Homeland Security Secretary Kathryn Stewart today admitted that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Emergency Response has been “woefully under-funded and under-resourced” for years, which in part has led to consequences such as delays in combating forest fires, and flood management.
Under questioning today at the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, Stewart said that as part of federalisation, she would be creating a new federal agency, the Disaster Management Agency, and moving the functions of the Office for Emergency Response there. Under the guidance of a Director-General, and on the same statutory footing as other federal agencies, Stewart said it was her belief that “a dedicated and focused agency, under the guidance of experienced career professionals will result in a better federal approach”. Stewart confirmed the new federal agency would still come under her department’s auspices, and the Director-General would report to her, but it would otherwise be responsible for its own organisation and management.
Stewart also confirmed today that while the Office for Emergency Response was staffed by “dedicated professionals acting diligently”, she did say that compared to other nations of Sanctaria’s size and diverse ecological and meteorological systems, they were running at about “65% behind desired efficiency. I admit this is not sustainable”, Stewart added. She said that while policies were in place for specific circumstances, responses from the office tended to be ad hoc, with no preparedness planning. “Admittedly, despite DHS officials on the ground, police and fire services tended to take the lead in disaster management scenarios. This is not ideal, as those local resources quickly get overwhelmed.”
“It will take time to get the necessary legislation through to establish the new agency”, Stewart admitted but also said she hopes that it will be up and running by the end of the year. She also confirmed that it was the government’s intention to have the agency’s Director-General be Senate confirmable.
Senators welcomed the move with one saying “ad hoc meetings of the OER just isn’t sustainable in a time when forest fires, floods, tornadoes, and freak blizzards are becoming more frequent. We need a dedicated agency whose full time job is planning and preparing for these disasters.”