FEMA as an institution II: Militarization?

UPDATE (9/14): Arms and Influence has some thoughts about the pros and cons of “militarization” that are well worth reading and thinking about. And “J” in the comments has some really interesting insights that are relevant to the larger issue of institutional design that has been a F&V theme regarding FEMA.

Bryan S. asks a good question: Why not “militarize” FEMA? This is precisely the sort of question that needs to be asked. I do not know if giving the agency a military-like command structure would solve the problems that were revealed by the response to Hurricane Katrina. But it is worth thinking about. In the comments at Arguing with Signposts, Neil Lawrence embellishes the idea with what seem like sensible operational procedures, including a more institutionalized relationship with the active-duty armed forces.

The question of militarization of FEMA itself is separate from coordination of FEMA with the actual military, but it might be complimentary to it. I would remind readers that the idea of a more institutionalized relationship with the armed forces was raised at least as far back as the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Elaborating on the idea, Chris Lawrence notes that several existing federal agencies already operate on a “militarization” model, including—and I had no idea about this—the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

One thing is for sure, since the agency was placed under DHS and since Michael Brown was made its head, it has been treated by the current administration as a patronage agency more than as an institution with a mission. Because we cannot count on individual Presidents and the Senators who confirm presidential nominees to make good choices, we need to consider institutional reorganization as a means to upgrade the agency’s profile within the executive branch. Among my own suggestions (in various of my posts linked here) have been re-organizing FEMA on a model more akin to those of the CIA and FBI. A militarization model should at least be part of that debate, as well.

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