Thursday, March 5, 2009

Obama Chooses Fugate: FEMA to be Plucked From DHS?


President Obama has finally chosen a FEMA Director and by all accounts it was a solid choice. Craig Fugate, Director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management who was appointed and reappointed by Florida's last two Republican Governors, was tapped to head FEMA. Fugate's emergency management background and experience is extensive having navigated Florida through some of her worst hurricane seasons on record including 2004's rampage of Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. The choice is in direct contrast to President George W. Bush's selections of Joe Allbaugh and Michael Brown, two political appointees with no emergency management background, to head FEMA from 2001 to 2005. From Allbaugh's cancellation of Project Impact to Brown's (and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff's) failed leadership during Hurricane Katrina, the lack of experience at the top of FEMA was costly.

The elevation of Fugate to FEMA head and the noticeable absence, as of yet, of a Homeland Security Adviser speaks volumes. My best guess is that legislation will be introduced in short order which will extricate FEMA from DHS and elevate the FEMA Director to cabinet-level status as was the case during the Clinton administration, while at the same time eliminating the Homeland Security Adviser position and Homeland Security Council. I have no inside information, but the smoke signals emanating from the White House seem to indicate a major White House reorganization along these lines is imminent.

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