Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today will announce a plan to split the Federal Emergency Management Agency in two as part of a major restructuring of the department.
The announcement comes a little more than two years after the Department of Homeland Security was established in the largest and most complicated reorganization of the federal government in half a century.
The long-awaited results of the so-called Second Stage Review that Mr. Chertoff began in March are being held closely, but several government officials present at briefings spoke about today’s announcement on condition that they not be named or quoted directly.
The change that is likely to draw the most attention in the midst of hurricane season is that the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate is being dismantled.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency that currently makes up the bulk of the directorate, will return to being a stand-alone entity within the department, with a director — rather than the current undersecretary — reporting to straight to Mr. Chertoff.
But in a move that is likely to draw howls of protest from state and local emergency managers and FEMA’s allies on Capitol Hill, the agency is being stripped of its preparedness functions to concentrate on what some in the department see as its core competencies — disaster response and recovery.
“It’s going to be very difficult to argue the case that it makes sense to spilt up preparedness and response,” said one former FEMA official. “It’s difficult enough [to plan responses to major disasters] when both those functions are in one place. It’s unclear how separating them will bring them into better sync.”
The former official said preparedness activities accounted for probably about 25 percent of FEMA’s budget, but said that did not reflect the extent of its activities.
“Preparedness is what you do all year-round to get ready for the hurricane and fire seasons,” the official said. “It’s a pretty substantial proportion of the agency’s work.”
In another far-reaching change, one of the two entirely novel parts of the department — which largely was formed from the merger in March 2003 of 22 existing federal agencies — will be dismantled.
The Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate (IAIP) was set up to fuse intelligence about terrorist threats with data about the nation’s vulnerabilities to help direct federal attention and resources to where they are needed most.
But IAIP, as it is known, became a poster child for the difficulties the department faced. The National Asset Database of critical infrastructure that it was charged with drawing up included such installations as a miniature-golf course, and the locations of some potential targets were off by several miles.
Now, the directorate is to be split into its component parts.
The information analysis staff will become Homeland Security’s departmental intelligence operation — much like the one in the Department of Energy — headed by a chief intelligence officer reporting directly to Mr. Chertoff