Remember my earlier point that disaster management in New Orleans had been privatised, the ‘catastrophic hurricane disaster plan’ having been handed over to Baton Rouge-based Innovative Emergency Management last year? Watching this nightmare unfold, I’ve been wondering why no fucking one is asking what exactly IEM got paid for.
It’s turning out to be very hard to find out, for rather startling reasons.
In my first post on this, I quoted their original press release:
IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Don’t bother trying the link to that release on the original post. It doesn’t work any more.
With a background in Urban Planning and Transportation Engineering, Ms. Beriwal is also a recognized expert in evacuation modeling. She received a Special Merit Award from the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association for “her outstanding contribution to the civil defense agencies of southeast Louisiana in the development of the Hurricane Survival Plan.”
Under Ms. Beriwal’s skilled management, IEM’s revenues have grown over 700% in the last 5 years, and its workforce has nearly tripled. The company’s accomplishments were publicly rewarded in 1999, when the Small Business Administration in New Orleans, Louisiana, presented Ms. Beriwal with its annual Soaring Eagle Award, which recognized IEM as a high-growth company that has built strong capabilities for future growth.
Hmm. Anybody know what actually happened to these guys? Did they just blow off the job to focus on more lucrative anti-terrorist stuff or did they actually cobble together some kind of plan and, if so, what happened to it?
So what exactly is IEM anyway? Funny you should ask.
IEM’s president is a woman named Madhu Beriwal. If you plug in her name (along with a misspelled version, Madhu Berwal) to opensecrets.org, the online campaign finance site run by the Center for Responsive Politics, you’ll discover she’s been a very good friend to the Republican Party and some of its members in Louisiana.
Now, from the background provided on its corporate website, IEM certainly seems like a firm well-suited to this task. And from the bits and pieces about the “Pam” exercise already out in the press, it sounds like the exercise actually did a pretty good job of predicting what happened last week. Among other things, at least one of the officials participating in the exercise concluded, according to a 2004 account in the Times-Picayune, that the people who did not leave the city would be left “on their own for several days.” If the government failed to plan for these contingencies, an IEM spokesman implied in today’s Wall Street Journal, that’s the fault of FEMA–not the firm.
Still, seeing that list of donations, it’s hard not to wonder how, exactly, IEM got this assignment–and what it says about the administration’s broader approach to disaster preparedness. After all, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the Bush administration used government jobs and contracts to reward political financiers.