Over the last four years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has served as a poster child for the Trump’s campaign attacks on immigration, but too often the other key missions of the department get overlooked; specifically supporting our first responders, preventing terrorism, and protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure. Confirming Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasSpace race needs better cybersecurity Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans DHS unveils effort to recruit climate change professionals MORE to be the next secretary of Homeland Security will ensure that the department is led by an experienced and proven leader who understands the role vital of DHS to support state and local officials to keep our families and communities safe.
President-elect Biden has smartly nominated Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas to serve as the next secretary, signaling to the emergency response community that he’s serious about getting to work on Day One. Mayorkas, who served DHS first as director of Citizenship and Immigration Services before becoming deputy secretary, understands that DHS is not a “one size fits all” department and most importantly, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plays a critical support role to states in times of disasters.
FEMA is at its best when it is in support of state, local, tribal and territorial governments. The United States today is experiencing the real consequences of climate change. The recent hurricane season shattered many records, and wildland fire is not just a season, but a challenge that is not abating. FEMA has experience establishing priorities and coordinating delivery of emergency services, in addition to communicating with state and federal stakeholders, the media and nonprofit and private-sector organizations to respond to crisis and disasters. FEMA is responding on many fronts today in support of our nation's emergency managers, fire and emergency services professionals.
FEMA has a no-fail mission to ensure the nation is prepared for all hazards — not just natural hazards that many of us have experienced or threats that may come about because of acts of terrorism, acts of violence, or failures of technology, but also those disasters and those events we may not have experienced yet. We must also be prepared to build a team that is not just based on FEMA. This responsibility means that we have to look at our citizens as a resource, not as a liability in our plans. We have to integrate and build capacity and capability at the local, state, and federal levels that incorporates the volunteer, faith-based, and community-based organizations in addition to the private sector. We cannot look at our challenges and try to determine what we will do based on our capabilities; our actions must be based on what the challenges are.
We cannot forget that many of our citizens, because of inequities, do not have resources and face additional challenges during hazardous events. That cannot be an afterthought in our planning. We cannot write a plan for disability preparedness after we write our main plan. It has to be incorporated as a core element of how we make sure that our most vulnerable citizens are part of the plan.
Mayorkas values the vital role that FEMA undertakes for DHS and the nation. He will ensure FEMA has the resources and capacity so that FEMA can get back to what works best; serving as a support to our states, local, tribal and territorial governments and other federal agencies. We know that disasters are best managed at the local level, with the governors leading the charge of the state, counties and cities they know best. Having worked with Mayorkas for nearly eight years, I know that he understands this support role and will ensure the department is prioritizing this key responsibility. I know he will ensure FEMA’s autonomy within DHS and that the broader first responder community has the support and resources they desperately need. And I am confident that he will work with President-elect Biden to appoint an administrator at FEMA that has a background in emergency preparedness and response that is up to the challenge this time demands.
The Senate should swiftly confirm Mayorkas so that no time is wasted to make sure America is equipped to prepare for and respond to disasters. After all, disasters do not operate on Senate schedules, climate change isn’t waiting for COVID-19 to conclude, and we know more extreme events will come. Let’s be ready.
Craig Fugate was the FEMA administrator under President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAfter the loss of three giants of conservation, Biden must pick up the mantle Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy, and the politics of rage Former Obama White House adviser pleads guilty to wire fraud MORE and the head of Florida's Emergency Management Agency under Gov. Jeb Bush. In November 2020, he was a member of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head David Weil: Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time Biden's voting rights gamble prompts second-guessing MORE’s transition Agency Review Team for matters related to the Department of Homeland Security.