Leadership and Decision Making: FEMA Directors
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DNS), whose origin dates back during the Congressional Act of 1803. It supports and coordinates the role of federal government towards disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation activities (EMI, 2014). During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States faced a series of large- scale natural disasters that led to various changes towards the emergency management in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter created FEMA with a combined mission of implementing dozens of federal agencies and programs that dealt with different types and stages of national catastrophes. Since FEMA was created, hundreds of disaster responses have been evident across the US with leadership from different directors appointed to head the Agency (Carafano & Weitz, 2005).
In the past three decades, some FEMA directors have been recognized with exceptional performance during their era in the Agency, while others faced remarkable challenges during their tenure in office. This paper focuses on leadership style and decision making of two FEMA directors, James L. Witt and Michael D. Brown, as an admirable or below average performers during a major emergency crisis in the US respectively.
Director James L. Witt:FEMA Directors
In 1993, James L. Witt became the director of FEMA under the administration of President Clinton’s administration. Witt’s tenure in office came at a time when FEMA had faced several unusual challenges in preparing for and responding to a series of major emergency crisis in various parts of the US. In particular, Hurricane Andrew had struck Louisiana and Florida while Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii during the month of August 1992. Criticisms over FEMA’s preparedness including its partners at the state level were clearly witnessed by Americans across the nation, with major news organizations documenting the crisis. As a result, the efficacy of FEMA in resuming with the response operations as a national response agency raised many questions.
With Witt as the FEMA director, he brought the new-hungered leadership style that was needed to save the troubled Agency. His major decision and responsibilities towards restoring the face of FEMA were remarkable compared to the previous State Directors. The morale of FEMA employees was at rock bottom due to public ridicule and contempt over the Agency after the plight of Hurricane Andrew’s many victims (Bosner, 2004).However, Witt was credited as the only FEMA director with remarkable experience in disaster management; thus, increasing the credibility of the Agency as a skilled leader.
He portrayed outstanding leadership skills by understanding the significance of building partnerships, improving commitment and service to clients, and increasing priorities to disaster mitigation; thus, allowing him to streamline emergency relief and recovery operations (Carafano & Weitz, 2005). In addition, Witt initiated sweeping reforms emphasizing on focused agency employees, which allowed him to streamline the FEMA’s limited funds into disaster preparedness, mitigation, and recovery programs (EMI, 2014).
However, Witt’s enhanced reforms and leade