Aides said Romney campaign offices would continue collecting supplies to donate later to storm victims — a move that goes against the advice of professional emergency managers, who have long advised that donations of money and blood are more critical in the hours before and after a storm.
“Large amounts of donations cause significant management problems for those seeking to aid victims,” said Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “People often donate things that are not needed or requested. Standard advice is to give money to legitimate charities like the Red Cross and to other entities that are capable of managing those funds.”
Tierney, who has studied the government’s response to natural disasters for decades, said she was unaware of any serious effort to privatize FEMA beyond the comments made by Romney and other GOP presidential candidates last year.“It’s well known that many states lack the capacity to do a lot of what is needed in the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, and especially in these fiscal times, I just cannot envision states doing a very good job in the disaster area on their own, without federal carrots and sticks,” she said, adding that FEMA already maintains strong ties to the public sector, especially through partnerships with national retailers, which often deploy supplies after a storm.
“The U.S. has a good infrastructure for managing hazards and disasters that is widely considered to be the best in the world,” Tierney added. “It certainly has its faults, but, basically, it’s a sound system that appears to be able to learn from its mistakes,” including the response to Katrina, she said.
FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate has batted away questions before about possible privatization of his agency: “I’m too busy working on other stuff. Ask that to somebody who would give you the time and day to answer that,” he said when asked by The Washington Post in a September 2011 interview.
Fugate and Obama have earned praise for restoring the agency’s reputation in the years since Katrina. Despite working for then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as head of the state’s emergency agency, Fugate said he rebuffed overtures from George W. Bush to lead FEMA after Katrina, saying that the GOP administration did not want to rebuild the agency in the fashion since embraced by Obama.