December 4, 2008 By Corey McKenna
Photo: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has until January to appoint a secretary for the new California Emergency Management Agency.
California's AB 38 -- signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in September -- established the California Emergency Management Agency as a Cabinet-level entity responsible for emergency management and homeland security operations and set the deadline for appointing a secretary at January 1, 2009.
Schwarzenegger has less than a month to decide on a plan to merge the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security into the new agency.
"While serving as chair of the joint committee on emergency services and homeland security we heard from first responders over and over again how they wanted to see the two agencies merge into one," said Pedro Nava, assemblyman from the 35th district and chairman of the Joint Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security.
The bill gives the merged agency the responsibility of overseeing and coordinating emergency preparedness, response, recovery and homeland security activities in the state.
"The merger demonstrates the Governor's ongoing commitment to an all-hazards preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation approach," Henry Renteria, director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services said in a statement.
No word yet as to what the new agency would look like or who the secretary might be. But Nava did say, in that same press conference, that the merger has been in the works for two years. "I have to tell you the governor's staff and the two agencies, OES and OHS, worked seamlessly. They set aside any personal differences they may have had about merging the two agencies. Because of that, California is now going to be better equipped to respond to disasters, to emergencies-to help protect the people of the state of California," Nava said.
"Combining the years of emergency management experience at the Office of Emergency Services with the vital role that the Office of Homeland Security plays in the state creates a comprehensive agency that will serve the needs of local communities for years to come," said Renteria in a statement.
Many other states have already consolidated their emergency management and homeland security operations into an overarching state emergency management agency, while some have called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be split off from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in order to be more effective.