Whether FEMA did their job as well or nearly as well as could be expected will no doubt take months to find out. However, long before that point their current head, Michael D. Brown, might be on his way out. If so, it would be tragic indeed if he's the only one.
From "FEMA Director Singled Out by Response Critics":
...The Times-Picayune, Louisiana's largest newspaper, published an open letter on Sunday to President Bush, calling for every FEMA official to be fired, "Director Michael Brown especially," joining critics in the state and Congress.
"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry," the editorial said. "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame. . . . No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced."
Brown's defenders say he is the scapegoat of a cataclysmic storm and failure of New Orleans's levee system that, in the words of President Bush and Chertoff, could not be foreseen.
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Bush said Friday during a tour of the state, a day before Chertoff voiced his confidence.
"It's easy to play the blame game, find a scapegoat, but no one person could be responsible for the challenges we face and the lives lost," said W. Craig Fugate, emergency management director for Florida, where Bush's brother is governor, who worked with FEMA through four hurricanes in 2004. He said state and local authorities share responsibility for the death toll likely to emerge in coming days.
Joe M. Allbaugh -- a college friend, former Bush campaign manager and past FEMA director who hired Brown as FEMA general counsel in 2001 -- offered a qualified defense.
Allbaugh called the government's overall performance "unacceptable" but added: "Blaming one agency, you cannot do that." Still, he acknowledged that FEMA had lost independence and clout with the White House. "I had a unique relationship with the president, having been his chief of staff," Allbaugh said. "If you don't have that kind of relationship, it just makes things tougher."
If anything, Brown's political background has become a liability, leading to charges that he was given his job as patronage. He got his start in politics as an Oklahoma native with Allbaugh but ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988, winning 27 percent of the vote. He has chaired the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority and served as a City Council member, examiner for the Oklahoma and Colorado supreme courts, and assistant city manager.
Allbaugh hired Brown after an acrimonious end to a nine-year stint as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. Former officials say he was forced out; a friend and lawyer of Brown's said he negotiated a settlement after withstanding numerous lawsuits against his enforcement of rules for judges and stewards.
Defending his qualifications, Brown said he has overseen responses to 164 presidential declared emergencies and disasters as FEMA counsel and general counsel, including the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster and the California wildfires in 2003. "I have been through a few disasters," he said at a news conference yesterday...