Diaz-Balart Statement from Hearing on Ensuring More Rapid Recoveries Following Disasters
Washington, D.C. – The following is the statement of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Ranking Member, from today’s hearing entitled “Post-Katrina: What it Takes to Cut the Bureaucracy and Assure a More Rapid Response After a Catastrophic Disaster.”
Watch Rep. Diaz-Balart’s statement on YouTube
“Although Hurricane Katrina was the most devastating disaster to hit our country, there is a very likely chance of a more catastrophic event occurring in the future.
“A clear federal chain of command is essential during a catastrophic disaster, and it can be a critical point of failure as we saw during Katrina. As I recall, the entire reason FEMA had to be in DHS was so it could use FEMA to manage the response to a terrorist attack. Yet for the last three years, DHS has built a parallel incident command structure that bypasses FEMA.
“As a result, it is not clear to me – or to some of our witnesses – who will be in charge of coordinating the federal response in a disaster. This confusion is a recipe for failure and the Department needs to follow the law.
“We also need to address other critical issues, such as the role of the Department of Defense, the need for large-scale housing plans, and improved mitigation and preparation.
“Earlier this year, I introduced the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act along with Chairwoman Norton and Representatives Cao, Guthrie, and Graves of this subcommittee. I also introduced the Safe Building Code Incentive Act.
“Providing incentives for states to enact building codes is an effective way to minimize damage and the loss of life in catastrophic disasters. And developing a truly integrated public alert and warning system is critical to saving lives.
“It is important for us today to determine if the current framework for emergency management is adequate for catastrophic disasters or if there should be more capability and flexibility built into the system.
“After Hurricane Katrina, Congress made it clear we need a FEMA Administrator who knows what he is doing and has the authority to get the job done. I have tremendous confidence in Administrator Fugate and am looking forward to continuing our work together.
“I also want to acknowledge the tremendous work Congressman Cao has done to speed up recovery funding to Louisiana. He has held several roundtables with FEMA, state and local officials and Members of Congress and freed up hundreds of millions of dollars.”