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FEMA boosts resources and staff after Katrina

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AMERICA'S EMERGENCY management agency is to increase its permanent workforce by 1,500 following criticism of its handling of the hurricane relief effort in New Orleans last year.

Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would get more resources and technology to monitor disasters.

Chertoff said the recruitment drive was to reduce reliance on volunteers.

'We cannot continue to rely primarily on volunteers to provide services in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

FEMA will develop a highlytrained nucleus of permanent employees to serve as its core disaster workforce.' Chertoff said he would also cut the red tape surrounding the hiring of local contractors for debris removal.

He said the post Hurricane Katrina clear-up of New Orleans had been hampered by 'an unbelievably complicated contracting and reimbursement process between FEMA, the states, and the people removing the debris'.

He also pledged that these changes would be in place by June 1, the start of the hurricane season.

US government watchdog the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week highlighted failures at FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

These included 'significant breakdowns in vital areas such as emergency communications [and] obtaining essential supplies and equipment'.

The GAO and the DHS Inspector General said that hundreds of millions of dollars in aid had been wasted on fraudulent claims for assistance. Money was also wasted on temporary housing which sank.

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