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FEMA Idiot Relieved of Duties (Thank God)

I've been so annoyed with this guy I didn't even bother learn his name... For the last few days I've simply called him "The FEMA Idiot."

I said a few days ago that if Bush did not replace him I'd lose 25% of my respect for Bush instantly. Apparently Bush didn't want that to happen:

FEMA Chief Relieved of Katrina Duties

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, The Associated Press has learned.

Brown is being sent back to Washington from Baton Rouge, where he was the primary official overseeing the federal government's response to the disaster, according to two federal officials who declined to be identified before the announcement.

This should have happened 3 days ago but I'll take it.


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Comments (44)

Adios, Brownie. Perhaps he ... (Below threshold)
PTG:

Adios, Brownie. Perhaps he will find work at the UN.

I wish this were taken a st... (Below threshold)
Craig:

I wish this were taken a step further, to include liability. I'm an engineer. A computer engineer, but still, I'm an engineer. I know structural engineers, civil, mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineers. The thing you gotta remember is, if you design a bridge or a house that falls, or a circuit that catches fire, or a chemical that disperses into air and is toxic, your ass is grass.

This guy padded his resume to get a job where he was responsible for the lives of Americans. When the time came to act, he was incompetent. He should be thrown in jail.

Firing him just isn't enough. He was criminally negligent.

...and a week or so from no... (Below threshold)

...and a week or so from now, when everyone finds out that the head of FEMA (or any government agency, for that matter) doesn't really do that much except sign forms and checks, that the folks in the middle ranks were doing a good job, and that 90% of the actual work in a disaster is not in FEMA's direct control anyway, it's not going to make any real difference.

Brown's biggest sin was giving bad press confrences.

"Brown's biggest sin was gi... (Below threshold)
Toby928:

"Brown's biggest sin was giving bad press confrences."

Absolutely. And in Washington DC, that's a Capital offense.

Tob

If you want to know some pe... (Below threshold)
normanx:

If you want to know some personal comments of people who have worked previously with Mike Brown... this is quite illuminating...:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/2/34622/68348

He shouldn't have been fired three days ago... he should have never been hired. My question is: How many more people are running complex and expert positions in our government who have been appointed because of personal connections to the president as opposed to actual experience or skill?

These are scary times.

Hasn't anyone here ever see... (Below threshold)

Hasn't anyone here ever seen the BBC show "Yes, Minister?"

Same thing.

Blaming Brown for this is like blaming the little chrome dog on the hood when you get run over by a Mack truck.

How many more people are... (Below threshold)

How many more people are running complex and expert positions in our government who have been appointed because of personal connections to the president as opposed to actual experience or skill?

I asked that same thing upon hearing about Joycelyn Elders being appointed surgeon general in 1993. You?

I have to agree with cirby,... (Below threshold)
jack:

I have to agree with cirby, Brown has been terrible on TV but I think the jury is still out on FEMA's overall response. Check out Diana West's op-ed in the Washington Time's. Also, some of Time Magazine's sources appear to be walking back some of their statements re: Brown (courtesy NRO).

Having been in the Army for 20 years and a firefighter for 10, I know what it's like to have to deal with unrealistic sop's that are half operational and half cya. That's what you end up with when you have politicians and the media (including well meaning bloggers) running around yelling, "off with their heads".

It's in everbody's best interest (especially first responder's) to let some of the emotions clear and find out how we can really fix what's broken. And for God's sake, not another 911 commission.

Just thinking out loud.

Just to be accurate, Brown ... (Below threshold)
Jack:

Just to be accurate, Brown was not fired from FEMA, he was replaced as the lead on Katrina.

He's still in charge at FEMA and we're only half way through the hurricane season.

Keep in mind also that Brow... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

Keep in mind also that Brown was confirmed by the Senate for his position, with no negative issues from either side of the aisle, back in 2001.

Department heads are figureheads, and giving bad press conferences means you lose your head.

/just sayin'

Those Press Conferences wer... (Below threshold)
robert:

Those Press Conferences were not just bad, they were spectacularly bad. Through Brown, this administration came off as detached and clueless, instead of engaged and empathetic.

Though much of the trouble rests with State and local officials, the failure to establish a close and seamless working relationship has to rest at least in part with FEMA. Failure do to this, at minimum, is failure indeed. It takes two to Tango.

Ultimately, at critical points when even minutes count, we ended up with more paralysis than action. At a time when millions looked to be reassured by Uncle Sam, he blinked.

With all due respect, most Lawyers simply do not have a bias for action. Their advisory role is usually to urge caution and to point out potential legal pitfalls and entanglements. Most would agree that what had here was an excess of caution about various Acts and restrictions.

At FEMA, it should be in with the Generals and out with the Lawyers.

Of course, changes to FEMA'... (Below threshold)

Of course, changes to FEMA's duties were already in the works, as of about two months back. DHS is in the process of scaling FEMA back to response and recovery, and is moving their preparedness and training functions over to a new Directorate for Preparedness.

(For more details, see the first post on my blog)

Not so fast about the resum... (Below threshold)
mcg:

Not so fast about the resume padding accusations, folks.

http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_09_04_corner-archive.asp#076064

"I asked that same thing up... (Below threshold)
Chris:

"I asked that same thing upon hearing about Joycelyn Elders being appointed surgeon general in 1993. You?"

Boy, there's a nice gratuitous swipe that's apropos of nothing. And by the way, Jocelyn Elders was a doctor of medicine, a medical school professor, pediatric endocrinologist, and the Director of the Arkansas Department of Health. You may not have liked the job she did as surgeon general, but please point out to me what part of that resume stacks up with being Joe Allbaugh's college roommate, which was Brown's only qualification for joining FEMA. If Bush put forth someone with Elders' credentials to be surgeon general, I suppose your first response would be "Why is he nominating that unqualfied hack?"

no Chris, that would be you... (Below threshold)

no Chris, that would be your response. Remember the response about Roberts.

Holy hell talk about someone who deserves a slot and definitely has the qualifications.

BUT HE'S CONSERVATIVE!!!!!!!!

Since when is being liberal a requisite for a post in public office?

read carefully boys..."bein... (Below threshold)
Billy:

read carefully boys..."being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts" - it didn't say he was fired - only that he was going back to Washington...probably to receive his Medal of Freedom...or a post at the UN...but you can bet that his next position will be higher up than the one he has now.

this just means he is avail... (Below threshold)
dean:

this just means he is available to screw up the east coast when ophelia hits.

I hear he's going to work o... (Below threshold)

I hear he's going to work on that bridge in Iraq that had a railing fail on it.

Three words of advice to Iraqis: learn to swim.

(or fly)

dean:What, specifi... (Below threshold)

dean:

What, specifically, has Brown screwed up so far, other than press conferences?

Make sure you know what FEMA actually *does* before you make your list, too. "Send in the National Guard" is not an option. Neither is "send in the Red Cross" or "have the Louisiana politicians fired and replaced."

I'd like some specifics, to... (Below threshold)

I'd like some specifics, too, please.

"no Chris, that would be yo... (Below threshold)
Chris:

"no Chris, that would be your response. Remember the response about Roberts.

Holy hell talk about someone who deserves a slot and definitely has the qualifications."

So McGehee brings up Elders as an example of someone who's as unqualified as Brown, and when I refute that, you tell me I would take McGehee's stance. Based on what?

And as far as Roberts goes (since you bring it up) he may well be a fine, or at least tolerable, justice. The way it works is when the President nominates a justice, the other party puts on pressure to make sure the court's not being moved too far to one wing or the other. That's just the way it works. I'd say the Senate Dems have gone pretty easy on Roberts so far.

Again, I'm not necessarily opposed to the guy (he wouldn't be my pick but I understand the Repubs get to do the picking) just exactly what makes him so qualified? With almost no record of judicial decisions to go by, and the convenient excuse that he can walk away from anything he's ever written because he was just acting as a lawyer, what is it that makes him this "My God we're so lucky to get him" nominee? That he's pleasant looking? He could just as easily be a Souter as a Scalia.

Dr. Elders may have been in... (Below threshold)
dgstring:

Dr. Elders may have been incompetent but she did make us feel ok about pleasuring ourselves.

Maybe thats what the Mayor was doing while the Hurricane was bearing down.

How many more people are... (Below threshold)
Greg P:

How many more people are running complex and expert positions in our government who have been appointed because of personal connections to the president as opposed to actual experience or skill?

Its not a bad thing to hire someone you know. But I get the sense that the neo-cons in this administration value allegiance over abilities.

There are ton's of examples of critical appointments going to people with 0 experience. For example, John McCain, when complainig that billions of dollars are missing, noted that many of the people that Bush appointed to oversee Iraq's rebuilding had no experience. Take Scott Erwin (previously an intern to Dick Cheney) for example. He was put in charge of "management of finances and budgeting for the domestic security forces." The college senior's favorite job before that one? (I'm not making this up) "My time as an ice-cream truck driver." He had just applied for a job at the white house - not to rebuild Iraq.

(see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article6930.htm )

It makes sense when Bush said "Brownie is doing a heck of a job." When your goal is to make ALL appointments "yes-men" then you cripple your organization. The the neo-cons in government have been completely isolated from reality by toadies.
( http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/Election/bush122900.htm )

Its gotten to be so bad that Scientists, Doctors, and other professionals have drafted letters over the past few years complaining about issues just like what we saw with Brownie.

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/06/2/gr060201.html
http://www.macminute.com/cgi-bin/wwwthreads/showflat.pl?Cat=&Board=politics&Number=250193&page=2&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=0&part=


Now that the disaster has happened, people care about if a toadie is appointed to FEMA. What about FDA (food and drug)? Do you care if drugs are getting through because scientists are pressured to fake data? (true!) If you are going to build the infrastructure of a bridge (or country) - you don't replace all the load-bearing beams (or wonks) with ones that can't hold up the weight (or toadies).

From the FEMA Website:... (Below threshold)
Jack:

From the FEMA Website:

"FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident."

FEMA failed in the preparation phase and FEMA failed in managing the federal response.

Competent preparation would have meant working out the local/state/federal roles IN ADVANCE of a flood in New Orleans.

Communications, security, and water resources should have been positioned outside the storm track (in Texas for example) and should have started rolling toward the city as soon as the storm was over. FEMA could have coordinated that.

FEMA should have worked WITH local and state authorities instead of engaging in petty and personal fights with government officials.

FEMA should have acted immediately to evacuate the Superdome after the storm (this would have meant COOPERATION not bureaucratic turf fights.

In the end, FEMA failed in both of its missions. However they were under an unimaginable pressure from Chertoff and the neocons in the white house to hold firm with the Governor and to not budge on the Nationalization of the Guard. You have to feel some pity for Brown, he was over his head and his bosses had knives in his back.

In the end the buck stops with the President. He should be in charge, asking hard questions, demanding real answers. But we don't seem to have that kind of President.

I'll repeat what I posted o... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

I'll repeat what I posted on another thread:

"As of June 22, 2005, Brown had successfully directed 164 presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under a newly formed infrastructure that had no historical precedent in this country with which to relate. There have been other natural disasters and incidents since to boost that count. He has directed many hurricanes with nary a criticism. Now, he's an incompetant boob? Try again."

The President has shifted some chairs due to wailing from what I might consider a collection of the ignorant, the passionate, the partisan, the well-intentioned, and the reactionary. I don't know that it was necessary but it is politically expedient... and apparently, that is all that matters in this "shoot first and ask questions later" mantra our collective activism promotes.

Were mistakes made? Assuredly. And you can bet they were made at all levels by just about everyone. More will be made. Culpability should certainly be shared but, eventually, one or two parties receive the most, deserved or not.

There is a difference between mistakes and incompetence, however, and we should not forget that particularly when one considers the scale of this event. It was historic and not a trivial consideration. No one, and I mean no one, was prepared for this scale though our collective response to it has been amazing. That response didn't just spontaneously appear. Some organization and infrastructure was present and to ignore it would be self-imposed blindness approaching a Category 5 despite logistical delays that are manifestly impossible to foresee or forestall. The emphasis of our "blame", since it is apparent that it's the currency we love to exchange, should be towards the steps taken or not taken prior to the storm. The press can take a story and blow it to the highest proportions and it becomes the signature of the tragedy, nevermind the thousands of other stories of equal if not more merit that do not strike their fancy.

Not everything that has happened has been wrong. The human response has been magnificent. Countless agencies and individuals have been heroic and steadfast... and they made mistakes too only a camera and a gaggle of reporters weren't there to record it and replay it every hour on the hour.

Further, and this will not be popular but it is valid - too many individuals failed to follow common sense. I refuse to accept that such large numbers of people were so incapable of preparing themselves better or leaving the situation. Very few individuals are that inept. In fact we hear stories now of people who still will not leave their homes. People are free to make choices in this country, both good and bad. Call it Social Darwinism if you like. We are a better country for it despite its imperfection too.

Individual responsibility mandates that one act beyond childishness. Little discussed is the option people had in spite of government warnings. Does everyone need a memo or public proclamation to function every day? Was not practically everyone aware of the magnitude of this storm bearing down on them? Did they have to wait for the Mayor or Governor to direct them to leave their abode? Since the storyline driven has been the city of New Orleans (to the detriment of all other locales), is it not a major metropolitan city? Didn't everyone have ready access to information?

It may be unpopular to ask but where is all of that personal responsibility? I understand that some did try and were just incapable of better preparation, but I believe that number to be implicitly small and explicitly over-emphasized by a media hungry for the most exploitable and profitable angles. It would be my estimation that too many thought of riding this storm out like so many before and that complacency overwhelmed logic. Tragedy inevitably followed. I'm not sure I would have been one to leave either, so I don't absolve myself from the possibility that I might make such a poor choice. What I wouldn't do is lay blame at the feet of the government for my poor judgement. Fortunately, I'm not observing that too much from the victims. Maybe it's a tangible that has been recorded but I'm just not seeing it. What I am seeing is some polticians, the media, the bloggers, and the blog posters (I confess) dispensing blame like they are life preservers. In our rush to judgement we make or demand condemnations based on limited knowledge. Such behavior is irresponsible too and does not necessarily enlighten our understanding of things or focus energy on the appropriate targets. We should be more cautious.

So what does that diversion have to do with Mr. Brown or any public figure? Individuals either as "victim" or as rubbernecker should not jump to conclusions based on incomplete, inadequate, or absent facts supporting such claims. A poor presentation in front of a camera is not damning evidence. Hearsay is not damning evidence. Signed paper trails are. Legal documents and the recorded response to them are. Let's remember to refer to them when we pontificate from afar "incompetence". Let's also remember that personal responsibility was the first barrier to be breached by many of the victims and it is the last barrier to be breached by us Monday morning quarterbackers.

Paul,I do not shar... (Below threshold)
berlins:

Paul,

I do not share your views as to Mr. B. I rather agree with AnonymousDrivel. To me, in this instance you are acting no better than a Bush basher with different motives.

I still don't get what exac... (Below threshold)
Radical Centrist:

I still don't get what exactly FEMA failed to do, and specifically M. Brown. Let's remember this was you know, a disaster, and terrible things happen in disasters, things don't always work out the way you would like them to in disasters, some
people actually die in disasters. And why exactly
are Blanco and Nagin getting a free pass from the media, disaster planning and preparedness are bottom up afairs, local, state then fed. It's
clear from everything that is coming out
there seems to have been a total failure at the state level an abdication at the local level and
a perceptually slow response at the fed level.

I too await true evidence t... (Below threshold)
epador:

I too await true evidence that FEMA failed.

I would think that the fact that our incident response did well despite the political barriers that sprung up. The whole incident response command thing is FEMA driven - and that structure is working. The commander has been replaced with another more appropriate individual, but that's the normal chain of events in disaster response.

Name any other country or region that has suffered as devastating a disaster and marshalled as aggressive a reaction with as proportionally or numerically as few casualties.

I am waiting...

Chris, Elders became a nati... (Below threshold)

Chris, Elders became a national embarrassment. It took Clinton years to finally get around to firing her in spite of that fact.

I still haven't seen anything substantive that argued she was qualified even to be Arkansas surgeon general, let alone U.S. surgeon general. About the only thing I was ever able to figure out was, if she was SG she would be too busy being an addle-brained figurehead and never put any actual patients at risk of death or dismemberment through her obvious stupidity.

Given what's being said about Brown (especially the backing off of the resume-padding allegations), what exactly is so different between Elders' actual record, and what people are saying about Brown?

I too am waiting for specif... (Below threshold)
DianeK:

I too am waiting for specifics as to the the failures attributed to FEMA and Mr. Brown. I've watched this witch hunt for days and perhaps I'm not reading the right sites.

Jack,Everything yo... (Below threshold)

Jack,

Everything you list in your post above was either out of FEMA's control ("evacuate the Superdome" wasn't an option without deposing Blanco, for example) or was done quite well.

All of the direct failures you mention were at the local level, and have been so well-documented that it's pretty shocking that you have to guys to pretend it was FEMA's responsibility (the completely silly "turf wars" idea).

To those who want some spec... (Below threshold)
robert:

To those who want some specifics:

Trent Lott and other Republicans from Mississippi (no Democrats as far as the eye can see) stated that Brown almost always said "NO" to any request, preferring instead to wrap himself in legal details and process issues.

There was a failure to properly assess and understand the situation in the Superdome and the Convention Center, when almost everyone else in the country did. While these problems were not caused by FEMA, Brown evidently was not in sufficient contact with local and State officials, and the Red Cross. While FEMA is not a first responder, managing communications and having situational awareness ARE PRIME RESPONSIBILITIES OF FEMA.

To a lesser extent, FEMA has input to the emergency evacuation plans of NO. Of all places, NO needed a locked-in airtight evacuation plan, not "everyone to the Superdome, you are on your own." FEMA is charged with oversight and help with testing and training of these plans. Brown's response: "We didn't have funding to finish that."

One year ago, after a simulation showed that a direct cat 5 hit might kill 100K, FEMA should have put this right at the top of the list. Had Brown stressed this, the small amount of funding needed for more testing, better training and a bulletproof plan would have been found.

The time to expose weakness in plans and local and State leaders is before the crisis. Claiming a lack of funding is a crutch.

In 1997, fearing a system failure from Y2K, Federal regulators forced the Utilities and the finacial sector to undergo rigorous testing and certification.

Pointing fingers in all directions after a failure is no way to live. All have to step up to the responsibility and FEMA is in the best position to do this.

Simply stating a lack of funding - when your own testing demonstrated a glaring weakness - is not sufficient.

I think I'm starting to sme... (Below threshold)
Jack:

I think I'm starting to smell the next round of "Rove Refutations" - "you expect too much from FEMA."

Sorry Karl, that one is a looser from the get-go. It sounds an awful lot like "this is HARD WORK!"

Defending FEMA is a bit of a lost cause here. FEMA is about to undergo some radical restructuring and the conservative/neocon bastion is a little nervous about where things are going to land. They've built themselves a nice little fiefdom at DHS and don't like outsiders messing with things. Should be interesting.

Again, there are 2 reasons FEMA is taking the heat.

1. FEMA is the public face of the administration in a disaster situation. When the response fails - as it so obviously did at the Superdome and Convention Center - people hold FEMA responsible.

2. People in other states know they will need FEMA in an emergency (terrorism, earthquakes, floods, tornados) They don't care if the head of FEMA doesn't get along with the Governor or the Mayor. They expect these people to act like adults and put the the people's needs first. And above all, they expect the President to cut through the bull and get things done.

THAT is why the focus is on FEMA and the Feds. You can bitch all day about the mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of LA, but most people are much more interested on whether FEMA and the feds are going to be there for them when they are in need.

And the current spin I see slithering on the stage from the corner of my eye, that we can't count on FEMA, that ain't gonna fly, gentlemen.


"Given what's being said ab... (Below threshold)
Chris:

"Given what's being said about Brown (especially the backing off of the resume-padding allegations), what exactly is so different between Elders' actual record, and what people are saying about Brown?"

OK, she was a doctor, a professor at a medical school, a pediatric endocrinologist and the director of a state health department. You really can't see how that makes her more qualified to be surgeon general than being a failed lawyer qualified Brown to manage our nation's disaster response? Like I say, if you don't like the job she did, fine, but you're really reaching. And for the record, I haven't seen any backing off of the resume padding charges.

RE: robert's specifics (Sep... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: robert's specifics (September 9, 2005 10:55 PM)

Thanks for the follow-up. I have a few comments.


Trent Lott and other Republicans from Mississippi (no Democrats as far as the eye can see) stated that Brown almost always said "NO" to any request, preferring instead to wrap himself in legal details and process issues.

Ha! I like Trent Lott but hearing any Senator scold anyone about "legal details and process issues" is beyond the pale. Here is the Act which set up FEMA into Homeland Security, the very act Mr. Lott supported:

Voting Record for Homeland Security Act of 2002
Text of Homeland Security Act of 2002

I'll also append and recommend a review of DHS Grants for Emergencies and Disasters and the scanning of grants and imposed restrictions on the specific categories. Don't forget the fine print.

Have you read those things? And the HSAof02 is one act which has competing interests with other acts and who knows how many other entities with grubby little hands. We're a nation of laws and this one's a biggie. It would be nice if we could just skip over things but our structure, particularly when we want checks and balances to restrain power, creates these entanglements and hesitancy. Furthermore, who is going to be the one breaking the law because of expediency? Who wants to rush in without proper authority even though it seems right, have something go wrong, and not have law backing up one's position or action? That's a heck of a risky maneuver considering the litigious society we live in and the aggrieved parties which would be seeking blood despite good intentions of those taking charge.

I understand Mr. Lott vocalizing on behalf of his constituency. He needs to look like a leader. However, he may be trumping things up a bit too. I searched for stories documenting Lott's complaints with FEMA and all I could find was his most recent one for extra mobile housing that was presumably held up in Georgia. Apparently, FEMA at some level would not release all of them because Mississippi could not commit to where they would be used. Well, MS should be able to sign or commit to that requirement and not just expect the casual release of assets on a whim. That's the coordination that is "failing" and the national FEMA may not be at fault. Considering legal responsibility of those that must account for this stuff, a paper trail is appropriate despite its added level of complexity. That's just the way it is and I don't blame FEMA for its dastardly rules.


There was a failure to properly assess and understand the situation in the Superdome and the Convention Center, when almost everyone else in the country did. While these problems were not caused by FEMA, Brown evidently was not in sufficient contact with local and State officials, and the Red Cross. While FEMA is not a first responder, managing communications and having situational awareness ARE PRIME RESPONSIBILITIES OF FEMA.

I don't know what Brown knew or did not know. He does not personally handle each event and I know he had an unimaginable number of issues to oversee. I also do not know what level of coordination he or his agents under charge knew or did not know or to what extent their contacts at the various state levels under state control were available given the physical limitations of communication lines and support personnel. Superficially, it would seem he would be aware of the news reports since everyone and his brother was covering the NOCC. Maybe he really wasn't due to the multistate scope of the catastrophe - he had several million people to worry about in addition to those 20,000+. This situational awareness is imperative and perhaps someone down the line was supposed to have this covered... perhaps it even was but the subordinate was blocked by Blanco's questionable decisions. I'd still like more evidence with appropriate context.


To a lesser extent, FEMA has input to the emergency evacuation plans of NO. Of all places, NO needed a locked-in airtight evacuation plan, not "everyone to the Superdome, you are on your own." FEMA is charged with oversight and help with testing and training of these plans. Brown's response: "We didn't have funding to finish that."

That was NO's evacuation plan and it was their responsibiltiy to follow their plan. They either didn't even if it was a good one or they did and it was a bad one. Maybe they didn't follow a bad plan. Whatever, it was the city's and state's responsibility to be aware of their capabilities and shortcomings and communicate them to the Federal levels in a timely manner. As far as funding, what is wrong with that response? He can't print money and Congress must allocate it. No blood from turnips.


One year ago, after a simulation showed that a direct cat 5 hit might kill 100K, FEMA should have put this right at the top of the list. Had Brown stressed this, the small amount of funding needed for more testing, better training and a bulletproof plan would have been found.

More testing would have accomplished nothing. Ivan was evidence of this and LA did not adequately change their evacuation plans for certain cities or prepare adequately for the breakdown in civilzed peoples. NO specifically did not follow the plan they had. Ignoring an even better one, even a bulletproof one, would have contributed absolutely nothing.


The time to expose weakness in plans and local and State leaders is before the crisis. Claiming a lack of funding is a crutch.

I agree with the former but disagree with the latter. Funding, or lack of it, is a reality. The nation now has Exhibit A of how NOT to use resources. These post event monies would have gone a long way to preparedness. Live and learn... or I wish we'd learn.


In 1997, fearing a system failure from Y2K, Federal regulators forced the Utilities and the finacial sector to undergo rigorous testing and certification.

That was indeed good foresight and was a wise use of resources. The catastrophe that never happens is always hard to fully appreciate.


Pointing fingers in all directions after a failure is no way to live. All have to step up to the responsibility and FEMA is in the best position to do this.

Agree with the former again with partial agreement on the latter. I consider the individual and the local government to be the most cognizant of need and necessary planning. The more local control people have, the more involved they become both within their family and community. Dependence on resources from far away places only entices complacency and dependence.


Simply stating a lack of funding - when your own testing demonstrated a glaring weakness - is not sufficient.

Money is a tangible limitation. Always has been and always will be. The trick is to spend it wisely. We haven't.


I'll conclude with this snippet since history is so good at repeating. The observed response is predictable. Here's an AP story carried at MSNBC:

FEMA director bears the brunt of Katrina anger Hurricane victims, politicians turn to Brown as main scapegoat
"There is nothing more powerful than the urge to blame," said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management consultant who helps corporate leaders and other prominent figures try to repair tattered images. "It happens every time. It is a deeply embedded archetype in the human mind."

He said the Brown episode is playing out in classic fashion.

"You can follow the steps," he said. "First, outrage. Second, the headline: 'What went wrong?' Third, the telltale memo that supposedly suggests somebody knew and did nothing. I just don't find this to be unique at all."

AnonymousDrivel,Th... (Below threshold)
robert:

AnonymousDrivel,

Thank you for the response.

I agree with some of your points – I am a Republican BTW – but there are a few with which I must quibble.

1) I agree that Trent Lott might have “trumped up” his charges some; nevertheless he claims that to many requests Brown’s answer was always “No”. (Others have complained also, some who no doubt prevailed on Bush and Cheney, since Bush does not take action just because someone complains on CNN.) I remain convinced that Lott is seriously concerned with the situation and wants some action. To your point on the mobile homes, I regard Brown’s attention to legal details and process issues to prove my point, not refute it.

I googled in vain for the Laws of the Roman Empire to which some defender of Nero might have referred. Still, Rome burned, Nero fiddled, and nobody remembers much of anything else. The term “clusterfuck” comes to mind.

I would kill to be Brown, in front of a Senate Committee, when accused by some accountant of delivering desperately needed resources – in the face of our largest disaster – without waiting for all the paperwork to be filled out. Bring it on pal.

2) I agree that Brown was very busy with the “millions” to worry about. I also agree that subordinates might have some culpability. Was Brown truly ignorant of the situation at the Convention Center and the Superdome? We can assume this only because the other explanation is that he was knowledgeable, but acting in front of the cameras.

Your choice: either he was inexplicably clueless, or knowing and evading. Despite your energetic defense, there is no good position here.

This is inexplicable, and worrisome. How is this possible? Does anyone at FEMA watch TV? Everyone, including Brown, knew NO flooded. Where did he think the people went? This is a sign of an Agency out of touch.

3) You are quite correct to say that the failure to invoke the evacuation plan is on the local and State folks. Indeed, ignoring a better plan, as you say, would have been equally futile. No doubt the City and State bear the lion’s share of the blame on the failure to execute the plan. However, that was not my point.

As with the Utilities and the Banks example - and more recently local Law Enforcement cooperation with the FBI – these things need to be steered by the guiding hand of the Feds. It would not do to have thousands of different ways to interact with FEMA, for example. FEMA needs to set the standards and lay out the course.

I disagree that better testing, training and rehearsal would have made no difference. Just as with school fire drills and WWII submarine diving, more training and rehearsal (and testing) is not just a way - it is the only way. As we have seen, a plan in a file cabinet but never tested is fairly useless. If NO had done frequent drills, few would argue that the plan would have come to mind, and the execution been better.

My point is that as head of FEMA, one had to assess the situation of a city eight feet below sea level, with cat 3 levies, as dire. Certainly, one had to consider this one of the top ten potential problems. In this case why was there a lack of funding?

As you say, budgeting and funding is always a negotiation and a process. The FEMA director has input into this and to some extent sets Agency priorities. My point is that when Brown said he lacked funding to finish the NO plan - and test it - it is another way to say that he set the priority too low. I remain convinced that, as head of a U.S. Agency, Brown could have found the few bucks needed to complete this plan, if he wanted to.

Now let me see if I got this right. We had a flooded city, a bailing Mayor, a Governor who was clutching, Red Cross trucks idling and Michigan firefighters playing touch football at the airport, while murders were the thing at the Convention Center; folks were jumping from the rafters of the Superdome, and frying on the ramp. Clusterfuck.

Everyone involved, no doubt, has some law or procedure to fall back on to explain their actions or lack of them. The mayor was afraid of hotel lawsuits, for example.

Hooray, the lawyers and accountants have finally won! We are completely handcuffed.

It is said that Lincoln violated almost every law we had. We remember him though, and his phrase: “General, if you are not going to use the Army, can I borrow it?”


Thank God Brown is finally ... (Below threshold)
Roger:

Thank God Brown is finally gone. Doesn't he realize that the only acceptable place for idiots is the Senate! Senators Pelosi and Kennedy come to mind for some reason.

Prediction:History... (Below threshold)

Prediction:

History will show:

1. The state and local governments had an agreement with the Federal Government on the 'rules of engagement' for a Katrina-like disaster.

2. The state and local local governments were grossly negligent in keeping up their end of the agreement.

3. The Democrats and the liberal MSM whipped up the meme that the federal government (Brown,Chertoff,Bush) were slow to respond but in actuality saved New Orleans and Louisiana from their self-inflicted wounds.

4. Three disasters fell upon our nation at the end of the Summer of 2005...a natural disaster, a man-made disaster, a political disaster.

I'll make a prediction: Mik... (Below threshold)
Greg P:

I'll make a prediction: Mike Brown uses the Hurricane aftermath to become fantastically rich. Here's how he will do it.

1) Brown, now no-longer coordinating FEMA but still at the head of it, grants no-bid contracts to Halliburton and to companies associated with Joe Allbaugh to deal with the disaster. (If you don't know who Joe Allbaugh was - keep reading)

2) Mike Brown gets hired by one of those companies as an "advisor" and starts raking in the cash.

Why do I predict it? Because its the standard operating procedure for the neo-cons who see personal profit at the expense the well being of the nation and the treasury as no big deal.

That's what the ex-FEMA head (the guy who lobbied to put Brown at the head of FEMA) did, his ex-roomate, Joe Allbaugh.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0908-03.htm


I'm not shilling for Brown-... (Below threshold)

I'm not shilling for Brown- I am never surprised when a bureaucratic behomoth acts like one. What I am asking is specific complaints about things that really are FEMA's responsibility. I'm still not seeing them.
I think it was Junkyard Blog where I read that really, all the mistakes FEMA might have made could be fixed by firing LA Governor Blanco.

deputyheadmistress,<p... (Below threshold)
robert:

deputyheadmistress,

1) How about the many trucks stuck on the side of the road in Georgia? Many trucks, some of which were big ones loaded to the gills with relief supplies for the Alabama coast, sat idle for days stopped at FEMA instructions for lack of a FEMA issued "tasker ticket."

Blankout has a lot to answer for, but not this one.

2) Thousands of mobile homes sat in Atlanta for a week because Brown did not know exactly where each one was going beforehand, and the paperwork was not filled out.

Look, I'm a Republican and a Bush supporter (please see earlier comments on Blankout). But we simply cannot take the position that Republicans can do no wrong. This is nuts.

Robert, I am not saying tha... (Below threshold)

Robert, I am not saying that Republicans can do no wrong- I am not even a Republican ( I registered Libertarian).
I am saying that so far, nobody has told me something specific that FEMA did wrong, other than trust Blanco to do her job, and that was pretty stupid, and being in general a large, unwieldy bureaucratic agency, which is the nature of large, unwieldy bureaucratic agencies. Firing Brown won't fix that. Getting rid of FEMA would. I have been in communication with several small, independent church efforts to get relief into hurricane destroyed efforts. These are most just a bunch of folks from one autonomous church group getting together and taking a trailor down, and along the way letting other churches know what they are doing. While down there they help clear up trees and lines and clean out houses. They've been told by police at road checks that hte churches (in particular *my* faith group, but I don't want to brag too much) are getting aid in faster and more efficiently than any other group- point being that I think private charities are far more effective at this than large agencies bloated with all the hot air produced in the upper echelons of government. So I'm not defending FEMA per se, I'm just saying I don't see anything new wrong with it that hasn't been wrong before, and yet now everybody's screaming about it, and I do not see specifics.

Until your post (for which I thank you), nearly every complaint I have seen has been about things that were not FEMA's responsibility- and even you leave me to do the homework myself. I know it's not very libertarian of me, but may I please beg a link or two from you?

robert, thank you for your ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

robert, thank you for your examples, but-

Is that all you have as examples of failures by FEMA?

In a disaster of this size and destruction, that's all you have?

I think FEMA has done a good job in a timely manner considering the scope of this disaster. I think many people have wildly unrealistic expectations on how fast disaster relief can get to all parts of a disaster area the size of Great Britain. Do you people have any clue as to how large an area was affected? It wasn't just N.O., you know. Though you'd never know it from watching the MSM.

Disclaimer for all you whiners : Yes, I'm sure FEMA made mistakes. No, I'm not covering for Bush or for anyone else. Screw ups should be pointed out and fixed, no matter who screwed up. Maybe FEMA really did screw up, but it is WAY too early to accurately judge their total efforts.

Whatever mistakes I have seen done by FEMA absolutely pale in comparison to mistakes done by the state of LA and local officials. It's not even close. And yet, the first week was 'Bash the Feds, don't mention the locals'.

Folks,You ask for ... (Below threshold)
robert:

Folks,

You ask for examples and I give you several. Now you say: “Not good enough.”

But, it is not only I. I would ask you to consider this:

1) “Completely overwhelmed, completely dysfunctional.” - Vitter, R. (LA) (speaking of all levels of government, expressly including FEMA and Brown).

2) “Brown was acting like a private not like a general.” Lott, R. (Mississippi)

3) “Systematic failure of all levels of government…suspect background as head of the Arabian Horse Association.” Kristol and Gibson (FNC).

4) “Given the need for expediency, maybe we can dispense with the 3rd and 4th level review of contracts” Vice Admiral Thad Allen. (When asked: “What will change now that you have been put in charge of the FEMA response to Katrina?”)

Come on folks. The size and scope of this disaster required a General or ex Governor or something. Even Blanco folded, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the problem. When someone is confronted by a problem they have no skills or ability to handle, they retreat to the familiar and burry themselves in routine, or they freeze. By many accounts, the first is what Brown did and Blankout did the second.

Let me ask you two questions:

1) Do you think that Bush and Cheney would have replaced Brown if they thought that he was doing a kick-ass job, over and above the call of duty? For all the tea in China?
2) What in Brown’s background, as political operative and head of the Arabian Horse Association (he was fired) equipped him to deal with this level of problem?




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