FEMA whistleblower: “A dark culture has grown behind closed doors. It’s time to open them.”

images-2This is a truthout story, and can’t be reprinted without permission. Too bad!

“John Dennehy” blows the whistle on FEMA, from behind a false name, “for protection from retaliation.”

From Idealism to Cynicism at FEMA

Here’s one excerpt that gives the flavor. Talk about a “bullshit job“! Notice how recruits’ original motivation to help in disasters gets corrupted and degraded by the FEMA culture.

In our 10-hour shift that day, we only got out of the car at one church. “It’s better that we don’t go inside,” Jacques said. “Sometimes these people just want to talk, but all we need are numbers.” We drove by four other churches, wrote down their addresses, then guessed at the numbers we would need to include in our end-of-day report: size of congregation; percent affected by Sandy; and language needs. I said nothing. For some reason the zip code we were assigned was far from any water and mostly unaffected by the storm. Maybe he is only making up numbers because there was so little damage in the area, we wouldn’t do this on a normal day, I thought. I hoped.

We went to a Wendy’s for lunch. I only ordered a baked potato – I hadn’t worked up much of an appetite. Jacques had a burger and fries, then went back up for ice cream and retrieved his laptop from the car to write personal emails. We stayed two hours. Jacques said, serious for the first time, “If you are assigned a different supervisor, you can’t tell them my methods, and I don’t want to know how anyone else works. Just stay in your lane, and this will be a good job for you.”

“Stay in your lane” is a FEMA mantra, drilled into us throughout training and reinforced regularly in the field. Officially, it means employees must not wander outside their specific responsibilities to prevent interference and duplication; unofficially, it became the rationale for not doing work and a defense against criticism.

About Ann Kreilkamp

PhD Philosophy, 1972. Rogue philosopher ever since.
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