National Emergency Camps

If House lawmakers have their way, future disaster victims might be housed on military bases. A bill has been introduced that would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to establish national emergency centers on military installations for its subsidiary, FEMA

The National Emergency Centers Establishment Act (HR 645) says these facilities will “provide temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster.” They also will provide centralized locations for training and ensuring the coordination of federal, state, and local first responders. These centralized facilities will “improve the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts” for all kinds or organizations — public as well as private.

Finally they will “meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

So, what exactly does that last one mean? According to the bill, the DHS and Defense secretaries are to designate no fewer than six sites that meet myriad requirements. Oh, and the six have to be spread over the FEMA regions. The preference is that the installations chosen already be closed, like those shuttered through Base Realignment and Closure. Requirements like “capable of meeting for an extended period of time the housing, health, transportation, education, public works, humanitarian, and other transition needs of a large number of individuals affected by an emergency or major disaster” (try that in one breath) are a tall order, as is “asking” DoD to fork over control of its property.

The bill’s detractors refer to the facilities as FEMA prison camps and FEMA concentration camps among other light-hearted fare. Historical references and some very bad B movies aside, sinister is in the eyes of the beholder.

This real estate-internment camps deal was sponsored by Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, who seems to like to sponsor lots of bills. HR 645 is in committee and might die there. Hasting’s district includes densely populated portions of South Florida’s Atlantic coast.

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