James Lee Witt Effective Leadership Of Fema

2310 words - 10 pages

In 1989, our great nation was hit by two devastating natural disasters; Hurricane Hugo and the San Francisco (Loma Prieta) earthquake. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck the Florida Coast and caused tremendous damage and death. After these major natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) came under severe scrutiny about its lack of responsiveness, preparedness and communication. When James Lee Witt took over as Director of FEMA in 1993, he refocused the agency’s direction toward improving disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. He was able to elevate an agency that was viewed negatively by most Americans to an agency that was focused, responsive and ...view middle of the document...

One of the most impressive organizational changes he brought into FEMA was an increase in authority in disaster management at a national level. By communicating his overall mission and goals for FEMA to the President of the United States, Witt captured the support and approval from President Clinton.
This permitted FEMA to have full responsibility and authority for response and recovery efforts at a national level. “Effective leadership will enable the coordination of relief activities among various actors involved in the emergency response through cooperation” (Waugh Jr. and Streib). Waugh and Streib emphasize that an effective leader is one that can coordinate and manage multiple teams in an organized and efficient manner. Especially when it comes to emergency management, experienced leaders understand that responding quickly and effectively during a crisis is vital to the success of any government agency. How they organize support teams, improve collaboration and communications are only a few important characteristics and skills that a strong leader must embrace to be successful. Building relationships, enhancing coordination efforts and having a shared goal that everyone knows and understand is what an effective leader must accomplish during a major emergency. “The lack of leadership at the highest level of the emergency response structure is considered as one of the biggest factors hindering the governmental relief efforts” (Thevenaz and Resodihardjo). Thevenaz and Resodihardjo make a valid point that lack of leadership, especially at the federal level, can negatively influence the recovery efforts during a disaster. The fact is that local municipalities and states cannot handle large disasters on their own, so having federal support and a leader in charge of that support is essential. Witt demonstrated that under his leadership, FEMA was able handled large-scale multi-jurisdiction disasters with efficiency and professionalism. As Jordan Royer explains in regards to Witt’s effective leadership, “he coordinated federal response and support by implementing temporary housing assistance, low interest business loans, mitigating money and a multi-state network of temporary employees to help during crisis time, which was critical and important to the public” (Royer).
One of the first goals in James Lee Witt’s mission was to create an emergency management partnership with other federal agencies, state and local governments, volunteering organizations, and the private sectors. This was definitely one of the most important objectives of Witt’s because it meant better collaboration between multiple organizations at different levels of government. Collaboration efforts mean coordination between multiple parties, including the public. Celine Thevenaz and Sandra Resodihardjo explain this idea in their writings about the collaboration function for emergency management. They believe that collaboration efforts are executed successfully only when...

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