Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Federal Disaster Legislation

President Bush has signed the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (Title VII of the DHS appropriations bill, HR 5441.) It's going to take some time to unpack this legislation, but I'll try to highlight the main features. CRS's summary of the Senate version can be found here. The Conference Committee report is here.

For today, I'll stick with Subtitle A of the Act, which will be codified in 6 USC 501-614.

Subtitle A relates to the structure of FEMA. The Administrator has to have five years of disaster experience, and he is designated as the "principal advisor" to the President and others on disaster issues. He can be designated to sit on the cabinet during emergencies. Some functions which had been detached from FEMA under DHS reorganization are transferred back. Subtitle A also calls for a National Advisory Council on emergency management within DHS. Another addition is the National Integration Center, which is supposed to clean up the National Incident Management System and the National Response Plan. The National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center is supposed to provide expertise to DHS on disaster and terrorism issues.

Bush's signing statement grumbles about the qualifications requirement for the FEMA director and a section authorizing the FEMA director to make reports to Congress without going through the chain of command. I'm inclined to think these fall well within the Congress's authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause, but devotees of the unitary executive seem to think otherwise.

Next posting: Subchapter B.


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