U.S. Sen. David Vitter today led the rest of the Louisiana Congressional delegation in writing President Obama to urge him to strengthen the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding. In the letter to the president, the delegation applauded the recent extension of the office for an additional seven months and requested that the president consider a number of enhancements to the office.
"When this office was first created by President Bush, I joined others in calling for the coordinator to have more authority and autonomy in decision-making," said Vitter. "It has often proved difficult for the coordinator to get all involved parties on the same page and this has hindered progress. In order to ensure that recovery programs can effectively continue, I believe that the power of the coordinator needs to be enhanced."
"President Obama's decision to extend the Gulf Coast Rebuilding Office for seven months was a step in the right direction, but unfortunately not a silver bullet," U.S. Sen. Landrieu said. "The success of this Office's mission hinges directly upon the support and authority its federal coordinator is granted. To accelerate Louisiana's hurricane recovery, the coordinator needs the ability to orchestrate greater agency coordination and to streamline the bureaucratic review process. I look forward to meeting with the Obama Administration to discuss these improvements and to encourage White House officials to keep the Gulf Coast Rebuilding Office open for an additional two years."
"By extending the Federal Coordinator's position for seven months, President Obama has shown his commitment to improving hurricane recovery efforts in our state," said U.S. Rep. Alexander. "I hope he will further streamline the recovery process by expanding the scope of authority and duration of this role."
"Rebuilding the Gulf Coast is a complex and critical mission that deserves the full weight of the White House behind it. Louisianians have seen our recovery hobbled because the Federal Rebuilding Coordinator did not have the authority to make needed changes in federal policy. Elevating the Coordinator to a White House level office will empower them to streamline recovery efforts, strengthening their support for state and local officials in rebuilding south Louisiana," said U.S. Charlie Melancon.
"We must all work to cut through FEMA's red tape and get results for Louisiana's coast. I continue to work to make sure the Gulf Coast Coordinator and staff have the resources and authority to get things done," said U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany.
"Our delegation has articulated a concrete plan to improve the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding and we are looking forward to working with the White House to implement these very important recommendations to expedite the recovery of Southeast Louisiana," said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise.
"The storms of 2005 and 2008 still reverberate across Louisiana. Because successful recovery depends on a coordinated response across several agencies, the Rebuilding Office should have the ability to cut through the red tape to get results," said U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.
"The president extending the office's mandate and giving thoughtful consideration of its function is an encouraging first step in keeping his commitment to the Gulf Coast. I look forward to working with Mr. Obama and my colleagues in the Louisiana delegation to ensure that the office is restructured and given the proper authority to carry out its mission," said U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao.
"Extending the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding is crucial for our state. Having the ability to cut through red tape' is essential to provide the assistance communities need as they continue to recover from the devastation left by four major hurricanes in a three and a half year time frame," said U.S. Rep. John Fleming. "Housing and flood protection continue to top the list of concerns for Louisiana and allowing the office of the coordinator to have expanded authority will only help expedite Louisiana's recovery."
The delegation suggested that the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding be elevated to a White House level office and that a full-time Housing and Urban Development liaison be assigned to the office. Housing has proven to be a critical component of the recovery process, and the assignment of this liaison would streamline communication between the agencies. The delegation also suggested that a liaison from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers be assigned to help streamline communication between the coordinator and the Corps. Finally, the delegation requested that the Office of the Coordinator be extended for two years, as Senator Landrieu recently suggested.
"The federal recovery office has made great strides to help the Gulf Coast recover from the hurricanes of 2005 and 2008," Vitter added. "It's of the utmost importance that the work of this office be allowed to continue. But beyond simply extending the office, we should really think about areas for improvement. By strengthening the powers of the office, we can provide the coordinator with the authority and flexibility needed to help move these important recovery projects forward."