Katrina: FEMA Director Brown Pushed Aside
FEMA head Michael Brown has been recalled to Washington to “oversee the big picture” while someone else runs the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen will replace Michael Brown, the embattled FEMA director, as the on-site head of hurricane relief operations in the Gulf Coast, a senior administration official told CNN. Brown will head back to Washington from Louisiana to oversee the big picture, the official said. (Full Story) Allen has been acting as an assistant to Brown in the Gulf region.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is expected to make the announcement at a news conference in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon.
In other words, Brown has been fired.
Update: FEMA Chief Relieved of Katrina Command (AP)
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being relieved of his command of the Bush administration’s Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday. He will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts, Chertoff said.
Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: “By the press, yes. By the president, No.”
“Michael Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge,” Chertoff told reporters in Baton Rouge, La. Chertoff sidestepped a question on whether the move was the first step toward Brown’s leaving FEMA. But a source close to Brown, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FEMA director had been considering leaving after the hurricane season ended in November and that Friday’s action virtually assures his departure.
Asked if the move was a demotion, Brown said: “No. No. I’m still the director of FEMA.” He said Chertoff made the decision to move him out of Louisiana. It was not his own decision, Brown said. “I’m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and, maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night’s sleep. And then I’m going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims,” Brown said. “This story’s not about me. This story’s about the worst disaster of the history of our country that stretched every government to its limit and now we have to help these victims.”
Such are the hazards of public life. One presumes Brown has put in incredibly hard hours and done his best here. Clearly, he wasn’t particularly well trained for the position; it’s not knowable whether someone with better credentials could have done any better, though.
Ireland Online’s headline sums it up nicely: “Hurricane claims first political casualty“