Acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday that more than $20 Billion of the $60 Billion allocated for hurricane aid has ALREADY BEEN SPENT! Think about that before you get too enraged.
Let's pick a number for those that have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, shall we? How about 600,000 people. Let's start there. Divide 600,000 into $20 Billion. That's $33,333. per person. Hold to that thought. Now not each one of those people owned their own home; many were families, many were renters. You might actually be talking about a third of the people representing a home. I'm just playing with numbers, here, so don't hold my feet to some fire. After all, no one seems to be holding FEMA and President Bush to any hot coals. Translate the math, and that $20 Billion represents the equivalent of about $100,000 per family - already. And not one house has begun reconstruction. Not one.
Don't worry though, if you think that FEMA may run short of dough. They claim to have $40 Billion of our tax dollars left. Now doubt we can sleep soundly knowing that FEMA and Bush will spend it wisely.
$20 Billion! Aren't you really beside yourself? The military is currently spending about $6 Billion monthly blowing up Iraq. So FEMA has spent more than three times what Iraq is costing us - in only five weeks.
Paulison told the Committee, "I am going to do everything humanly possible to make sure that we follow government procurement guidelines from here on out for the rest of the expenditures that we're going to do. You have given us $60 billion to manage this disaster and we have to spend it in a fiscally sound manner, and that's what we want to do. I'm going to do everything I can do to make that happen."
WRONG! "We" don't have to spend all of the $60 Billion!
To Paulison's credit, he did announce that the earlier no-bid contracts to friends of George W. Bush will be put out for rebid on a low bid basis.
Paulison added, "We're going to look very carefully at some of these big projects ... to make sure that the contracts that we're putting out don't have some of the same taints that we did early on. I don't know if the contracts early on were right or wrong. That's something we're going to go back and look at very carefully ... I just want to make sure that the ones we do from now on, under my tenure, are as fair and equitable and legal as they can possibly be."
To date, Congress has requested, but received no accounting from the Administration about the $20 Billion spent to date. An ongoing accounting was part of the agreement for approving the funds in the first place. But hey, no reason why the Bush Administration should let a little thing like accountability and transparency impede their desire to enrich friends and family.
The fact is that FEMA is a disaster, but not a declared one. The agency has fallen into the abyss since the start of the Bush Administration and particularly since it was engulfed by the Department of Homeless Insecurity.
Following are excerpts from an article in the October 1 issue of Government Executive.
- Since 2001, independent auditors have faulted its lax financial controls.
- Agency officials have jeopardized their massive flood-mapping effort by misleading appropriators in Congress on their progress, according to an Aug. 5 article in CongressDaily.
- There has been continuing concern that FEMA's flood insurance program does not have the money to cover the long-term risk of damage claims.
- In response to the Florida hurricanes of 2004, the agency distributed $30 million to residents of Miami-Dade County despite the fact that it was not part of the disaster area. DHS' inspector general, Richard Skinner, still is investigating the charge, and critics are calling for a broader probe.
- FEMA paid for funerals for deaths in Florida that were not attributable to the hurricanes.
- Florida inspectors had a 37 percent error rate in their damage assessments, according Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. And an investigation this April by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper found FEMA hired criminals to perform home damage inspections.
- When Homeland Security was created, it took $80 million from FEMA - about one-seventh of the agency's operating budget, according to Brown - to cover departmental overhead costs.
- The agency transferred $169 million to DHS in 2003 and 2004, and expects to lose at least $11 million to its parent in 2005, according to March 2004 FEMA responses to inquiries from the House Appropriations Committee.
- FEMA's core budget has been cut every year since it joined DHS, according to figures cited in the Los Angeles Times in September. In congressional testimony this March, Michael Brown appeared to confirm that his agency lost 500 positions during that period.
- One former official frets that as much as a third of the staff has been cut from FEMA's five Mobile Emergency Response Support detachments, for instance. Those teams, each made up of several dozen trained experts and heavy vehicles, deploy instantly to set up communications gear, power generators and life-support equipment to help federal, state and local officials coordinate response to a disaster.
- The office responsible for deploying 9,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical examiners, pathologists, veterinarians and others, as well as several thousand disaster response experts, was cut nearly in half, from 18 full-time staffers to 10, according to another former FEMA official.
- The agency also cut one of its three Washington-based emergency management teams, according to the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 5. And last year, FEMA postponed workshops to prepare for a hurricane and flooding in New Orleans because of an unexpected budget shortfall, according to a Sept. 19 Wall Street Journal article.
- A Sept. 9 article in The Washington Post concluded that five of the agency's eight top officials had virtually no experience in handling disasters. Several seats are empty. A review of the most recent list of political appointee positions, published last November by the Office of Personnel Management, shows that 17 of FEMA's 46 "plum" jobs, all senior executive spots, were vacant.