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Ex-FEMA Chief Not Gone Yet

It's easy to make fun of former FEMA director Mike Brown, goodness knows we've done enough, but even I wasn't prepared for this:

(CBS/AP September 26, 2005) - Former FEMA director Michael Brown is continuing to work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency at full pay, with his Sept. 12 resignation not taking effect for two more weeks, said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke.

CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Knocke told her that technically Brown remains at FEMA as a "contractor" and he is "transitioning out of his job." The reason he will remain at FEMA about a month after his resignation, said the spokesman, is that the agency wants to get the "proper download of his experience."

During that time, Brown will advise the department on "some of his views on his experience with Katrina," as he transitions out of his job, Knocke told the Associated Press.

After a few "WTF's, I actually thought about possible rationales. Perhaps the agency is serious about learning from it's mistakes. If that's the case then Brown's knowledge is essential.

Consider that the best hitters in baseball fail 2 out of 3 times at the plate and research scientists fail over 90 percent of the time. Failure is their best teacher.

Most would agree that when it comes to failure at FEMA, Brown IS uniquely qualified to teach...


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Comments (15)

Truth is stranger than fict... (Below threshold)

Truth is stranger than fiction!! :-O

the "proper download of his... (Below threshold)

the "proper download of his experience"?! God Almighty, what people do to language!

The guy did successfully ma... (Below threshold)
stephen berliner:

The guy did successfully manage a number of emergencies for FEMA as well as Katrina. There is a certain amount of outprocessing that must be done even if you think he deserves the noose. Let us remember that it was the state and local governemnts that were the main problem during Katrina.
The lessons learned here is that politics has been inserted into every facet of life whether it belongs there or not!

Exit interviews and data du... (Below threshold)

Exit interviews and data dumps are a commong thing in the business world. I'd be more disapointed in FEMA and the Bush admin if they just dumped him on the corner and learned nothing from his experience or mistakes.

Michael Brown was unfairly ... (Below threshold)

Michael Brown was unfairly maligned and scapegoated. Shame on you for piling on. WTF indeed.

I agree with Stephen. Brown... (Below threshold)

I agree with Stephen. Brown managed four hurricanes, one with FEMA under HSA. Something was different about Louisiana. Mississippi was not the same problem, and neither was Alabama. People keep missing the fact that all this hullabaloo is about Morial and the Superdome. Had Blanco not kept the Feds out of those places Brown would be getting complimented, and not ridiculed. I don't think it's wrong to expect people to do their jobs. Brown takes the fall here, but Blanco ought to be canned as well. She is getting away with murder.
Then add to it all the inflammatory reportage by Shepard Smith and it was a PR disaster for Bush, but one of local making.

Michael Brown was ... (Below threshold)
Michael Brown was unfairly maligned and scapegoated. Shame on you for piling on. WTF indeed. Posted by: Will Franklin at September 27, 2005 10:58 AM

I agree.

I don't know if he was a qualified disaster specialist and there's no doubt that he is not "hands on" guy who knows how to crack heads to get things done.

But there's also no question listening to the House FEMA hearing (which I'm doing on C-SPAN radio) that he's not as bad as the conventional wisdom paints him. It's also pretty clear that Louisiana State emergency operations were far worse than even conventional wisdom.

This doesn't sound that unu... (Below threshold)

This doesn't sound that unusual to me. When management-level employees leave (or are replaced) they are often required to hang around until they've helped with the transition. Regardless of what you think of Brown's performance, it's unrealistic to think that he knows nothing worth passing along to his successor. Especially about ongoing operations.

I'm still trying to figure ... (Below threshold)

I'm still trying to figure out where FEMA failed, unless of course you think that executive branch bureaucrats should have assumed dictatorial extra-constituional powers and invade New Orleans to enforce an evacuation. But damnitalltohell, who cares about martial law when Anderson Cooper sees 10,000 bodies floating through New Orleans.

On the bright side, with Brown gone and someone who cares more in his place, I guess FEMA can take their magic wands out of storage now and make sure that nothing bad ever happens again. Meanwhile I'm still waiting for Governor Barbour to rip into FEMA for its failures in his state where the eye of the hurricane actually hit and obliterated, not flooded, but obliterated whole towns.

Oh,and what is it with all the lousy baseball analogies in politics lately. Baseball averages adhere to the same bell shaped curve as just about everyhting else in nature, it's just that the median and sigma values are different -- because the underlying aspect of nature being measured is different. Remember, it is always dangerous to mix relative and absolute statistics, unless you are intentionally trying to be deceitful.

Sorry to be so snarky, but this casual "of course we all know that FEMA screwed up royally" meme was annoying weeks ago. As more and more facts continue to filter out it becomes ever more obvious that FEMA was a lot more a part of the solution than the problem. I'm just surprised to read such flippantly errant commentary here.

Having been through 3 disas... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Having been through 3 disasters myself ('89 Loma Prieta quake, '91 Oakland Hills fire, '01 Nisqualy quake in Seattle), I think people have mistakenly viewed FEMA's roll in disasters as that of a first responder (as Brown correctly pointed out today). In fact, they are a coordinating agency.

In the most simple terms possible, I believe far too great of expectations were placed on FEMA by the general public as a first responder. Again, this is not their job: FEMA coordinates food, supplies, money and so on, all of which come from various sources AFTER a disaster. By this absurd expectation, FEMA was "late" in reacting to the disasters I have been in. And that expectation was never the case in any of the disasters I've been in.

It has always been the responsibility of local and state authorities to coordinate emergency and disaster plans. In Oakland's '91 fire (3,500 homes lost in less than 8 hours), local authorities took and bore brunt of the blame (no coordination of fire hydrate keys between Oakland and Berkeley; lack of prepardeness on the part of city officials; no city brush removal program and so on, are just some of the examples where local authorities failed. Does this sound familiar to you? It should. Failed levees. Failed security measures. Lack of food. No busses to transport people. Failing toAnd on and on. They are all local failures; not federal failures. But as Brown testified today " Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco were reticent to order a mandatory evacuation." That's a local failure. Period. Any other argument is complete bullshit.

On the subject: I agree with drjohn and Bryan C. They make perfectly legit cases for Brown hanging around as he gets unjustly railroaded out of his job by a (using that troll Pelosi's words) 'whitewash' committee. What a farce.

For the diametrically oppos... (Below threshold)
jack rudd:

For the diametrically opposing position, check out Powerline today. Apparently none of the fools in Congress touched him in their hearings.

I'm torn: was it stupidity ... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

I'm torn: was it stupidity or good startegy for Republican (!) members to ask "Why didn't you ..." and get the response "That is not what FEMA does."

But two biggies show he does not belong in management:
1. at least try to ensure that those under you are passing up information: Brown was often clueless because his people were not telling him what was going on - this would not pass muster at a McD franchise.
2. when someone was assigned something to do in a meeting, he assumed they would do it. Nope. Take notes and names, check back.
People are upset that he is working out the month before his resignation takes effect as a "consultant" - not me. It may not be all that useful in this particular case, but in normal circumstances I wonder why it is not done more often. The new person coming in can get info on current status of work, find out who will work unsupervised and who needs an occasional kick-start, which outside contacts must be updated because they will not ask vs those who will call in on their own... Lots of stuff that can save literally months of learning.

"I'm torn: was it stupidity... (Below threshold)

"I'm torn: was it stupidity or good startegy for Republican (!) members to ask "Why didn't you ..." and get the response "That is not what FEMA does."

How about a third option: the truth?

Really, the ignorance exhibited by the Congressional panel was simply jaw-dropping. And you guys here are no better. Ignorance, self-righteousness and a deep desire to scapegoat a guy who by all accounts did a fairly good job in a politically FUBARed situation.

Shame on all of you.

the truth=getting at the tr... (Below threshold)

the truth=getting at the truth

Um, just a thought:<p... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Um, just a thought:

If Brown was so incompetent and stupid in his assumptions, how was he able the 3 hurricanes that all hit Florida in 2004 in less than six weeks without such a Katrina-like debacle occuring?

Oh, it's fair to critisize Brown all right, don't get me wrong. Just lay the blame first and foremost on the local and state governments first. They will be proven to have been grossly unprepared, I guarantee it.






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