WASHINGTON -- Senators have agreed on a compromise to restructure and expand the Federal Emergency Management Agency, restoring some of its responsibilities.
The FEMA director, currently R. David Paulison, would have direct access to the president in a crisis, but the agency would remain a part of the Homeland Security Department. The compromise will be included in a budget bill Congress is scheduled to vote on this month.
Senator Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, worked out the compromise late Friday with Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the committee's top Democrat.
``This legislation will provide FEMA with the authority, resources, and leadership necessary to help us be better prepared for the next catastrophe, whether it is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack," Collins said yesterday.
The plan, which now goes to House-Senate negotiators, includes stricter requirements on who can serve as FEMA director. The director would double as the president's chief adviser for emergency management, report directly to Congress, and gain Cabinet-level status during a major disaster.
``Its mission is explicitly all-hazards emergency management, rather than focused solely on either natural or man-made disasters," the proposal says.