FEMA watchdog removes positive evaluations of agency under Obama

FEMA watchdog removes positive evaluations of agency under Obama
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The watchdog agency in charge of reviewing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has removed a dozen largely positive reports evaluating FEMA's response to disasters under the Obama administration.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General told USA Today that 12 reports issued about disaster responses during the Obama administration had been rescinded for failing to meet DHS standards.

"At DHS OIG, we hold ourselves to the highest standards for our important work conducting oversight on behalf of American taxpayers," said Arlen Morales, a DHS spokeswoman. "It has come to our attention that we may have failed to meet these standards in some of our reports evaluating FEMA’s initial response to several disasters."

Nine of the reports were signed by White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who was previously head of the Homeland Security Department. The agency's chief under President Obama, Craig Fugate, told USA Today that it was "curious" that the reports had been removed from FEMA's website.

"For the life of me, I have no idea why they're rescinding them. I guess the Obama administration didn't do anything right then," he said.

The reports detail responses from the Obama administration to major disasters including the 2016 California wildfires and two reports on the 2013 response to Hurricane Sandy.

The agency faced criticism in January after it ended free food and water distribution in Puerto Rico while the island was recovering from damage caused by two major hurricanes.

“This is outrageous,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said of FEMA’s move. “In New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina], FEMA stayed there for 10 years. This is another sign of a president that is totally disengaged from how they treat fellow citizens in the island of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

FEMA officials defended the decision, saying that the agency would remain in operation in some of Puerto Rico's more rural areas while winding down assistance in urban zones.

“FEMA provided commodities are no longer needed for emergency operations," FEMA director William Booher said at the time.