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September 10, 2005

Speaking of FEMA and quakes

Fellow Californians, I have bad news.

Karen Armes, FEMA Regional Director for Region IX (comprising Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, and our Pacific colonies) might be every bit as qualified as Michael Brown.

Armes has been with FEMA since January 2000. Read: not a Bush appointee. Her curriculum vitae, as described on her bio page at FEMA, mentions little about her qualifications (if any) in disaster relief:

"Before joining FEMA, Ms. Armes was director of the Business Management Department of the Navy Finance Center in San Francisco, a position assigned to her after the capitalization of the data automation centers by the Defense Information System Agency in 1994. Prior to that, she had served more than 10 years with that organization being promoted from budget analyst to the director of the Budget and Accounting Division and then director of the Management Support Division. She began there in 1982 as a NAVCOMPT financial management trainee.

"Ms. Armes holds a bachelor of science degree in recreation administration from Radford University, Va. She has also completed graduate courses in business administration at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University."

Not much in there about disaster managment. Taken at face value, this seems to indicate she may be a skilled bureaucrat, which is more than Brown can claim, and which skills actually may offer some value in preparing for and responding to some emergency situations. Or they may not.

The Los Angeles radio hosts of The John and Ken Show conducted an interview with Ms. Armes. While theye were hostile enough to prompt pity for Armes, she didn't have much in the way of answers about contingencies in the event of a major quake striking the Pacific Coast. Asked why there was the delay in air-dropping water at the Superdome, she responded "that's not my specialty." The hosts, aghast at that response, asked her what would then happen if California faced a situation similar to that in New Orleans, with fires and looting and people starving and dying of thirst and in need of medical care that is not forthcoming.

Armes' response: "I don't anticipate that."

Uh-huh.

Posted by Chris Clarke at September 10, 2005 08:14 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.faultline.org/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/1323

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Comments

I looked up the guy who covers New England, and he seems okay despite the fact that he has a background in public relations.

Posted by: Abby at September 10, 2005 08:57 PM
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I don't see that "not having a background in disaster relief" should be disqualifying if, and only if, the person is a good enough administrator to listen to their specialists below them, and has the two or three brain cells necessary to realize that when you tell your people to respond to an emergency, you should probably get them to do it quickly, rather than give them a few days to amble in.

"Brownie" didn't have either of those qualifications, and it sounds like this Armes person might be lacking a bit in the first.

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at September 11, 2005 04:41 AM
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It's even worse here in Washington state, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002484649_pennington10m.html

As a friend of mine on LiveJournal summarizes:

---
Summary: The Pacific Northwest's FEMA chief, John Pennington, has a degree in Business Administration from an unaccredited correspondence-course school that the GAO has identified as a diploma mill selling diplomas for a flat fee. Despite being in charge of FEMA in four states (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho), he has no real disaster relief experience. He is, however, a former Republican legislator and headed local Bush-Cheney election campaign efforts. He was appointed by President Bush in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, with the help of Representative Jennifer Dunn.

I would assume from this that FEMA here will do no better than FEMA in the Gulf Coast. Which leads directly to my take on the Federal response to Katrina and NOLA:

The Federal Government has demonstrated - that's demonstrated, as in by its actions - that if you are not politically important to the current administration, you will be left to rot. FEMA will hamper local relief efforts, which will already be screwed up on their own but will be made significantly less effective by Federal ineptitude. In the critical hours and days after the event, you, your neighbourhood, your city, your town - you are on your fucking own.

The more I read about the FEMA response and the more I hear from people who were there on the ground, the more angry and disgusted I get. The response was (and is) un-fucking-believable, and is every turf-fighting bureaucratic responsibility-avoiding not-my-job imperious blame-the-victims fucktard nightmare imaginable. It is surreal. It is like parody.

Posted by: Cascadian at September 11, 2005 07:41 AM
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