Chertoff proposes changes amid new reports of FEMA waste

| 2/14/2006

A new report from government investigators has outlined just how much money and time has been wasted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in its response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

USA Today reported that investigators told a Senate committee on Monday, Feb. 12, that FEMA has let almost 11,000 manufactured homes deteriorate on old runways and open fields in Arkansas.

In addition, FEMA spent more than $878 million on 25,000 manufactured homes that have been put in storage around the country because its own rules prevent them from being placed in flood areas such as New Orleans.

Other charges leveled at FEMA in the latest report include spending $416,000 per person to house a few hundred evacuees for a brief period in Alabama last fall and issuing relief checks and $2,000 debit cards to thousands of people without verifying their identities or their claims.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff issued a reform plan for FEMA and said he hopes to bring about some changes before June 1.

One key part of his plan is to create a disaster response force consisting of highly trained individuals who would be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the agency’s response operations.

Chertoff also announced plans to use satellites to track trucks carrying relief supplies. He also plans to place FEMA employees at shelters so that victims can apply for aid in person rather than by phone or the Internet and to create a database of approved contractors to help speed up the cleanup process.