Rich Galen

The actual name of FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security the head of which is Secretary Janet Napolitano.

If ever there was a Federal Emergency in need of Management, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill sponsored by BP would be it, and you might think that FEMA would be involved.

Rush Limbaugh

One of the many things in which I am not an expert is the span of FEMA's authority and responsibilities. Let's go back to the FEMA web page and see what it says:

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

FEMA employees are not all sitting in their cubicles searching for porn much as, for example, some employees of the Minerals Management Service were found to have been doing. In 2010, the FEMA web page shows, the agency has responded to, helped people recover from and mitigated the hazards associated with 47 declared disasters mostly dealing with flooding, tornadoes, and other natural episodes.

None were in or near the Gulf of Mexico.

In all of 2009 there were only 59 declared disasters so FEMA has been pretty busy.

A search of the FEMA.GOV website shows the most recent activity in Louisiana was:

Disaster Number 1863: Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding; 12/10/2009

Those storms affected parishes (Louisiana's term for counties) in the northern portion of the state.

The only element of FEMA's webpage dealing with the oil spill in the Gulf is a button labeled "Oil Spill Guidance." Clicking on that button brings up a window which says:

"If you have been affected by the oil spill go to for assistance."

Clicking on that button … but, I think you're beginning to see the same pattern I saw: In what is being called the "greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States" the agency which is statutorily charged with the task of managing the Federal response is nowhere to be found.

According to the American Planning Association, FEMA's budget for Fiscal Year 2010 is just shy of $5.5 billion

It might be that FEMA only gets involved if blue tarp is needed to cover the roofs of damaged buildings. If that's the case, we should turn that activity over to Home Depot which is where FEMA probably buys it from in the first place.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at