Chertoff: DHS Will Be the Next DHL

Now here’s a good idea: Two weeks after Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida, where thousands of homes and businesses are still without power, heaps of debris remain on the streets and traffic lights are still inoperable in many areas, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is plotting to reinvent the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Chertoff said he plans to restructure FEMA to operate like a 21st century distribution company with the ability to track and locate supplies.

“We want to be able to do what UPS and DHL does,” Chertoff said in an address to the International Association of Fire Chiefs on Nov. 4. Experts from inside and outside the government are working with FEMA to build an “effective distribution of supplies and people” during an emergency, Chertoff added.

The retooling began last summer, before hurricanes ravaged the Gulf Coast, when Chertoff said he would remove FEMA from underneath layers of bureaucracy and have its director (remember Michael “Brownie” Brown?) report directly to him. Chertoff also took away the agency’s preparedness responsibilities to focus solely on responding to catastrophic events.

That last move has been a controversial one, with some lawmakers calling for FEMA to remain a stand-alone agency responsible for both disaster preparedness and response. But Chertoff is loathe to disconnect FEMA from the vaunted War on Terrorism that is DHS’s mission. After all, I’m sure you’ve seen the memo supplied by an Italian secret agent that al Qaeda has been releasing carbon dioxide emissions in order to increase global warming and thereby kick our collective butts with killer hurricanes — really!

So here we are, with one of the largest federal agencies with something like 20,000 employees, looking to become the DHL of disaster response. That sounds like a great business model, don’t it?

Sounds good, but given Chertoff’s checkered management track record, his staff stuffed with political cronies and the tendency of government agencies to behave like, well government agencies, perhaps Chertoff should just go ahead and add another “S” to “UPS.” My prediction is his retooling of DHS will more likely produce a bloated, lumbering, money-losing agency like the United States Postal Service.

Excuse me, I have to go track that bag of ice I was expecting nine days ago while the power was out. Last I checked, it was on a truck in Maryland somewhere.

One comment

  • November 8, 2005 - 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I wonder why Chertoff didn’t aspire to be the U.S. Postal Service, since that’s what DHL is, only in Germany. Yes, ship with DHL and support the German government. But I was impressed with UPS after Katrina, if I do say so myself. In the 10 days after the hurricane, UPS moved a mobile kitchen for the U.S. Park Police; a mobile hospital from Reno, Nev., to New Orleans, and a mobile water treatment system from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Gulfport, Miss. Chertoff and Bush couldn’t move Brownie’s fluffy ass in the same amount of time.

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