April 2nd, 2006


Thanks But No Thanks!

FEMA contacted many experienced people in the field of emergency management to consider the vacant position of FEMA director. They all said, "No thanks!" Micheal Chertoff blames the lack of takers on "bad publicity" but people who were offered the job don't see how the problems with FEMA can be resolved going in as part of a lame duck administration. Another problem with the job is that with the post 09/11 changes the FEMA director was downgraded from a cabinet-level position to a department head that reports to Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security.

The guy taking the job, R. David Paulison, was not in the running originally even though he was the iterim head of FEMA. Now that no one else wants the job, the administration is offering it to him.

This doesn't make me feel very confident going into another storm season in 60 days.

"The calls went out across the nation, as Bush administration officials asked the country's most seasoned disaster response experts to consider the job of a lifetime: FEMA director. But again and again, the response over the past several months was the same: 'No thanks.'

Unconvinced that the administration is serious about fixing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or that there is enough time actually to get it done before President Bush's second term ends, seven of these candidates for director or another top FEMA job said in interviews that they had pulled themselves out of the running.

'You don't take the fire chief job after someone has burned down the city unless you are going to be able to do it in the right fashion,' said Ellis M. Stanley, general manager of emergency planning in Los Angeles, who said he was one of those called.

Now, with the next hurricane season only two months away, the Bush administration has finally come up with a convenient but somewhat embarrassing solution. Mr. Bush, several former and current FEMA officials said, intends to nominate R. David Paulison, a former fire official who has been filling in for the past seven months, to take on the job permanently...

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has acknowledged the difficulty of finding a permanent replacement for Michael D. Brown, who resigned in September after widespread criticism of his management of the response to Hurricane Katrina, as well as filling other senior posts at the agency and hundreds of lower-level jobs. Today, of the 30 most senior jobs, 11 are filled by officials appointed on an acting basis, including the administrators in charge of such critical functions as operations, disaster recovery and disaster response.

'You've got to be able to attract people,' Mr. Chertoff told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month. 'And I will not deny that certainly I think when there is a lot of negative publicity, it doesn't make a lot of people want to migrate.'

The search has now gone on so long that Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Homeland Department's budget, threatened on Wednesday to hold up action on the budget bill until the top administrative posts at FEMA were filled."

NY Times article.
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