FEMA Disaster Website Suddenly Less Transparent

Matt Mayer /

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been out of control in its disaster declarations, and the Obama Administration has issued more of these than any President—costing taxpayers billions. The government has made this information readily searchable online, until recently.

At some point in the last couple of months, FEMA altered its website to prevent date-based searches of disaster declarations.

For years, the FEMA website provided users with a very simple tool to search disaster declarations. Users could search by state, disaster type, declaration type, and by date. This last search capability allowed users to conduct searches by year, presidential Administration, decade, or any other date-based framework. Users could easily search by date how many hurricanes resulted in disaster declarations each year.

Why the alteration?

Perhaps this chart explains why FEMA would want to prevent users from making similar charts. I have used the chart many times over the last few years to illustrate just how out of control FEMA is. Unable to justify the enormous federalization of disasters that occurred over the last two decades, maybe FEMA removed the key search element to make it harder to keep it accountable.

In case you were wondering how 2012 was stacking up, with roughly three months to go, FEMA has issued 80 declarations. Twenty-eight of those declarations were Major Disaster Declarations, where the federal government picks up 75 percent or more of the tab. These declarations were issued despite the fact that the hurricane season has been very slow and no major earthquakes have struck the United States.

Assuming the Obama Administration keeps the pace from the first nine months of the year, it will end the year with 107 declarations, just one shy of its lowest year. That would leave President Barack Obama ending his first term with a yearly average of 143 declarations—the most ever by a President and a solid 13 declarations per year more than President George W. Bush’s yearly average.

Other than a big decline during President Ronald Reagan’s two terms, the yearly average per President will have gone up every Administration, with major jumps from Reagan (28 declarations per year) to George H. W. Bush (43.6 per year, a 56 percent jump) to Bill Clinton (89.5 per year, a 105 percent jump) to George W. Bush (129.6 per year, a 45 percent jump) to President Obama (143 per year, a 10 percent jump).

Where will it end? Who knows, but FEMA has made it harder for you to find out.