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Global Security Staff OPED

Typhoon Mangkhut has brought utter devastation to the US territory of Guam, placed hundreds of lives at risk, torn roofs and walls off of homes and left thousands without power - all while forcing panicked residents rushing for safety.

The Typhoon brought 160 mph winds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane and a massive storm surge across the territory, yet FEMA is ignoring calls from industry partners contracted to provide disaster support for these kinds of circumstances, according to industry sources familiar with the situation.

There are several industry partners currently collaborating with FEMA to lend additional support, yet somewhat astonishingly - FEMA is nowhere in sight. It is nothing short of shocking and grossly irresponsible for an entity such as FEMA, which exists specifically to save lives in jeopardy from a wide range of disasters. FEMA is completely asleep at the wheel while thousands of Americans suffer.

Specifically, calls are not being returned from those tasked to support FEMA, inquiries are falling flat - yet Americans in many instances are fearing for their lives without homes or power.

One senior contracting officer has expressed substantial frustration that his ability to provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance.

What could possibly explain this? Hurricane Florence is of course commanding FEMA attention and resources, yet FEMA’s lackluster or often absent response to many disasters worldwide is by no means unprecedented.

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FEMA Contracting officers were asleep at the wheel when hurricane Harvey devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

As for the reasons for this dangerous lethargy, one can only speculate. Several factors are likely to influence the circumstance. FEMA typically relies upon an antiquated and bureaucratic response process. They often wait until after the disaster to mobilize and often issue solicitations to industry far too long after damage has been done. At that point, they deliberate and delay taking action for lengthy periods of time. This slow, ineffective and dangerous response is of particular concern given the scale and pace of devastation which tends to quickly visit itself upon these situations.

“This culture has to change,” says one former FEMA official. “This is precisely why Trump relied on the Defense Department to help in Puerto Rico after FEMA proved to be inept.”

FEMA needs to mobilize every time there is an indication of a potential event, so the people and resources are staged and ready to deploy to the disaster area. That is what the taxpayers pay for. FEMA does none of this which it is why it is a failing agency that could be eliminated. Funds destined for FEMA could be given to the states, so they can prepare for and respond to disaster events. Unless FEMA changes its culture, more preventable damage is likely.

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