FEMA head relieved of duties

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thad Allen

The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, announced from Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday that Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen will replace the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown as the Principal Federal Official (PFO) for the recovery effort; however, Mr. Brown will continue as the Director of FEMA.

Admiral Allen was given the assignment of special deputy to Mr. Brown earlier this week. Secretary Chertoff now describes Allen as, "the Principal Federal Official overseeing the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery effort in the field."

Mr. Brown, who came under intense pressure for government failures to provide timely assistance to disaster victims of Hurricane Katrina, was ordered back to Washington and relieved of his duties in the Gulf States. His immediate FEMA role now will be for its national administration. The personnel change results in FEMA's local effort now being headed-up by military leadership, instead of civilian. However, Admiral Allen's Deputy (the number two federal offiicial in the field) is a civilian.

The Coast Guard came under the homeland's security umbrella in 2003. Allen, a career Coast Guard officer, was in charge of its Atlantic forces fleet during the terrorist 9/11 attack in New York City in 2001.

Michael Chertoff

Mr. Brown, who was hailed last week by President Bush, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," was nominated by Bush himself to head FEMA in 2003. Recent allegations that credentials Brown listed on his resume prior to employment at FEMA, which began in 2001, that said he worked in emergency services for the city of Edmond, OK from 1975 to 1978, along with being awarded "Outstanding Political Science Professor" at the Central State University in Oklahoma, both have come under fire in a report by TIME magazine two days ago. Critics question how thorough the White House was in its vetting Brown for the FEMA assignment.

When commenting about Mr. Brown last Friday, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, who spent more than a week in the hurricane struck area, said "I have been telling him from the moment he arrived about the urgency of the situation" and "I just have to tell you that he had a difficult time understanding the enormity of the task before us."