September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Testimony of Joe M. Allbaugh United States Senate Committee On Environment And Public Works; October 16, 2001

Testimony of Joe M. Allbaugh
United States Senate Committee
On Environment And Public Works
Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Chairman, Senator Jim Jeffords: (I-VT)

I would like to welcome everyone in attendance here today. I would especially like to welcome Director Allbaugh and the other witnesses that we will be hearing from.

We are here this morning to discuss the emergency response to the horrible events of September 11th. To learn from these experiences and to offer the help of the Committee on Environment and Public Works in preparing future relief efforts.

I visited both the Pentagon and World Trade Center shortly after the unfortunate tragic events of September 11th, another day that will sadly live in infamy. The devastation I witnessed was incredible and difficult to put into words. Thousands of people lost their lives, due to the cruel and cunning acts of evil perpetrated by a few. The victims of these attacks were men, women and children, people with well laid out plans for pleasant and prosperous futures.

At these two disaster sites, I also saw the incredible courage and the dedication of firefighters, urban search and rescuers, and other emergency personnel responding to the disaster. People from Vermont, Ohio, Virginia and California, and many points in between came to the rescue.

I witnessed the tireless effort of the men and women of FEMA working hard to coordinate the relief effort. Although I left both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center with a heavy heart, I also left with a profound sense of gratitude for the gallant efforts of countless rescuers and volunteers who tirelessly, and mostly anonymously, worked in places reserved only for the ground zero heroes.

In the month following the attack I have spoken to many people -- Vermonters and others about the attack. They have all expressed profound sadness of our Nation's great loss. But they had also imbued me with a feeling that freedom will prevail. And good will triumph over evil. That these horrible attacks cannot break our resolve to stand together as free Americans.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Freedom is the last best hope on Earth." Terrorists may have destroyed these buildings, but they cannot destroy the hope that freedom provides.

Today, we assemble to commend the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in responding to this disaster. We assemble to commend the work of emergency responders who gave so much of themselves in serving others. And we assemble to hear what remains to be done in the aftermath of these sad events. To this end, the Committee is also considering several legislative proposals to help FEMA better respond to this disaster and any future incidents.

Additionally, in the last few weeks this Committee has received security related briefings from all the federal agencies we oversee including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Transportation and the General Services Administration and others. The most important message I have taken from these meetings is that the federal government is working around the clock to protect our Nation.

These briefings have also resulted in the request for additional authority from Congress. I want to put my Members on notice that in the coming weeks the Environment and Public Works Committee will be putting together a legislative package to deal with the security needs of the Nation. This package will include proposals put forth by the Agencies we oversee of this Committee, and the recommendations given to me by the Members of the Committee.

Finally I would like to address Mr. Allbaugh and the many of those who responded directly to the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks. I cannot possibly understand how difficult it must have been to have personally toiled amidst the devastation and trauma. As a Nation we need to heal. Our thoughts go first to the victims of the families in those attacks, but we must not forget the first responders are human.

Firefighters, search and rescue personnel, and other member of the emergency response community faced extreme stress from these traumatic events. Coping with the intense feelings and shock will take time. I hope all of the emergency response personnel will take this time and look for support when needed and look at for us. I want you to know how proud all of us are for your work that you have done. I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses, and I now turn to my good friend, Senator Smith.

Senator Bob Smith: (R-NH)

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman and thank you for holding the Hearing, and thank you Mr. Allbaugh and all of the witnesses for being here today.

Sitting here this morning I'm reminded of the Thomas Payne quote, "That these are the times that try men's souls. The sunshine patriots will shrink from the surface of their country."

No sunshine patriots here.

And even as we speak part of the Senate Office Building next door is closed down as they check air vents and other office spaces for Anthrax; staff is out, cannot use there offices. I don't think I'd ever dream that we would ever face anything like this.

But I want to say a very special welcome to all of you for being here.

Director Allbaugh I don't know if you recall but before your confirmation you came in to my office and we talked about how we needed to focus on terrorism and preparedness and the response. And little did you know how quickly you were going to be baptized in that. But I do welcome you here today, and look forward to discussing your role in response to September 11th. And I point out from this Senator's perspective; I mean just that, hearing about your response you have done a fantastic job all of you and there is nothing but we want to heap the praise on you that you deserve but also hear from you about what happened.

I want to thank all of your staff and the volunteers that fall under the FEMA umbrella for the tireless work that they have done in the past several weeks. I must say, as I've just said to you privately, I've never been a Yankees fan but last night seeing Giuliani sit in the stands and watching the Yankees win that game and come back from three back it was kind of a good feeling even though I'm not a Yankee fan. And seeing Jeter dive into the stands to catch a ball to save the ball game was very interesting.

I spoke with so many of you when I was in New York and also at the Pentagon following the attack, a few days after the attack. All of you, especially if you're talking to the firemen and the policemen and the rescue workers, search and rescue, you're the embodiment of professionalism and patriotism and kindness and emotion.

I could not help but be visibly moved as we were there I think six days after New York, after September 11th I believe, and to see the firemen and the rescue workers coming out of those ruins with the emotion, with the disappointment of not finding anybody alive as you come out. And at the same time the emotion of that. It was truly just an experience that I'll never forget.

We have here today Mr. Chairman, the Chief of the Arlington County Fire Department who played a vital role in responding to the attack at the Pentagon, and two members of the search and rescue teams that were called upon by FEMA to respond to the World Trade Center disaster. The three of you that are here not just representing your individual units but you're representing every single man and woman all over America and all emergency personnel for the tremendous job you did at both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. You responded from all over the Nation.

Who and what you represent is the best that this Nation has to offer. And it's interesting because we think often times of the military and they are as well the best. But in both deeds and spirit, you have joined those ranks.

I mean I know I embarrass you when I say it, but you're heroes. Every one of you.

It's not used too often these days, sometimes maybe it's not used often enough. I remember as a kid in grade school, we thought about being a fireman or a policeman. And if I had chosen that route I'd certainly could never be prouder than I am of all of you today.

You are the embodiment of the American Spirit, which is that gift which makes this Nation so different from all others. And as President Bush said so well the other day, "You will never break that spirit."

I mean we're not just people, we're not just buildings, you know, the spirit is what America is. You made us proud. And Mr. Allbaugh you did as well.

So we're here this morning not only to listen how you did the response to those attacks, and how it all worked. But just as important to publicly thank you on behalf of the United States Senate and on behalf of the people of this Nation we wish to extend our deepest sympathy for the loss of your brothers and sisters who were on the scene first and gave their lives in the attempt to save others.

Remarkable heroism.

I read your testimony and will speak to you about it Capt. Messener when you come up. Your daily chronicles is just a tremendous, tremendous story. Your words brought back vividly my own memories of what I saw in New York when I was there.

Several, you use that term. The expanse of this disaster is difficult to comprehend. But I was touched by the card, the business card that you found wondering if that man had survived. I hope he did, but I don't know if you know, of if we'll ever know. But thank you all for being here. Thanks for the tremendous job that you did you are doing and will continue to do.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank you, Senator Voinovich.

Senator George Voinovich: (R-OH)

Mr. Chairman, first of all I would like to thank you for holding this hearing today. And also thank you for the time and effort that you have put in as Chairman of this Committee to carry out our responsibilities in terms of FEMA. I know that you have really given it everything that you have and I want to thank you publicly for that.

I would like to welcome Joe Allbaugh today.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you, sir.

Senator George Voinovich:

I've already thanked you in writing, Joe, for the outstanding job that you've done in your public appearances in comforting and reinsuring countless persons in this country that you're working to keep things under control and respond to the emergency situations that you encountered.

I know that you'd be the first one to admit that one of the nice things that happened to you is that you inherited a pretty good team from James Lee Witt. And that I know one of my concerns was when you came on board was that fires, tornadoes, disasters don't wait for confirmation hearings, they occur.

And I don't think you ever had any idea that you'd be encountering what you have during the last month or so. And I also know that the other agencies of government have been cooperative.

I was impressed, for example, that some of the folks I met up in New York were from the Department of Energy and that the Administration folks have just really pulled together in an unbelievable, unique way to respond to our crises.

In addition to that, I've been impressed and I know you've been impressed with the outstanding emergency response teams that we have in this country. And I know as a former mayor and governor, I wondered whether or not when something like this happened whether they had the ability to respond. And I think they showed us and the country how good they really are. And I'm really pleased that as one of the witnesses we have here today is Robert Hessinger from the Ohio Task Force that responded to the attack in New York.

One of the things that impressed me, Mr. Chairman, when we went to the Pentagon and met with Chief Phleiger that he talked about the emergency response teams from this region that were there right on the ball. I suspected chief that it would have been the federal government handling the Pentagon protection and found out it was Arlington, Prince George's and Fairfax that were there on the ball. It was their teams. Local government teams that were responding to that.

And found out from somebody from Nebraska emergency response team that my Ohio team, he was bragging about the Ohio team was up in New York. I had no idea. And I just want to say that from my perspective how proud I really am of what FEMA did but also the tremendous infrastructure that we have today in this country to deal with crises like we've had here in Washington and New York.

The real question that I've got this morning and I think we want to find out is just what you had in terms of resources? Were they adequate? Where are you today and how can we improve upon the situation, Joe?

I think that's really where we're at. Just what can we do to help you get the job done?

And I'm so please that the Chairman in his remarks was saying that we want to respond to what the Administration needs in terms of help. One of my real concerns, Mr. Chairman, is that all of us in our zeal to be helpful are coming up with all kinds of administrative models that we want to superimpose on the Administration at a time when the Administration is up to here in rattle snakes in terms of challenges that they have.

And it seems to me that one of the most important things that the Congress can do is to wait for the Administration to come back to us with their recommendations on how they think they can best get the job done and how we can help them to get that job done. The last thing I would want if I were the President of the United States is to have my Legislative body tell me what structure and how I was going to go about doing the job that I wanted to get done.

And I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on that today, Joe. And I'll be interested to see from the folks on the local level if they are satisfied with the set up that we have in place and their ideas on how we maybe help them to do a better job.

Last but not least, I want to join the Ranking Member and the Chairman of this Committee in thanking all of you for your service to your country. All of us are so proud of the way you responded. And all of us cannot help but grieve along with the families of your brothers and sisters who gave their lives for their fellow man.

One of the things that I always did as mayor and governor is I was there to swear in our police and our firemen and our state troopsers. And I did it because I wanted to remind the people of the great service and sacrifice of our people in uniform. You're taken for granted and I think today this Nation understands how really important you are. You were on the front lines and in my opinion give witness to the second great commandment that is "love of fellow man."

Thank you for your service.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank you, Senator. I would point out in case you were wondering where the rest of the Committee is. We're having a briefing on the events of yesterday. Let's leave it at that. Mr. Allbaugh, the Director, please proceed.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Smith, and Senator Voinovich.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning. I am always humbled and honored to come before this Committee as well as many other committees.

Actually I'll be brief in my remarks because I know you have several questions.

I'd just like to begin by telling you these folks that are sitting on the front row are the true heroes of everyday American life. And they represent heroes. Many men and women who put their lives on the line that we take for granted as Senator Voinovich said, they're always first in line for budget cuts and last in line for recognition, and I think as a result of September 11th that maybe these brave men and women will be due the admiration that they so richly deserve putting their lives on the line every minute of every day all across this country.

Five weeks ago this morning our world was transformed. At that time President Bush told me to make sure that the federal government would provide whatever assistance was needed in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. That mission is still at work in progress but I can assure you and the American public that FEMA's response was swift and comprehensive and our commitment of continued support is unwavering.

Since September 11th I've spent many days at ground zero in New York City. I have visited the site in Pennsylvania. I've been inside the Pentagon the Saturday after the event. Those places are where the true heroes are.

Those who were in their offices at work, grabbing a cup of coffee, on an airplane, and those who were first to respond to the tragic events -- the firefighters, the police officers, the emergency medical technicians -- all are gone now. But I can assure you they are not forgotten. Our prayers are still with those folks and their families.

Working hand and hand with Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, Fire Commissioner Tommy Von Essen, and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and many others we've begun the painful process of recovery.

Beginning on the 11th, FEMA deployed 26 of our 28 Nation Urban Search and Rescue Teams. Twenty-one went to New York ultimately, the last one checking out of New York a week ago this last Sunday. Five went to Northern Virginia at the Pentagon site. The New York City Office of Emergency Management's Task Force was among the first responders at the World Trade Center. It's leader, Chief Ray Downey, a person I was lucky to know, a great partner of FEMA was on the scene. Tragically he and his team never made it out.

I watch our rescue teams join New York City's finest and Virginia's finest working shoulder to shoulder around the clock to find their brothers and sisters and fellow citizens. These sites are truly hollowwd ground. Now our rescue teams have gone home and we are fully engaged in the recovery process. We have millions of tons of debris still to be moved out of New York City. It will take months.

As of this morning we've only moved out 300 million tons. Doesn't sound like very much compared to what we have to move.

Before and since the President signed the disaster declarations for Pennsylvania, for New Jersey, for Virginia and New York, FEMA activated the Federal Response Plan. And to your point, Senator Voinovich, I think what we were suppose to do in this event worked just like it was suppose to according to the Federal Response Plan.

We activated our Emergency Operation Center here and in our ten regions. We established disaster field offices in Virginia and New York and New Jersey. And declared these disasters with public assistance at 100 percent for eligible cost.

Our biggest concern currently is to make sure that the right assistance is getting to the right people. Many people need counseling. They will need counseling for a long time to come. Many qualify for individual assistance. I want to make sure that those people are helped.

In addition we are there to help states and local governments with their public assistance needs. Such as their public buildings, road, streets and emergency protective measures. Making sure that these men and women are reimbursed for their time, their material, their equipment in proper fashion.

In the past months thousand of federal employees have been working day and night at our disaster field offices at these three sites. Today we still have 1300 FEMA employees deployed to New York City. Our job is not finished but we will see it through to the end.

In the meantime we're currently looking at all aspects of our disaster response in those three states to determine the lessons learned to be better prepared for the future. We're also working with President Bush and his Administration on any new legislative needs. As we continue to move forward with the recovery I will let you know promptly if there is any new need for authorities.

Let me conclude on a personal note if you don't mind.

I attended about ten days ago and spoke at the funeral of Capt. Terry Hadden in New York City. Two weeks prior to that on August 29th I had the fortune to sit down with his members at Rescue One on 43rd Street in New York City to have a lunch for an hour and a half with those individuals.

Chief Ray Downey was there with 13 or 14 of us around the table. We had a great time. I try to stop in at our country's firehouses every opportunity that I'm out on the road. It is amazing what I'm able to learn -- what their needs are; what their wishes, wants, hopes -- they are a true family in those firehouses all across the country.

And in that short hour and a half I became, I thought, a small part of their family.

The night before Terry's funeral I attended a wake in New York City. And his wife ,Beth, who subsequently found out that she was pregnant with their first child after September 11th, Terry never knew, handed me a small card. On one side it was a short life history of Terry and on the back part of the card was the Firemen's Prayer.

And I'd like to close just with the last sentence of that prayer because I think it says so much about men and women who wear the uniform of our country's military. It says so much about the firemen, and the firewomen, and the police officers and the emergency responders and all of those individuals who lost their lives on September 11th.

And it goes something like this.

"If according to my fate I am to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my family, friends and wife."

For Terry Hadden, Ray Downey, Joe Angelline, Dennis Moheka and thousands of other souls that were lost on that fateful day, I hope that those of us still living and thriving can help provide that protecting hand to all the families and loved ones.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for this opportunity. I know that you have a lot of questions but I do appreciate the opportunity to be here his morning.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Well, thank you very much for your very moving story. And all of us join you in doing what we can. And that's one thing I would like to try and find out is what we can do to help families have closure on the events and yet - at the same time recognize that their love ones died for a cause - freedom, and we should recognize that.

But we have some business to get to too, so I'm sure...Did you know that this Committee sent a letter to the White House shortly after the September 11th attacks pledging out support for FEMA's Disaster Relief Efforts.

Today I again say that we are willing to work with FEMA to aid disaster relief efforts. To date, have you identified any areas where additional legislation of authority is needed to aid in these results, efforts rather?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Mr. Chairman, I don't think there are any immediate needs of authority for FEMA. Our principle response is to facilitate and coordinate those needs that local entities and state entities need when a disaster arises.

I would like to say that at all three sites, I'm proud of the way FEMA responded to these disasters approaching it with the right attitude in that as the Chief can tell you in Virginia he was in charge of that site. In New York City, Commissioner Tommy Von Essen, Police Commissioner Kerik were and still are in charge of those sites. And we brought all the federal assets that we possible could to assist them.

In New York City alone we had something like 18 federal agencies at our disaster field office. At no time have I ever experienced an unwillingness on the part of any individual that represented any federal agency to not be of assistance.

I think you will hear this morning from these gentlemen ways in which we can possibly improve parts of our Urban Search and Rescue efforts. I'm not necessarily sure that we need more teams, quite frankly, but we need to expand their capabilities.

Debris removal is an awesome effort in New York City. It will probably cost us, and these are guesstimates, between seven and ten billion dollars just to clean up the site. We have the capability. We have the authorities right now in place for us to do our job.

Our disaster field office is open around the clock. We have Pier 94 in cooperation with the City of New York is set aside for family members. We have a family assistance center downtown at 141 Worth Street, the intersection of Worth and Center. We have a disaster field office in Northern Virginia, trying to make sure that all those individuals and their families who have been effected by this incident are taken care of.

I mentioned in my remarks counseling. I am deeply concern about our capability to provide proper counseling, not only for the victims but for the men and women who are working these incidents. They need a lot of attention and this isn't something thats just going to happen overnight. It will take years to get over this.

I know, being from Oklahoma, I know individuals personally who are yet to be over the incident of April 19, 1995 the Oklahoma City Bombing. This is probably our biggest task ahead of us, making sure that we have proper professionals that are trained to assist these families and those rescue workers along the way to recovery.

Senator George Voinovich:

What do they have available to them now?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

The way we operate, we contract with the city and the state to bring in the necessary professionals as they see fit. Roe Keefe runs Pier 94 who is a city employee, works directly for Mayor Giuliani has done a phenomenal job. I am so proud to even know her, handling thousands of individuals who come in and are wanting to bring closure to this part of their life.

We have individuals from the state health organizations in New York, state health organizations in Virginia, in Pennsylvania on site, at our DFOs, assisting those family members as they continue their grieving process. And, unfortunately, as human beings we need, a body to bring closure to this. And I'm afraid in many instances there will be many families who will go on forever with many more questions than we have answers to. And those are the ones that I'm most concerned about.

The crisis counseling, the supply of individuals from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, the professionals are a ready reservoir and we're calling upon them. We just need to make sure that we have the money to pay them for their time to assist these families as they try to bring closure to this event.

Senator George Voinovich:

This has truly been a most painful and unfortunate chapter in the country's history, thousands as you say lost their lives. This disaster is unlike any other that we've seen in the past. Given the enormity of the relief effort, what are the greatest lessons that FEMA has learned from this?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I would say probably our greatest lesson is to lean as far forward out of the foxholes as we possibly can. We can never underestimate what our needs may be in the future. We often times find ourselves on the receiving end of phone calls and responding appropriately.

I think there is a need for not only we at FEMA but the entire federal government to re-think how we approach every day life and the way we do our business. Often times in these disasters, particularly on the 11th, I second guess ourselves whether we moved quickly enough. I know I immediately activated the Urban Search and Rescue Teams and we moved three or four in that afternoon of the 11th into New York City.

I'm not sure how we could have moved any quicker quite frankly. At that time as you remember we were bringing down all the airplanes across the country and transportation became an issue. But that's the only issue we had was the availability of those aircraft to get back up into the air. We had plenty of aircraft to move our teams into position at the Pentagon and in New York, but it was a logistical problem that took a few hours to work out. And we did work it out.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Senator Smith.

Senator Bob Smith:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I will start by saying that Senator Inhofe had a funeral to attend in Oklahoma so he asked me to personally extend his regards to you and to all the rescue folks who are here.

There's often times in government operations from Senators, or I guess the President on down, right down to the various bureaucracies. There's a lot of criticism about how government doesn't work. I don't think there were any government workers, we were all human beings, and we all work together. It's just a great tribute. It makes me proud to be an American. And so I want to thank you again. I can't say it enough.

I don't have any hard questions to throw at you Joe. I will just make a couple of comments.

I think that as the Office of National Preparedness is put together and as Governor Ridge begins working with the President, to be able to construct that office or lay out how it's going to be functional, how it's going to function. Of course that is going to have some impact on FEMA, and I'm not going to ask you about how that would work now because obviously we don't know yet.

But I will just ask you to stay in touch with us here on the Committee so if there are any legislative initiatives that need to be done to help make that office function in conjunction with FEMA, we'd like to know that so we can get out ahead on it so we can get it done quickly.

As we don't have any idea how long this crisis is going last here in this country. And also if it takes administrative changes then let us know what they are and we'll be supportive.

Just one question. There was such a great, we had so much professionalism in the D.C. area and the New York area, do you have any idea, maybe I might ask you the same question, the other panel when they come. If it had been in an area that was not a large of a metropolitan area, some type of tragedy, would the results have been any different in terms of working, not necessarily in terms of patriotism and the involvement obviously, but just in terms of how smoothly it would have worked with FEMA and the local officials? Would there have been any difference do you think?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

The Chief could probably speak better to this than I could. But from my perspective as the Director, I cannot imagine any better working relationship than what we had at the Pentagon or in New York City, and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. I do believe though that had this happened in most cities in the United States, the need, the demand, the requirement to respond probably would have overwhelmed local capabilities.

So in that respect, I think that we had this event here at the Pentagon, New York City they were prepared.

Fortunately the Chief had Montgomery County and Fairfax County in his hip pocket to rely upon. He has a great working relationship with those individuals, knew exactly their pluses and minuses. And knew what he could call upon from those groups to perform at the Pentagon.

And New York City was just a little bit different. You have 16,000 firefighters, 40,000 police officers in the City of New York. And if you will remember, the fire department lost its leadership. And there was a tremendous void. And without that command and control, leadership structure, things do become chaotic. And it becomes problematic for the incident commander to respond appropriately knowing exactly where all of his members are at any one given moment, or where he needs to attack the fire or where the individuals are.

So without that leadership I think it became more difficult on New York City to respond. Obviously, there were a lot of brothers and sisters lost in the rubble and they were emotionally involved to try as hard as they possibly could to recover those individuals.

We were able, utilizing the United States Fire Administration, to bring in some individuals to help the City of New York in their restructuring of their leadership. But I would say that was the only glitch that we had. And it's really not glitch it was just a by-product of the event quite frankly.

I do worry about the capabilities of local and state responders. I want to make sure that we properly train. We have great resources at Emmitsburg at the Fire Academy. Courses that are taught not only there but nationwide to responders.

We can always do a better job. But in this particular instance I think everyone did exactly what they were suppose to do. The federal response plan was put in motion. Every one worked shoulder to shoulder pulling not only their weight but often times someone else's weight. And we made it work.

There will always be minor glitches along the way but we handle them as they come up. And we had the ability as a country to, quite frankly, collectively whip any problem that confronts us.

As to your remark earlier regarding Governor Ridge. Governor Ridge and I have already met, Senator, several times on this issue. He and I have pledged great cooperation. I can't think of a better person for that job.

The President and I have spoken often about this. I will continue to develop the Office of National Preparedness at FEMA to lend as much assistance to Governor Ridge as we possibly can. But I see no problem in our working relationship whatsoever. The fact is I am really looking forward to working with he and his staff.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank you very much. Thanks again for the great job you did. Senator Clinton.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Hello, Mr. Director.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Morning, Senator.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

Thank you so much for the extraordinary work that you and your team are doing. We are very grateful for your leadership and your personal concern, which I have witnessed firsthand and am very grateful for.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

There are many issues that we're really breaking new ground on, here. All of the experience that FEMA has had, and you and I have talked about this, our own personal experiences with natural disasters and Oklahoma City, I think, put us in a good position to respond but I think there's a lot more for us to learn and to disseminate those lessons so that we all can be better prepared.

The questions that I have, and some of these are ones that are really based on our particular experience in New York, both in the aftermath of September 11th and in the difficulties that we are facing with the bio-terrorism issue, is how we improve public education and provide a good basis of information to separate the fears from the facts so that people can get what reassurance they need and take what precautions they should.

For example, I believe that we should have a, kind of a public education town hall meeting. And I've spoken to Secretary Thompson and encouraged the television networks to cooperate to have a maybe two hour time that the entire country can watch, with you and Secretary Thompson, and other government leaders, as well as experts, so that everybody can get the same information at the same time. Because I'm very worried that there's a lot of information being disseminated that is either inaccurate or unnecessarily panicking to people.

Secondly, I know that we've got to do a better job taking the special health needs of our children into account. The incident in New York with the 7-month old baby I think raises a lot of questions for us. Children are more vulnerable than adults. They don't need as much exposure to certain elements in order to have a reaction. We don't know enough about what we should be doing to protect our children.

And this week, or last week, I introduced legislation with Senator Dodd that would try to begin addressing that and to work with FEMA so that, once again, FEMA can help us all be ready to deal with the challenges facing our children.

I'm also continuing to be concerned about a lot of the health needs and there was an article in the Washington Post today about the health needs of our workers who are on the clean-up crews and I hope that we will fund a study to follow those workers so that we can acquire good information, treat them where necessary. We're working to try to get that into, I think, the Labor HHS appropriations.

And I think it's an appropriate issue for our committee to address also, Mr. Chairman, because we don't know all of the long-term hazards and the effects that those who have been digging in the rubble for, you know, 24 hours a day, literally around the clock, might face and we need to learn that so that we can better protect our men in uniform and the women who are on the front lines, so that if there are precautions they should take, we'll be ready for that.

I had a few just quick questions that really deal with the issues in New York. I know that people have said, and I am proud that they do, that no city would have been better prepared to deal with this terrible disaster than New York because of the response that they had in place and ready to go.

Are there lessons, Director Allbaugh, that we can learn from what New York did, and are there additional steps that FEMA can take to disseminate that broadly so that everybody in the country is as well prepared as possible?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I'd make two particular observations regarding your question.

One, if there is a single item that we could do is to make sure that police, fire, emergency responders can communicate with one another. Oftentimes I go into a community and there are all types of bands and frequencies used and folks, literally, who are responding to an incident can't talk to one another.

So that is one single item I can put my finger on that we need to address immediately.

Secondly, what I've initiated, and I had a conversation with Governor Ridge two days ago, and then again this morning about this, is that we're going to institute a study that we've done in previous years, capability assessment for readiness of all states to make sure that we know exactly what each state's capabilities are, as well as local entities. And where they need assistance...well, let me back up.

Once we complete that, we will design a template so everyone knows exactly what the bar is. What is going to be the measurement? Where do they need to be? Because I just don't want to be in a position of throwing a lot of money out there on the table and the American public deserve to actually get something in exchange for their tax dollars.

We are looking at, right now, improving that study. I'm going to try and get it conducted here in the next month, of all 50 states and the territories, so we can move expeditiously. I think that's a time when we would be in a position to come back to the committee and make some hard recommendations.

But I'll be honest with you, I'm not exactly sure that we have a good handle on what our states' capabilities are. And I think it's important that we know and we offer assistance where we can. As I mentioned a minute ago, we spend an inordinate amount of money, properly so, training first responders and emergency managers at Emmitsburg, a fabulous facility.

One of the things I need to look at is how do we expand that so we can meet the demand. Our demand far outstrips our capability at Emmitsburg. Coupled with this, I just don't want to be the 300-pound gorilla, you know, forcing something upon states that they may or may not need. We have to have an honest, active dialogue with those individuals, and we do.

I can't think of a better agency that has more dialogue with state individuals other than FEMA. I'm very proud of our relationship and it is a proper relationship, but we can improve upon what resources we can afford the states so they can be better prepared.

As you know, I'm not the one receiving the 9-1-1 phone call. These folks (points to the firefighters in the room) are the ones who are receiving the 9-1-1 call and we need to make sure that they're best prepared with trucks, personal equipment, safety devices, to do the best job that they possibly can. And I appreciate your question.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

Well, I appreciate your answer and I appreciate the gentlemen sitting in the front row and all the other first responders who are on the other end of those calls.

And we do need your guidance and advice as soon as it's humanly possible to provide it to us because I think every one of us on this committee want to provide whatever additional resources and support, perhaps looking at maybe some regional training facilities like Emmitsburg, so that you could deal with the need that is out there and people will be able to come forth is something we should consider, maybe in conjunction with some of our military bases or even some of our no longer active bases.

I think there are some real opportunities here if we get the kind of planning and recommendations that I know that you'll come forward with.

Another issue that is a particular concern in lower Manhattan is our small business community. And I think we have discovered there's a potential area that needs some additional help. We have a terrible dilemma confronting our small businesses in the immediate vicinity of ground zero, certainly within the area itself there's obviously no basis or ability to go back into business, that's a problem for down the road.

But within blocks of it we have people who are literally going out of business because of the fact that this is not only a disaster scene, it's also a crime scene. And so we have many streets blocked off and the police are doing their collection. It's not only...Somebody said to me, one of our colleagues Senator said, "Nobody's going to be tried for this."

Well, that's true, but there is information and things that are being found blocks from the site, so we're trying to be very careful about that. But the net result is that all these small businesses are basically cut off from their customers, they're not really receiving any help, and many of them are not in a position right now to sign for small business loans because, until we get the traffic flowing again, and the barriers down, there's no way they can know whether they'll be in business.

They desperately want to be in business, I talked to a bar owner a week ago and he said, "I'm stocked, I'm ready to go, but nobody knows I'm here. And they can't get to me even if they want to come."

So, one of my hopes is that we could look at a single office within FEMA to address property, business, and financial losses. That we could look at having the Small Business Administration raise the cap on it's loan amounts, change it's eligibility criteria, defer loan payments for two years or more and maybe even look at some grants that were reasonably likely to keep a business open, to get it on it's feet, and I would love to work with you, as well, on that, Director, to see what we can do more on the small business front because it's desperately needed.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I appreciate that. I'm concerned about individuals, as you say, who don't even know we know that they exist. They need to really call that 800 number and let me give it out publicly, please.



I think, the next disaster, I'm going to get an easier number that everyone can remember. But we do try our best to track these individuals, making sure they are put together with the right federal agency so they get the assistance the probably need.

I do think it's going to take a little bit of extra effort in lower Manhattan. We have the office at Worth and Center St. It is small, so I've asked folks to find another location so we can focus solely on the small businesses that are affected. But it is a problem that we're going to deal with.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

I know my time is up, but I would like to also raise the possibility of a more vigorous public education campaign.

I think a lot of people have been in such a state of shock until recently that they really haven't paid attention to our PSA's, our 800 numbers, our invitations to seek help. They're beginning to, so I think we have to almost start from...

Director Joe Allbaugh:


Senator Hillary Clinton:

Yeah, start from scratch.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I agree.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

And get out there and really get the information out so that people know where to go to get the help that is waiting for them. Thank you very much.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you.

Senator George Voinovich:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. After the attack in New York and here in Washington, you said one of the things that we needed to do was to understand the grieving that was going on by the families that suffered loss. And that one of the ways we could help deal with that was to try and alleviate any concern that they would have for material needs.

It's bad enough to be grieving and start to wonder how I'm going to be taking care of my family and so forth. I was impressed when I talked with Tommy Von Essen in New York. I asked him what about his firefighters, what about the police officers and he assured me and I was pleased in our terrorism bill -- and maybe a lot of people aren't aware of this -- but we have under the old law a $151,000 payment to families of lost firemen and police officers and we increased that to $250,000 in the terrorism bill and made it retroactive. He basically said to me that with the pension plans, with the federal payment and so forth that materially those families would be all right.

I am glad that you are also taking into consideration the issue of the psychological problems that those families would have. Because, I know in my own case when I lost our daughter my children are still suffering. We should have sent them to counseling at that time and I think that that's something that I'm glad you're aware of and something you're going to need to concentrate on.

The other thing is that I'm really concerned about the expertise that the City of New York lost. One of the things that Tommy Von Essen talked about was that they lost their whole hazmat operation.

I was wondering have we responded at all to his request that we get people in there that can train up his folks so that they can deal with other...

Director Joe Allbaugh:

We have indeed, sir. As of yesterday, I was speaking with Chief Ken Burris who runs the Fire Administration and we have designed a program to educate and train the new leaders as quickly as we possibly can. And I think...I've spoken directly with Tommy about that and I think he -- Commissioner Von Essen -- and I think he's happy with our progress there. We've also imported several hazmat teams from surrounding communities to fill that void until those new teams get trained.

Senator George Voinovich:

I'm glad your following up with medical examinations of people that have been working there to make sure there is nothing that they picked up while they were involved there. The question I've got is -- another one -- is did FEMA have the necessary authority and resources you think prior to the attack to respond?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I believe we did and we do. I can't think of any need or want that went unmet and if there was a problem ultimately I would get on the phone and make it happen.

I just am happy with the way every agency responded to our need, our desire, our responsibility to coordinate all of the federal assets. Our disaster field office at Pier 90 in New York is an impressive location. Somewhere between 18 and 22 federal agencies are represented full-time.

We're demobilizing some of those tasks as the missions are completed, but I cannot think of anything, Senator, and Members, that we need at this time that we don't have. I think the Stafford Act -- you individuals that help write that and with the amendments just passed last year -- have given us enormous powers to succeed at the charge that you've given us.

And, I will be one of the first to come and scream and holler where we need help if we find in this process we need something else. But I think we have what we need right now.

Senator George Voinovich:

Including being able to respond to some other major natural disaster we might have next week?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Absolutely. We have the ability to do that. The only question there becomes one of resources. And I...

Senator George Voinovich:

The mechanics are in place?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

The mechanics are in place...don't sell us short on the money side. That's my only pitch...I'm not supposed to lobby you, I think...I'm sorry.

Senator George Voinovich:

The other thing that I'm impressed with: I recall that when I became Governor of Ohio that one of the first things we did was to do an inventory of the preparedness of our counties.

And in spite of all of our efforts, I remember one flood where it was day and night between the ones that were prepared and the one that wasn't prepared. And, I think the idea of working with the states is a good idea.

In fact, I suggested to Secretary Thompson and maybe some of the other folks that are involved in preparedness that perhaps the President could call a couple-day meeting with the governors of the states so all of you could come in and start talking about problems that you see could be out there and try to task them to do some of the things that they ought to be doing on the state level to respond to some of the things that they are going to have to deal with in the future.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I think this capability assessment for readiness is the first step before we have a meeting such as that, but I think that's a pretty good idea, quite frankly.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Senator Corzine.

Senator Jon Corzine:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

It is terrific you are holding this hearing and I must say for all of the people of New Jersey -- and we feel like we are part of community of New York and New Jersey -- we compliment you and the people you work with for all your efforts at a human level and with regard to detail. I can't tell you how impressed people are.

I also want to make sure my total statement is put in the record, but it applies to all of the folks who are heroes of rescue that will be on the second panel and who they represent.

I must say the idea of "don't sell us short on the money side so you can get the job done," I hope that my colleagues not only here on the Committee but across the Senate understand the great need in that it its actually...each leaf that I see flow tells me that it is larger than what we had ever anticipated and much more far reaching.

I am truly impressed by the selfless response of a number of my communities in New Jersey -- really the community at large. And I know that's the case across the region and I hope that we take into consideration all those details about straight time and overtime and all the kinds of things that get involved in making sure that the communities are reimbursed so that they can go on about the business that they need to do to protect the public in the future.

I want to reiterate something that I think something that Senator Clinton was hinting at but take a little different approach. I think that the shock of this has left many of the victims -- not only those who have lost life but also been impacted in other ways -- has left people standing back from receiving the information that we're working so hard to get. We've gone on a campaign to try to contact each individual that has been impacted personally by this. And, I'm finding out there's just a void of information.

I think people turn off the receipt of this and I think we, as a community, need to be reaching out and a lot of that I think can be organized through FEMA resources and I certainly encourage you along that line. I don't mean that as a criticism, its just one of those things that people are either embarrassed or in shock and emotional distress don't reach out in all the ways you'd like to see.

Finally, I'd love to hear your comments on a hearing that we had last week at Health, Education and Labor, with regard to disaster planning as it relates to bio-terrorism and how much you've had time to work on that. As we sit here there is an evacuation of one of the departments of environmental protection in Trenton, New Jersey, which is going on. And, it feels like we're doing this by Braille as opposed to actually having plans in place and fully formulated. So I'd like to hear your comments on that as well.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

In regard to your first question, the one point I failed to make a while ago when Senator Clinton was bringing up this issue of education is that we have currently about 22 community assistance teams that are going door-to-door.

We've bumped that up over the last couple of weeks from -- I think we started 11 or 12 and decided that really wasn't enough to cover lower Manhattan. These teams are made up of federal, state and local individuals who represent a variety of agencies.

It's not enough and I take your admonition regarding education very seriously and we'll redouble our efforts, but I wanted you to know that those teams are out in the community, literally going door to door as we speak.

Senator Jon Corzine:

That personal contact -- I can't think of anything more important than actually getting to a widower or a widow and saying, "How do we get these processes in play for my family and the circumstances that they're dealing with."

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I agree. With regard to bio-terrorism, I think that, as I alluded to earlier before you both arrived, I think we have to rethink the way the entire federal government approaches this issue.

Often times we find ourselves doing things by rote and we have all had a wake-up call. I know I have challenged our own staff to think outside the box as often and as diligently as they possibly can.

One of the things we have not done a very good job at is catastrophic planning -- catastrophic disaster planning. And we have to become better at that, which requires every agency sitting at a table, wading through the minutia that would be in front of us. And it's going to take time.

I think a part of this education effort...if there is a time in our country's history where the American public needs straightforward facts, now is it. This isn't a time, in my opinion, for anyone to be "big dogging it" as we'd say down home.

Folks just need straightforward facts and I am concerned that we don't have a joint information center that the federal government operates on a regular basis where members of the Senate, members of the House, members of the news media, have one reservoir, one resource that they can go to get the definitive facts that the American public deserves so richly.

I never want to be in a position of misleading anyone. And, a great compliment to the American public is how they're handling this right now. They're taking all this information in -- as much as is being thrown at them -- and figuring it out.

What we ought to be charged with is how we shrink that amount of brainpower that's utilized in the average individual trying to figure it out. We ought to try to figure it out for them, and educate them. And I think if there's one thing that we need to do immediately is to form up a joint information center that would have all federal agencies in one place, a total resource for the battles that are ongoing and the days ahead of us.

I'm afraid there is not a definitive answer yet, Senator, on how we combat bio-terrorism. You can get as many answers as professionals that you talk to. And that's just calling them as I see them. I get a different answer every time I talk to someone different and it drives me nuts.

Senator Jon Corzine:

I appreciate your candor because that's the way it feels as you are one who is trying to reach out and be a constructive element in bringing together responses that give the public confidence.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Well, thank you. Those were some excellent questions. Senator Carper.

Director Allbaugh:

Welcome, Senator.

Senator Tom Carper:

Good to see you again. Thank you for your service and the terrific work that your team continues to do. I apologize for being late. Some of my colleagues at Briefing over at the Capitol.

I want to follow up on the question with respect to bio-terrorism. Senator Frist of Tennessee has pretty good information on bio-terrorism on his web page especially with Anthrax that he has made available to others of us in the Senate so we can link our web pages with his.

And anyone who contacts our office can find out just the facts ma'am, just the facts.

A lot of people may be watching this hearing across the country and if there are any facts that you'd like for them to know, to share with the American people on Anthrax or bio-terrorism if you'd just take a minute or two and just share what you think would be helpful for our constituents across the country to know.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Well two particular things, I think it's incumbent upon FEMA to produce a document, a booklet as we did years ago during the old civil defense days or a booklet that we even produced as recently as the concern regarding Y2K, that would present basically just the facts. And how to respond based upon what individuals are dealing with.

So, I've instructed our folks to pull together that type of document so we can get it published, put it on our web site which is www.fema.gov and get it into the libraries.

Maybe do some type of a mail out. I see where the United States Postal Service is doing something similar today as we speak trying to alert everyone. But what we need more than anything else, as the American public are straightforward facts. And I do think that this joint information center will go a great distance to calm everyone's fears because they will know exactly what they are dealing with and won't suffer from a multitude of confusing messages from a variety of sources.

Senator Tom Carper:

My office is right next door to Senator Daschles' office so there's been a fair amount of angst with the developments of the last 24-hours. But if this had happened, oh gosh, two weeks ago, even one week ago, I think there would be a whole lot more fear and concern.

The more that we learn at least about Anthrax, the more I'm convinced difficult weapon to use effectively against us. It's proving not a bust. But whoever is using it against us, it's not having any kind of success perhaps they envisioned.

We learned today that even the people get infected if they take the antibiotics and the vaccines combined there's a pretty good chance it will be entirely eradicated.

And for folks who have not become infected but been exposed simply take the antibiotics are quite effective. It's not contagious and apparently have to ingest quite a bit of it in order to be infected. Doesn't mean that we should take this lightly, and we're not. But the American people and those of us who work here just need to be mindful of, as you said earlier, the facts.

Thanks Mr. Chairman.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank you. I'd like you aware, we were concerned, the Committee is, about the communications problem and we're working on legislation to grab a part of spectrum so that we can work together to get the unified system throughout the country on being able to communicate. And we look forward to working with you on that.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

Mr. Chairman could I follow up on a point the Director just made with respect to Y2K?

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:


Senator Hillary Clinton:

I believe that we had the kind of inter-agency information operation that you have so rightly said we should put into place for our current situation.

I think it would be helpful to take a look at how that was done and there was some legislative involvement and oversight. There was obviously inter-agency involvement. But there was a center and there was also an individual who was tasked with being the spokesman so that all information could be double checked before somebody had to get out there and make a statement. So I think that your suggestion is an excellent one in looking to the Y2K experience which frankly, I think we averted a lot of problems because we got on it and people paid attention to it and they were held accountable, and what we feared didn't come to pass. And if there is any legislation or changes in the Stafford Act or anything that you believe, Director, that would help us, help you respond on that basis I would certainly like to know about it.

And I know my colleagues would as well.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I'll make sure that everyone knows about it.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

And I have one final question for you and it's kind of a tough one, I know. Looking forward with all the knowledge you have now, when do you anticipate that you will be able to consider the job done?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I'm not sure that the job will ever be done. Our lives have changed as a country forever as of September 11th. We are more vigilent now. We are aware of our surroundings. I know the things that I use to take for granted I don't take for granted.

I have to commend the American public with high praise in the way they have responded to this. It is absolutely remarkable. No one is really panicking. We have our incidents that you're talking about and my heart goes out to those individuals who are directly affected. But I'm not sure, Senator, that job will ever done.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

More specifically relief efforts. There are people involved in relief efforts. When do you anticipate that might be complete?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I fully expect to be having an office in New York City for years to come. You think back to the North Ridge earthquake in the early '90s. We still have an office dealing with the multitude of problems in California.

This is a situation where we will be lucky to have the site maybe cleaned up in seven or eight or nine months, maybe a year from now. We have the lives that we have to help put back together -- years and years of counseling. Small businesses that need to be rebuilt.

New York City is doing its best to guard against the loss of jobs that would effect lower Manhattan as well as the rest of the city. And we're willing partners.

We're going to be there until the bitter end. And I'm not the one to decide when the bitter end is. I think we'll all know it as a country.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank You. Senator Warner.

Senator John Warner:

Most local fire departments aren't familiar with Urban Search and Rescue Team capabilities until they are faced with a situation. Our Chief here who is with us today suggested the Urban Search and Rescue resources and procedures be included in the curriculum at FEMA's National Emergency Training Center and National Fire Academy. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I think that's one the first things that I had passed along to the folks at the Fire Administration that we need to when we bring in individuals from fire departments all across the country. We explain to them what resources are available should they need to call upon them.

I'm not sure that there is a need, Senator, to expand the number of Urban Search and Rescue Teams nationwide. I do believe we need to expand their capabilities but at a bare minimum, men and women who put their lives on the line whether they are with the police department or the fire department or emergency managers, ought to have the benefit of know exactly what resources are at their disposal. And we're going to make sure that everyone is educated from here on out.

Senator John Warner:

As follow up, during the Pentagon response of course our local fire and rescue and Red Cross and others performed brilliantly.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

They did indeed.

Senator John Warner:

I visited that scene only hours after the plan struck with the Secretary of Defense. He had the highest praise for those teams that reacted. But during that response it was learned that there was an equipment shortage for Urban Search and Rescue Teams to allow for only one equipped team to be deployed at any given time from any one of the 28 bases. If there are multiple instances in one area how would FEMA respond on a timely bases?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

I'm not aware of that Senator. We activated eight teams the first day to New York alone. Four to the Pentagon. And I'm not aware of any particular shortage. I do know that we will be briefing and debriefing all the teams and we will have after action reports, so we'll make sure we don't make any mistakes that may have been committed during this travesty.

Senator John Warner:

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank you all. Thank you Mr. Director.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Pleasure having you with us. You are an impressive man. Thank you for what you are doing. And we reserve the right, as you know, to ask you further questions that you can respond to in writing?

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Yes sir.

Chairman, Senator Jeffords:

Thank you.

Director Joe Allbaugh:

Thank you Members. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

Thank you very much.

Updated: October 17, 2001

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