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US Senator Wants FEMA to Become Independent Agency

U.S. Senator Trent Lott has introduced a bill to re-establish the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an independent group reporting directly to the President.

The Republican from Mississippi says thousands of people in his state are still without enough help more than five months after Hurricane Katrina. He blamed the bureaucratic inefficiencies created when FEMA was placed under the Department of Homeland Security.

FEMA was merged into the department in a massive federal restructuring after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Senator Lott says he questioned the wisdom of the move at the time.

Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt said Thursday that FEMA has become a disgrace since the merger. Witt, who headed the agency during the Clinton administration, said the continued emphasis on terrorism has "minimized and demoralized emergency management."

Some information for this report was provided by AP.