Illustration for article titled This Tale of a Failed FEMA Contract Will Reassure You About the State of Emergency Preparedness (Just Kidding!)

Any mom or Boy Scout could tell you that a lot of “emergency management” is being prepared beforehand. Perhaps FEMA should take a note?


The New York Times has delved into the agency’s flurry of contracting immediately after Hurricane Maria, as FEMA attempted to cope with the crisis in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. The paper reported that the agency handed an entrepreneur “with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past” a contract for $156 million and told her to provide 30 million meals. It didn’t go well:

By the time 18.5 million meals were due, Tribute had delivered only 50,000. And FEMA inspectors discovered a problem: The food had been packaged separately from the pouches used to heat them. FEMA’s solicitation required “self-heating meals.”

“Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated,” Carolyn Ward, the FEMA contracting officer who handled Tribute’s agreement, wrote to Ms. Brown in an email dated Oct. 19 that Ms. Brown provided to The New York Times. “This is a logistical nightmare.”


(The contractor filed an appeal and is hoping for a $70 million settlement, saying FEMA did not “did not specify that the meals and heaters had to be together.”)

FEMA told the Times that, this contract notwithstanding, they had “ample” food and water from other suppliers. “At the time of the contract termination there were ample commodity supplies in the pipeline, and distribution was not affected,” said FEMA spokesperson William Booher. “During the 2017 hurricane season FEMA sourced over 200 million meals through multiple vendors in order to support disaster response activities across multiple disasters.”

But rather than a story of one simple clusterfuck, Democratic lawmakers are concerned it indicates broader problems that bode ill for the next disaster:

On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating the contract, asked Representative Trey Gowdy, the committee chairman, to subpoena FEMA for all documents relating to the agreement. Lawmakers fear the agency is not lining up potential contractors in advance of natural disasters, leading it to scramble to award multimillion-dollar agreements in the middle of a crisis.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a bipartisan congressional investigation found that a failure to secure advance contracts led to chaos and potential for waste and fraud. Democrats asserted that FEMA was similarly inept preparing for this storm.


I’m beginning to worry that our government is being run by clowns, monsters, and clown-monsters!

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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