Disaster Response and Appointment of a Recovery Czar: The Executive Branch's Response to the Flood of 1927
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Pagination or Media Count:
In the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the press and policymakers have looked to the past for examples of federal responses to natural disasters that might serve as models for emulation today. Some Members of Congress have expressed an interest in creating a cabinet-level czar to administer Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief programs. Since the federal response to the flood of 1927 featured Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover as the director of the flood response and wielding immense executive powers, this episode in federal history may be of particular interest to Congress. This report describes the flood of 1927, and assesses the federal governments response thereto. In short, the federal response was an executive branch response. President Calvin Coolidge created a quasi-governmental commission that included members of his Cabinet and the American National Red Cross. This commission encouraged the public to donate funds to the relief effort. It also gave Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover near-absolute authority to organize and oversee its response. Hoover used this authority to weave together federal resources, American National Red Cross volunteers, and the private sector to carry out the relief and recovery program. The concentration of power and the blending of the governmental and private sectors in Hoovers hands enabled the relief effort to be carried out expeditiously and creatively. President Coolidges empowerment of Hoover alone as director of the flood response clarified to federal, state, and local officials and the public who was in charge. However, this administrative structure was not without costs. There was little direct federal oversight of actual relief provision. So, for example, when local and state relief workers behaved illegally, they were not held accountable.
- Government and Political Science