FEMA tip of iceberg for homeland security
An internal audit says the emergency agency's problems are symptomatic of homeland security gaps.
WHEN the Department of Homeland Security was created nearly three years ago, the optimistic objective was for an integrated, efficient agency that would protect Americans from terrorist attacks and disasters.
What has emerged thus far, however, is a cumbersome department whose failures were tragically evident in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flawed response to Hurricane Katrina.
FEMA problems are symptomatic of DHS's management and financial weaknesses, according to an audit by the department's inspector general that reiterates problems other reviews also have unveiled. Whether the department is fulfilling its mission is questionable, and whether such a huge bureaucracy encompassing 22 disparate agencies can ever achieve its objective is suspect.
The audit singled out FEMA as inadequate for its inability to distribute aid, communicate and keep track of its contracts and grants, which leaves it open "to fraud, waste and abuse."
The department has also failed to coordinate border and immigration enforcement and fully mesh functions of such agencies as the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, contributing to security vulnerabilities, the audit said.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post detailed how political considerations steered the department toward its inauspicious start when the Bush administration, after resisting DHS's creation, was eager to one-up congressional Democrats in leading the charge. Unfortunately, the result is an indiscriminate conglomerate without clear lines of authority and responsibilities.
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