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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel

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Future of FEMA – Preparedness or Politics?

Jerome Kahan
Published Online: 2014-10-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0048


Throughout its history, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been subjected to periods of criticism – notably, its response to Hurricane Katrina – sprinkled with peaks of praise – notably, its handling of Hurricane Sandy. As currently articulated, FEMA’s primary purpose is to better prepare states and local entities to respond to disasters by mitigating the consequences of those disasters and helping to start the recovery process. If first responders cannot adequately handle a situation, then federal operational assistance led by FEMA would come into play. FEMA is now on the proper path toward meeting realistic expectations of its role as the federal agency in charge of leading and coordinating efforts to ensure that the nation is well prepared to cope with natural disasters, accidents, and terrorist attacks. However, political forces have always buffeted FEMA. Within the politically charged atmosphere of the forthcoming presidential election, questions of whether FEMA should once again become independent are emerging, with hints of the more extreme suggestion that the agency be abolished. FEMA’s goal of continuing to effectively meet its disaster relief responsibilities can be reached only if political influences are not allowed to complicate and perhaps even halt its progress.

Keywords: DHS; disaster relief; FEMA; homeland security; politics versus substance


About the article

Jerome Kahan

Jerome Kahan is currently an independent writer and analyst. He was formerly a Distinguished Analyst at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute in Arlington, VA. Mr. Kahan has been in the national security, arms control, and homeland security fields for over 40 years – including 20 years with the Department of State, where he held positions on the Policy Planning Staff and as Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Political-Military and Intelligence Bureaus and served as Counselor at the American Embassy in Turkey. He worked for many years with non-governmental research organizations, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Naval Analyses, and Systems Planning and Analysis. He has written and/or contributed to a number of books, published articles in a variety of journals, taught at the Air Force Academy, and served as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Mr. Kahan holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, with Bachelor’s Degrees from Queens as well as Columbia College. He has also been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

Corresponding author: Jerome Kahan, Independent Researcher and Analyst, Alexandria, VA, USA, Tel.: +703 765 5467, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-10-06

Published in Print: 2015-04-01

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 1–21, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0048.

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