|But many suspected that FEMA's apparent problems in getting life-sustaining supplies to survivors and buses to evacuate them from New Orleans--delays even Bush called 'not acceptable'--stemmed partly from changes at the agency during the Bush years. Experts have long warned that the moves would weaken the agency's ability to effectively respond to natural disasters.
Less clout, experience
FEMA's chief has been demoted from a near-Cabinet-level position; political appointees with little, if any, emergency-management experience have been placed in senior FEMA positions; and the small, 2,500-person agency was dropped into the midst of the 180,000-employee Homeland Security Department, which is more oriented to combating terrorism than natural disasters. All that has led to a brain drain as experienced but demoralized employees have left the agency, former and current FEMA staff members say.
The result is that an agency that got high marks during much of the 1990s for its effectiveness is being harshly criticized for seemingly mismanaging the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The growing anger and frustration at FEMA's efforts sparked the Republican-controlled Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to announce Friday that it has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to try to uncover what went wrong.