Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Hurricane Katrina isn't just a national disaster, it's a national disgrace. The way that relief and recovery efforts have been mismanaged thus far is shameful. For the government of a developed, first world nation to have handled this crisis in this manner is inexcusable and unforgivable. And all citizens should be concerned that in the first test of our Homeland Security Department since the 9/11 attacks, the system failed horribly.

Much of the blame has to laid squarely at the feet of FEMA chief, Michael Brown. Brown is unqualified, unfit, and unprepared for his role as the head of the nation's Emergency Preparedness and Response system.

Prior to joining FEMA in 2001, Brown served as the judges and stewards commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. His job was to ensure that horse-show judges followed the rules and to investigate allegations against those suspected of cheating. Confused? Don't see the link between that job title and his present one? Well you're not alone. Much of the nation is asking that very question right now.

Just how did Brown get such an important government position? Call it political patronage. It's a classic example of nepotism, plain and simple. Call it cronyism, the good ole' boy network, or whatever else you want to. It's all the same.

Brown's old friend and college roommate Joe Allbaugh ran George W Bush's election campaign in 2000 and was rewarded with the position of FEMA director for his efforts. Allbaugh, in turn, hired Brown as FEMA General Counsel. Within a year, Allbaugh made Brown his deputy director, and Brown eventually succeeded his old friend when Allbaugh left to join a private company in January 2003.

Brown's inexperience should have been self evident, but his incompetence was soon revealed. Under his direction, FEMA disbursed $30 million in disaster relief funds for Hurricane Frances to residents of Miami, Florida - a city which was not affected by the hurricane. Brown admitted to $12 million in overpayments, but denied any serious mistakes, blaming a computer glitch. Due to this gross oversight, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler publicly urged President Bush to fire Brown in January of this year. In April, Wexler repeated that call to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, citing new reports that FEMA sent inspectors with criminal records of robbery and embezzlement to do damage assessments.

The President mustn't delay. Brown needs to be dismissed immediately. Perhaps there are Arabian horses to be saved somewhere, but Brown couldn't save a city or its citizens when they were in crisis. He couldn't even marshall the necessary resources to help. Instead he turned down offers of help from other cities, such as Chicago.

In his place, the President should appoint someone with true disaster management expertise. Names like Rudy Giuliani have been mentioned, and Colin Powell, a man accustomed to running massive military operations, might also be a suitable choice. But Brown has been a PR disaster for the White House, and a human disaster on the ground. He needs to go, and now.

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1 comment:

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