Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau: Author News
Trump has to rely on the 'swamp' for Hurricane Harvey response


Sep 05, 2017

By Juliette Kayyem,

Hurricane Harvey is destined to be the first major homeland security and emergency management crisis the Trump administration has faced. And, ironically, it is at this moment that President Donald Trump will be judged on how well he lets a bureaucracy he so often maligns or denigrates actually do its job.

By all accounts, Hurricane Harvey will deliver a gut punch of rain, wind and storm surges in Texas. And though weather, like a teenager's mood, is unpredictable, this storm is not slowing down -- it is rapidly gaining strength, and forecasters say it's likely to be a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall.

Harvey is expected to hit the Texas coast somewhere near Corpus Christi Friday night and potentially linger there for a few days. Texas residents are bracing for the potential of serious danger and significant damage.
President Trump, this is not a test.

Though there have been many crises to speak of during Trump's tenure, for the most part they have been self-created. Think, for example, of the first days of the administration: a Muslim ban planned in secret, implemented in haste, with no operational input -- all ultimately leading to rallies, protests and lawsuits.

This administration is about to face a challenge from without -- an act-of-God type challenge -- and it will be judged on whether it has sufficiently nurtured and empowered the bureaucracy -- which it has often dubbed the "swamp" -- to allow it to do what it needs to do: that is, to support local and state planning to prepare for the storm and respond once it hits.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) serves as the point agency for any major crisis like this, its job is to engage the entire federal apparatus to lean in to help the response effort, but not to lead it. Since Hurricane Katrina, federal, state and local agencies have spent considerable time and effort focusing on unified preparedness and response activities. They have the plans; they know what to do.

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