Federal Emergency Management Agency

James Lee Witt, Director

Mission Statement

The mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is to reduce the loss of life and property and protect our institutions from all hazards by leading and supporting the nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

FEMA has adopted five mission-associated goals and one organizational goal to guide its management and program decisions. These are to accomplish the following:

Summary Budget Information

FY 1993 (Actual) FY 1996 (Budgeted)
Budget* Staff** Budget* Staff**
$3.106 billion 4,476 $4.328 billion 3,930
*Actual obligations and estimated obligation for discretionary funds, including the Disaster Relief Fund and disaster supplemental appropriations. It excludes fee-supported insurance funds.
**Also reflects temporary staff used for disaster operations.

Reinvention Highlights

When I became director in 1993, the agency was under intense fire from Congress and the media. There was a widespread lack of confidence in the abilities of the agency to respond to and help communities recover from disasters.

We are proud that through a total reorganization and a basic cultural change internally we have regained the trust of the citizens that this is an agency that responds quickly, efficiently, effectively, and with compassion. When we announce that we are from the federal government and we're here to help, it's not a joke -- people really believe us.

My first day at FEMA, I taped a permanent sign on my desk for all to see. It says, "Please don't say we've never done it that way before."

Reorganizing Operations. The agency overhaul aligned its programs and activities along functional lines. We created an all-hazards agency, making personnel and material assets once reserved strictly for national security available for deployment during any major disaster regardless of the cause. One of the assets, our Mobile Emergency Response System -- which includes transportable telephone, water purification, heating and air conditioning systems, and satellite communications -- has been used to support field offices at many disasters. These include the Midwest floods, the Northridge earthquake, Hurricane Marilyn, and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Using Technology. FEMA's Disaster Assistance Program was reorganized to employ new technologies to register disaster applicants, conduct property inspections, process information, and distribute checks for disaster-related housing needs. This new streamlined program has cut in half the time it takes for assistance to reach disaster victims and has reduced the program's annual administrative costs by an estimated $35 million. The overall program won an award for excellence in public service. The changes in this program include the following:

Under the newly created Response and Recovery Directorate, several programs have been developed to speed disaster assistance. They include three Emergency Response Teams, each team on call for 30 days on a rotating basis. Team members train together, are fully equipped with specialized "go" kits, are deployable within hours, and are ready to hit the ground running. The Field Assessment Teams (FasT) are now pre-positioned when we can forecast an impending disaster such as a hurricane, and provide better and faster assessments after a disaster.

We've improved communications with the public through the Recovery Channel, a satellite-delivered television production set up in major catastrophic events; this also won a Federal Technology Leadership award. The Recovery Times is a newspaper we've created for disaster victims; it has won top honors from the Public Relations Society of America. FEMA's very popular World Wide Web site carries real-time situation reports on disasters.

We found that there was no inventory of federal-owned and contractor-supported disaster resources such as plastic sheeting, cots, tents, and generators. We set up a computer data base of these supplies and are in the process of establishing warehouses where they would be stored and returned for reuse. We also found that there was little oversight on supply purchases using the Presidential Disaster Fund. We established the Disaster Review Board to ensure need and accountability of these expenditures.

Response Teams and Training. Two initiatives significantly helped in the emergency response to the tragic Oklahoma City bombing. FEMA provided federal leadership and support for the formation of 25 Urban Search and Rescue teams. We deployed 12 of these during the response to the bombing. The Oklahoma City Fire Department was one of 75,000 fire departments to undergo specialized training at FEMA's National Emergency Training Center. The instruction coincidentally had taken place just a few weeks before the bombing and provided valuable training that helped department members do an outstanding job after the terrible incident.

Reducing the Effects of Disasters. Improving response and recovery is critical, but so too is working to reduce the effects of disasters. That's why we established a Mitigation Directorate. We've ensured broad participation in the development of a National Mitigation Strategy through the first ever National Mitigation conference. We worked with Congress to gain passage of the Hazard Mitigation and Relocation Assistance Act of 1993. The Volkmer Bill led to an interagency "buyout" program to relocate flood-damaged structures. To date, more than 12,000 properties in over a dozen states have taken part and will never be damaged by flood again. In Missouri alone, the governor notes that the buyout program will save over $200 million over 10 years.

Accomplishments Reflected in Performance. We've accomplished a lot in a short time. The people of FEMA are proud of the turn-around in their agency. The proof of our effectiveness is in our performance. We know that when we perform well, people are safer, recover faster, and keep the faith that someone is there for them at a time when they need it the most. Our goals are ever changing -- to keep up with technology, change programs as needed, and develop new strategies to improve emergency management in this country.

FEMA and its Federal Insurance Administration embarked on a special campaign to increase the number of flood insurance policies by 20 percent. The goal was reached seven months ahead of schedule and stands at a 22-percent increase. The increase significantly reduces taxpayer dollars and protects the disaster victims, whom we consider to be our customers.

Customer Service. We take customer service very seriously at FEMA. We recently conducted the first ever customer survey of disaster applicants. Eighty percent were satisfied or very satisfied with the service they received. Their responses helped us develop customer service standards. Customer service training is also mandatory for each and every FEMA employee. Nearly everyone has now completed special customer service training.

Our Region 8 office in Denver developed the concept for regional Centers of Excellence and established a center for community relations. The highly trained community relations teams make a huge difference when deployed to disasters to help victims -- our customers -- understand the programs available to help them.

Streamlining Operations. As far as leadership within the agency is concerned, we streamlined operations by reducing two layers of management and doubling the supervisor-to-employee ratio. We simplified the budget structure to increase flexibility by reducing operating accounts from 47 to just eight elements, which mirrors the new organization and reflects the vision and goals of the agency. We have reduced internal regulations by 30 percent and are on schedule to reduce them by 50 percent by the end of fiscal year 1996. We have greatly improved labor-management relations with the creation of the Labor-Management Partnership Council. We've empowered employees by involving them in the renewal efforts and have changed the agency culture to value employees and their ideas.


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