FEMA Director Michael Brown has been the subject of much criticism for his performance in response to Hurricane Katrina. At least some considerable part of the criticism seems justified. Brown came to the job with minimal experience in emergency management (he used to be the agency's general counsel) and has made some statements that are just plain wrong.
Now it seems that heor something higher up on the organizational charthas decided to put someone in place with more experience in these matters. The Washington Post's Federal Page ordinarily treats matters of interest to career civil servants and worthy scholars of public policy management. But today it featured a story that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has installed a deputy who appears to be taking over all the important parts of his job. Here are the first two paragraphs:
With Michael D. Brown, the embattled public face of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, taking harsh criticism for the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the secretary of homeland security this week assigned a top Coast Guard official to help bail him out.
Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, the Coast Guard's chief of staff, was assigned on Monday to be Brown's deputy and to take over operational control of the search-and-rescue and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. The unprecedented task of coordinating the massive effort was handed off to a leader and expert who was described by colleagues as unflappable, engaging and intensely organized.
But read the whole thing.
My own take, reading between the lines: George W. Bush is considered loyal, many would say too loyal, to subordinates and too unwilling to oust them when they fail to perform. But in this instance, I suspect, he told Chertoff to bring in someone with hands-on emergency management experience to do Brown's job for him. In effect though not in name, if my reading is right, Michael Brown has been fired.
We have heard a lot from the left blogosphere on how George W. Bush is responsible for everything from Hurricane Katrina itself (he's against Kyoto, you see, which of course would have stopped it) to the 200-some buses that the city of New Orleans left parked in lots where they are now flooded instead of using them to carry out the city's own emergency plan to evacuate people who could not get out by themselves. Here's a reminder of the left blogosphere's vitriolic ridicule of former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's advice that Americans should keep a home security kit.
On Louisiana's flood control efforts, there seem to have been corruption problems (via www.hughhewitt.com). And here's a scathing review of the performances of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco from Bob Williams, who as a state legislator represented the part of Washington state most impacted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. I should add that the performance of FEMA seems to have been molto lacking: See the first item above.