9/11. Americans now expect presidents to dispatch federal disaster help and personally visit disaster areas. Such visits have political and electoral consequences. • Hurricane Andrew. • California disasters.
Presidents and Disasters ¢ The Clinton Administration was especially sensitive to the political consequences of FEMA activity. l The management and public relations activities of FEMA shape public assessment of the appropriateness of presidential response.
Presidents and Disasters ¢ The White House staff and other administration officials have periodically stepped in to fill postdisaster power vacuums. l President Bush used John Sununu and Andrew Card instead of FEMA in Loma Prieta and Andrew.
Presidents and Disasters ¢ Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush seem to trust the FEMA bureaucracy with top disaster management authority, using only a low-level White House liaison as a gobetween. l The status changed after 9/11.
Presidents and Disasters ¢ Part of the political dynamics of disaster involves whether an event is of “catastrophic scale” affecting a wide area with massive devastation or is of more limited magnitude.
Presidents and Disasters ¢ ¢ Between Jan. 1, 1953, and April 16, 2008, the federal government declared 1, 751 major disasters, 285 emergency declarations, and 760 fire suppression authorizations. The average number of major disaster declarations per year was 31, emergencies was 8 (since 1974), and the average number of fire suppression authorizations was 19 (since 1970).
Presidents and disasters Major disasters, emergencies, and turndowns, 1953 -2003
Presidents and disasters
Presidents and disasters
Presidents and disasters ¢ ¢ The federal government has never developed or employed a set of objective criteria by which to approve or deny gubernatorial requests for presidential declarations of major disaster or emergency. Governors, assisted by their state emergency managers, petition the president for declarations through FEMA region offices to FEMA headquarters, with the close involvement of the FEMA Director.
Presidents and disasters ¢ ¢ Each governor know that he or she must prove to FEMA and the president that the disaster, of whatever nature, is beyond the state’s ability to adequately respond so that federal assistance is needed. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, for FEMA officials to ascertain that an event warrants a presidential declaration unless Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA’s) are first conducted analyzed or unless media coverage of the event makes it obvious that a major disaster has occurred.
Presidents and Disasters Since 1970, “emergencies” have been added to major disasters. ¢ By 1988, the definition of major disaster and emergency expanded. ¢ Emergencies are determined to be smaller in scope and consequences than major disasters and are more likely to stretch the definition of “state capability”. ¢
Presidents and Disasters ¢ The key problem is “the nationalization and politicization” of disaster emergencies through “CNN syndrome”. The greater intrusiveness and influence of news media on disaster definition. l May short-circuit the disaster declaration process. l
The Marginal Disaster ¢ An important concern for FEMA management is what is defined here as the “marginal” disaster. In this study, “marginal” disaster is any disaster or emergency of less than catastrophic proportions, that is not a matter of national security, and that is within the recovery capacity of the state or states in which they occur.
The Marginal Disaster ¢ ¢ ¢ Although there is little direct proof, the absence of objective criteria for disaster determination means that many marginal disasters are approved and some more serious disasters are turned down. The former is probably more common than the latter. The president is confronted with a 25 -page memorandum outlining the damage assessments and political conditions of the disaster.
The Marginal Disaster Gubernatorial requests for disaster invite political subjectivity into presidential decision-making. ¢ Governors routinely request assistance for disasters that are within the capability of the states to respond. ¢
The Marginal Disaster ¢ James Lee Witt’s criteria: l Each disaster incident is evaluated individually on its own merits. l Criteria set forth in the Stafford Act for evaluation are: • Severity and magnitude of the event. • Impact of the event. • Whether the incident is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments. l The process and criteria are purposely subjective to some extent to allow the President discretion to address a wide range of circumstances and events.
The Marginal Disaster ¢ ¢ Without objective criteria, governors and their state disaster officials have little to guide them in estimating whether to go ahead with a request for presidential declaration of major disaster or emergency. They have little basis for concluding in advance whether their petition for a presidential declaration will be approved or denied.
The Marginal Disaster However, as long as they know they can shoulder the 25% burden, the incentive is to apply, especially considering the approval rate. ¢ No president can appear callous. Media coverage can compel the president to act. Legislators also feel compelled to support declaration requests. ¢
The Marginal Disaster The President FEMA Director Approves Gov. Request Turns Down Gov. Request Advises in Favor Type 1: Request approved, politically advantageous to president to approve and request meets FEMA criteria Type 2: Denied on margin, rejecting request has more political benefits than costs for president, but request meets FEMA criteria Advises Against Type 3: Approved on margin, politically advantageous for Pres. to approve but request fails to meet FEMA criteria Type 4: Denied owing to weak political value for Pres. & failure to meet FEMA criteria (unwarranted precedent). Heavy Media Coverage Light Media Coverage
The Marginal Disaster ¢ Marginal disasters of type 2 or 3 subject the FEMA Director to considerable cross-pressures. On the one side is the president who may be using political criteria to make his or her judgment. l On the other side are the 50 states, trust territories, and DC who believe their requests are legitimate. l
Budget Authority ¢ ¢ FEMA is one of the smallest federal agencies and its formal budget is miniscule compared to the 15 Cabinet agencies. At a Glance l l l Senior Leadership: FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison Established: 1979 as independent agency; Transferred to DHS in 2003 Major Divisions: Disaster Assistance, Disaster Operations, Logistics, Mitigation, National Continuity Programs Directorate, National Preparedness, U. S. Fire Administration, 10 Operations Regions FY 2009 Budget Request: $9. 6 billion Employees (FTE): 2, 600+ Full time Staff; 4, 400+ Disaster Staff
Budget Authority ¢ Federal disaster costs over and above regular funding are covered by supplemental congressional appropriations. l l l 1992 – Andrew and Iniki - $3 billion. 1993 – Midwest Floods - $5. 7 billion. 1994 – Northridge earthquake - $9. 7 billion. 2001 – 9/11 - $20 billion. 2005 – Hurricane Katrina - $30 billion.
Budget Authority From the FEMA Director’s managerial perspective, budget funds flow to FEMA through two general streams: regular appropriations and supplemental appropriations. ¢ Although several other agencies have the capacity to tap emergency supplementals, the bulk of the money is spend by FEMA. ¢
Budget Authority ¢ ¢ ¢ Budget authority to spend money on presidentially declared disasters depends very much on the regulation infusion of supplemental appropriations approved after catastrophic disasters. It provides a reservoir of spending authority the president makes available to agencies providing disaster assistance. For many years, supplemental appropriations were funded by Treasury bonds.
Budget Authority ¢ FEMA’s spending authority derives from the Stafford Act through individual and public assistance, reimbursement of money spent by other federal agencies under FEMA direction. Some confusion over who can spend what.
Budget Authority Each time the nation experiences a mega-disaster, a supplemental appropriations bill is passed. ¢ Feds request everything upfront, so they routinely overestimate costs. ¢ The remainder becomes available for smaller disasters. ¢
Budget Authority ¢ ¢ Supplementals are important because of the tight controls over regular appropriations exercised by OMB, especially overspending of discretionary authority. Supplementals do not count officially against the federal debt ceiling or against domestic discretionary spending. Also no-year appropriations (may be spent over several years).
Budget Authority Up until 1995, the availability of excess supplementals prevented federal cash squeezes on spending for marginal disasters. ¢ Northridge wiped out the excess. ¢ Congress move to funding appropriations with set asides from current budget authority rather than bonds. ¢
Budget Authority Federal government lacks an adequate “rainy day” fund to fund disaster relief. Such a fund might reduce the need for supplemental appropriations. ¢ Some have begun to argue for objective criteria to replace the current political factors in determinations. ¢