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Committee on Homeland Security: Katrina "Lessons Learned" Legislation

On Thursday, April 27, 2006, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security announced proposed legislation that will address the national emergency response problems exposed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year. The legislation will preserve the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), strengthening its role within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Highlights of the legislation include:

Preserving and Strengthening FEMA’s role within DHS:

Establish FEMA as a new Directorate of Emergency Management, consolidating DHS’ Directorate of Preparedness within FEMA, to increase coordination between FEMA and local first responders;

Elevate the head of FEMA to an Undersecretary position, who will report directly to the President in times of national emergency and crises;

Require that the Undersecretary possess a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and incident response;

Ensure that the Secretary of DHS provide FEMA with the resources and staffing necessary to fulfill its mission, and require the Secretary to report to Congress before reprogramming any funds designated for FEMA.

Improving Coordination, Communication, and Response at the federal, state, and local levels:

Establish two Deputy Undersecretary positions- one for Emergency Preparedness and one for Emergency Response- both of whom will be well-qualified and report directly to the Undersecretary, to increase coordination between FEMA and local first responders;
Establish DHS Regional Offices and Regional Directors to work in partnership with state and local governments, and emergency response and support providers, to ensure coordination and integration of regional preparedness and response activities;
Allow FEMA to have teams on site faster through the Regional Offices;

Grant the Regional Director, in a time of crisis, the ability to coordinate and direct the federal response within the operational area, and make operational decisions without having to obtain approval from headquarters.

Please contact Dena Graziano or Todd Levett at (202) 226-2616.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS)

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

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