New FEMA Administrator Nominee Vetted by the Senate

She shared her vision and mission for FEMA.

Deanne Criswell, who last served as the New York City Emergency Management commissioner, recently appeared before the U.S. Senate for her confirmation hearing: “With Increase in Severe Disasters, FEMA Nominee Vows to Focus on Resilience, Workforce.”

The bigger challenge I see for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is that they continue to get detailed — because they are good at coordination and logistics — to missions normally outside their purview. The distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) should have been handled by Health and Human Service (HHS), but FEMA was tasked with stepping in and assuming the majority of the work. 

All that is well and good, but when you don’t have enough staff to do your primary mission and the disaster response system for the United States continues to lean heavily on the federal government, it is a problem. 

The most recent task is to help with the unaccompanied minors flowing across the border. Once again, it is HHS that has the mission and they need help. I’m all about “one for all and all for one,” but eventually it detracts from or even hinders your agency’s responsibilities. I don’t expect that HHS is going to step in and help on a disaster, assuming some of FEMA’s direct responsibilities for disaster recovery when they are overwhelmed. 

If you have this bigger role, then you need more staff to perform the mission. You might also need a division within FEMA named “Other Duties as Assigned.” 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.