Trouble for DHS Brass After FEMA Changes
A bill passed in early October that would reorganize the troubled Federal Emergency Management Agency is causing problems within its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, whose leaders had strongly opposed the measure.
Sources tell U.S. News that DHS leaders have been in conflict over their organizational chart. Under the bill, the head of FEMA, currently Dave Paulison, would be elevated from a director to an under secretary position. The conflict centers on whether George Foresman, head of the preparedness division within DHS, should retain his under secretary status. Key parts of his divisionincluding DHS's grants and training office, which hands out billions in grants to first responders each yearwill be merged into FEMA under the bill. Says one DHS source, "It's your classic turf-war-type problem."
Adding to all the complications is the status of FEMA oversight in the new Congress. House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has listed enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 commission as one of her goals for the Congress's first 100 working hours. One of the more controversial recommendations is to streamline DHS oversight. Democrats on one of the committees overseeing FEMAthe Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to be chaired by Rep. James Oberstarlargely opposed the FEMA measure and favored instead a bill to pull the agency out of DHS altogether. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who will chair the House Homeland Security Committee, the other panel with FEMA oversight, favored the current approach. The day after the election last week, Oberstar listed working "to make the Federal Emergency Management Agency the effective agency it was during the Clinton administration" as one of his key goals for the committee.
"If they try to take FEMA out of his watch," says one House aide of Oberstar, "things could get nasty."