FEMA says it will meet hiring goals by hurricane season

At a briefing Tuesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security Department officials said that with better planning, they expect a more coordinated response than ever to storms during the upcoming hurricane season.

FEMA Acting Director R. David Paulison, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, said the agency has improved from the 73 percent staffing capacity reported in a study issued last week. He said FEMA has 85 percent of the employees it needs and is en route to hiring to 95 percent by the beginning of this year's hurricane season June 1.

"We are in a very aggressive hiring mode," Paulison said.

However, measured by its own goals, FEMA is behind schedule. In a memorandum sent last month to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, FEMA's human resources director said the agency expected to fill 95 percent of its vacancies by May 15.

"Whatever the targets are, we've not met sufficient enough employment" at the agency, Thompson said. He said he will request an update from DHS and FEMA regarding job vacancies.

Officials said the federal government has spent the last eight months creating the most comprehensive natural disaster response plan the country has ever known. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said he expects state and local authorities to accept a larger response role in the event of a hurricane.

"We want to push the authority down," he said, more "closely to where the action is."

Paulison's announcement that FEMA will be nearly fully staffed by June 1 comes a day after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season, with as many as 16 named storms and up to six major hurricanes that could reach Category 3 status or higher.

Reports of a strengthened national hurricane response came as welcome news for some, but a few lawmakers still argued that FEMA should be removed from DHS and returned to Cabinet-level status as an independent entity.

"DHS allowed FEMA's workforce and capabilities to deteriorate so quickly because DHS' top priority is terrorism prevention, not disaster management," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who co-sponsored legislation calling for the agency's independence. "To succeed, FEMA needs to be returned to the emergency management professionals and made the organization's number one priority."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.