Former FEMA Chief from Arkansas Says Agency Needs to Break Away from Homeland Security

FEBRUARY 17, 2006 - Posted at 8:14 a.m. CST

CONWAY, AR - The former chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Bill Clinton says that agency needs to be on its own, instead of being a part of the federal Homeland Security Department.

James Lee Witt ran FEMA during the 1990s.  He said Thursday that the agency had gone from being a household name to a disgrace since it was merged into Homeland Security after the 2001 terror attacks.

Witt, who is from Arkansas, told students at the University of Central Arkansas that the country is unprepared for natural disasters.

Witt says FEMA should become more efficient by focusing on disaster preparedness and prevention, employing new technologies and hand-held computers, and streamlining bureaucratic procedures.

Witt now runs a Washington-based public safety and crisis management consulting firm.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)