Saturday, September 17, 2005

FEMA takes many workers off hurricane duty

FEMA takes many workers off hurricane duty

Daily News Exclusive


WASHINGTON - FEMA bureaucrats yesterday infuriated exhausted Hurricane Katrina responders and lawmakers with yet another blunder.

Federal Emergency Management Agency leaders ordered officials in the agency's Preparedness Division to stop all Katrina relief efforts and begin a long-planned move from agency headquarters to new offices in Virginia by Monday.

"They're no longer focused on the gigantic Katrina job and are putting their files into boxes instead," said one outraged FEMA insider. "This is simply incredible considering that the entire staff has been an integral part of the response effort."

Taking staff off hurricane duty is "disruptive when we need every single soul here to work on Katrina," the source said.

FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews confirmed that workers from the agency's radiological emergency preparedness and chemical stockpile emergency preparedness programs were moving to Arlington, Va., in a reorganization, where they will be absorbed by a new division within the Homeland Security Department.

She said fewer than 100 of FEMA's 2,600 full-time employees are leaving the Washington headquarters to make room for an expanding Katrina response and recovery operation.

"Right now is the wrong time to disrupt any part of FEMA's operation," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), who chairs the Democrats' homeland security task force. "I'd like to know who's going to take responsibility for this move."

Originally published on September 17, 2005