Hurricane season begins without appointed leadership for NOAA, FEMA

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By: Charles Roop
June 4, 2017

Courtesy: MGN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Just days after the Atlantic hurricane season started, an effort has been in place by local, state and federal agencies to make sure people are prepared for whatever this season may bring. But some are wondering if a couple of key federal agencies are ready.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and FEMA are still without permanent leadership, according to recent news reports.

As a former President Barack Obama appointee, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan left the NOAA administrator post in January. Since then, Benjamin Friedman has been the acting administrator for the agency that also houses the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center. CNN reports that the current president, Donald Trump, has yet to make an appointment for NOAA administrator.

Trump made an appointment in April for the FEMA position. He selected Brock Long, a former director of Alabama's Emergency Management Agency. Long, who needs to be voted by the U.S. Senate, is scheduled for a hearing with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee on Wednesday.

For now, Robert Fenton is the acting head of FEMA.

The lack of permanent leadership has a few wondering if they are ready for the season.

"That should scare the hell out of everybody," retired US Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré told CNN. "These positions help save lives."

Craig Fugate was the previous Obama-appointed FEMA director. Fuage was Florida's director of the Division of Emergency Management under former Gov. Jeb Bush's leadership. He told the Tampa Bay Times that both agencies are in good hands for the moment, but noted that appointed leaders should be running the show with policy priorities from the current administration.

Both agencies say that despite the vacancies for the appointed positions, they are ready for the hurricane season that NOAA projects to be near average to above average.