The Federal Emergency Management Agency has finally admitted what everyone already knew: that it was disastrously unprepared for last year’s hurricane season.
In a report released on Thursday, the agency said that it had been beset with missteps, miscalculations, and poor planning during a year when major hurricanes left scores dead, and thousands more without food, shelter, or electricity, across the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and Puerto Rico
“FEMA leadership acknowledged that the Agency could have better anticipated that the severity of Hurricanes Irma and Maria would cause long-term, significant damage to [Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands’] infrastructure,” the report admitted, in something of an understatement.
Among the failings pointed out by the report was FEMA’s reliance on third party vendors during the storms. (One of the vendors hired to operate in the Puerto Rico recovery effort, for instance, was a Florida-based contractor whose $30 million agreement was ultimately canceled by the agency after it became clear that they would be unable to produce the tarps and and roof repair equipment they’d been hired to provide.)
Despite the obvious shortcomings detailed at length in the report, the Trump administration spent the past year patting itself soundly on the back for its response to the storms. During a visit to FEMA headquarters just a few weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence insisted that “we are prepared—just as we were last year, with those historic and unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires in California and elsewhere.”
The agency, it seems, would beg to differ.