You are here

fema

Mike Brown, Stephen Buyer on the missing parishes

The mystery of the missing parishes deepens with today's Congressional testimony from former FEMA head Mike Brown.
From the transcript

[REP. STEPHEN BUYER (R-IN)]: ...I'd like to know why did the president's federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines?
BROWN: Under the law, the governor makes the request for the declaration and the governors of the states specify what areas, what counties they want included in that declaration.
And, based upon the governor's request, that's the recommendation that we make to the president. So if a governor does not request a particular county or a particular parish, that's not included in the request.
BUYER: All right.
Orleans Parish is New Orleans. I was listening to my colleague, Mr. Jefferson's, questions about when they talked about, you know, they asked for this assistance for three days and then president responded the very next day, not the day that it was made -- the request -- but the governor of Louisiana actually excluded New Orleans from the president's federal emergency assistance declaration?
BROWN: Again, Congressman, we looked at the request. The governors make the request by...
BUYER: Let me ask this. Since you went through the exercise in Pam, was that not shocking to you that the governor would excluded New Orleans from the declaration?
BROWN: Yes.
BUYER: When that request came in excluding these three parishes, did you question it?

At this point, you might want to take a look at the PDF file I believe Brown is referring to:
gov.louisiana.gov/Disaster%20Relief%20Request.pdf
That does list all three parishes that are refered to above as missing... So, either Brown is wrong, or he's lying, or that's a "later version" of the document he received, or that's not the document he's refering to. Note that that document refers to the Stafford Act, mentioned further on:

BROWN: We questioned it. But I made the decision that we were going to go ahead and move assets in regardless because we have the ability to add those parishes...
BUYER: Regardless. Define regardless to me. What does that mean?
BROWN: Well, under the Stafford Act, once that declaration is made under the delegation of authorities, the director of FEMA can add counties on.
And so I just made the decision regardless of what the governor did, that if we needed to add counties on, we would do that.
[...Louisiana's emergency manager is under indictment...]
BUYER: ...I am really bothered that the governor of Louisiana would ask the president to declare an emergency so things could happen and she would exclude New Orleans and the parishes which are going to be hit by this hurricane.
BUYER: I'm really stunned by that. So I'm glad that you were also equally stunned.

Michael Brown of FEMA 9/27 Congressional Testimony transcript, news links

Former head of FEMA Michael Brown testified before Congress today. He spoke and was questioned for several hours, and the massive transcript is here and here in PDF form.
From the AP:

Former FEMA director Michael Brown blamed others for most government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday, especially Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He aggressively defended his own role.
Brown also said that in the days before the storm, he expressed his concerns that "this is going to be a bad one" in phone conversations and e-mails with President Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.
And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security _ the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency _ for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.
His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told Brown: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."
... "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown said...
... "I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said...
... Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. told Brown: "I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans."
In a testy exchange, Shays compared Brown's performance unfavorably with that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said.
"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted.
"I'm happy to be called not a Rudy Giuliani ... a scapegoat ... if it means that FEMA ... is going to be able to be reborn," Brown said.
Criticized by Shays for failing to get better equipment to make communication easier among emergency agencies, Brown blamed those above him.
"We put that money in our budget request and it was removed by the Department of Homeland Security" he said.
Brown said he was "just tired and misspoke" when a television interviewer appeared to be the first to tell him there were desperate residents at the New Orleans Convention Center.
Brown said he learned a day earlier that people were flocking there.
He blamed "a hysteric media" for what he said were unfounded reports of rapes and murders. He characterized blunt-spoken Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster, as "a bull in the China closet, God love him."
And he said Americans themselves must play a more active role in preparing for natural disasters _ and not expect more from the government than it can deliver.
Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas told Brown: "I don't know how you can sleep at night. You lost the battle."
Brown in his opening statement cited "specific mistakes" in dealing with the storm, and listed just two.
One, he said, was not having more media briefings.
As to the other, he said: "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off."
Both Blanco and Nagin are Democrats.
In Baton Rouge, La., Blanco's press secretary, Denise Bottcher, responded: "Mike Brown wasn't engaged then, and he surely isn't now. He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel," Bottcher said...

Another AP report has these bits from the transcript:

"FEMA is a coordinating agency, we are not a law enforcement agency," he said.
"It is inherently impractical, totally impractical, for the federal government to respond to every disaster of whatever size in every community across the country," Brown said.
"It breaks my heart to think about the disasters we respond to as FEMA and to think about the disasters that we also don't respond to," he added.

Brown also mentions a hitherto unknown site:

Ironically, it started with an organization called horsesass.org, that on some blog published a false, and, frankly, in my opinion, defamatory statement that the media just continued to repeat over and over.

They might have been the first site to discuss Brown's resume, and they respond to this news in typical leftie fashion:

That said, listening to Brown's testimony, I think he's saying something very important… something that speaks to the broader ideology of the Bush administration. He's not just blaming the state and local authorities for the chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina… he keeps repeating that various rescue and relief operations are not and should not be the responsibility of the federal government.
Uh-huh.
In response, I would just like to point out that the whole purpose of having a Federal Emergency Management Agency is to deal with regional events that are so catastrophic that state and local agencies are unable to respond. If we can't expect that from our federal government, I wonder what purpose the Union serves?

Mike Brown, the Florida hurricanes, and patronage

This HuffPost post has a roundup of former FEMA head Mike Brown possibly swinging the election for Bush by doling out cash to victims of the Florida hurricanes.
Note that some of that post appears to be inaccurate; Brown is apparently not staying on as a contractor at FEMA. Please summarize the links and the verifiable facts in the comments.

Mike Brown: more military, Blanco/Nagin, Convention Center

Former FEMA head Mike Brown is scheduled to testify before Congress today about the response to Katrina, and he spoke to congressional aides about that yesterday.
The AP has miraculously obtained a copy of a memo written by a "Republican staffer" who attended that briefing: "Brown Still On FEMA Payroll". Let's be as cynical as possible, and look at this:

...Brown expressed regrets "that he did not start screaming for DoD (Department of Defense) involvement" sooner. The first substantial numbers of active-duty troops responding to the Gulf Coast were sent on Saturday, Sept. 3 - five days after the storm hit.

Do you think that might have something to do with "Military tells Bush they should take control after disaster"? Is this part of the widespread pitch to change Posse Comitatus?
Further:

...Brown took several shots at Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He said the two officials "sparred during the crisis and could not work together cooperatively."
He also described Blanco as "indecisive" and refusing to cede control of the Louisiana National Guard to federal authorities because "it would have undercut her image politically," according to the memo.
The document also criticized the conference calls with state and federal officials that Brown ran during the crisis, saying that no official notes were taken and that Brown "just assumed that agencies would follow up on taskings resulting from the calls."
Brown defended himself against charges that he learned from television that thousands of refugees gathered at the New Orleans convention center, where adequate food, water and other supplies were lacking and there was rampant violence.
He said that because the convention center was not a planned evacuation site, "there is no reason FEMA would have known about it beforehand," according to the memo.
Brown also admitted he did not ensure that Nagin had a secure communications system during the crisis.

Mike Brown "transitioning" out of FEMA job

Despite what you might have heard, it appears the former FEMA head Mike Brown has not been re-hired. He is simply staying on for a couple more weeks while he's debriefed.
At 6:44PM EST, CBS News said:

Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown... has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate its response following Hurricane Katrina.

However, the apparently later AP report also at CBS says:

Former FEMA director Michael Brown is continuing to work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency at full pay, with his Sept. 12 resignation not taking effect for two more weeks, said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke.
CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Knocke told her that technically Brown remains at FEMA as a "contractor" and he is "transitioning out of his job." The reason he will remain at FEMA about a month after his resignation, said the spokesman, is that the agency wants to get the "proper download of his experience."
During that time, Brown will advise the department on "some of his views on his experience with Katrina," as he transitions out of his job, Knocke told the Associated Press...

FEMA's buses: subcontractor farmed it out; massive confusion; Landstar to blame?

Remember "Blanco: where were the 500 FEMA-promised buses?" Well, "Offer of buses fell between the cracks" has the shocking details.
A Florida trucking logistics company called Landstar Express America had a contract with FEMA that was worth up to $100 million per year to provide buses for evacuation purposes.
On Sunday, Aug. 28, Landstar apparently contacted a company called Carey Limousine asking them about the availability of buses.
Landstar found Carey by looking at their website.
Landstar inquired about availability again on Monday Aug 29, but they waited until "the early hours of Aug. 30, roughly 18 hours after the storm hit" to order buses from Carey, according to their spokeswoman Sally Snead:

She said Landstar turned to her company for buses Sunday after learning from Carey's Internet site that it had a meetings and events division that touted its ability to move large groups of people. "They really found us on the Web site," Snead said.
A Landstar spokeswoman declined comment on how the company responded to the hurricane.
Messages left for a FEMA spokeswoman were not returned.

In turn, Carey contracted with Transportation Management Services of Vienna, VA, which got 300 buses together.
Meanwhile, the heads of the United Motorcoach Association and of the American Bus Association - which apparently control over 20,000 buses - had each been contacting FEMA offering to help:

The day the hurricane made landfall, Victor Parra, president of the United Motorcoach Association, called FEMA's Washington office "to let them know our members could help out."
Parra said FEMA responded the next day, referring him to an agency Web page labeled "Doing Business with FEMA" but containing no information on the hurricane relief effort...
Unable to contact FEMA directly, Pantuso, through contacts on Capitol Hill, learned of Carey International's role and called Snead.
Pantuso said Snead told him she meant to call earlier but didn't have a phone number.
Finally, sometime after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Pantuso and Parra had enough information to send an SOS to their members to help in the evacuation.
By the weekend, more than 1,000 buses were committed to ferrying stranded New Orleans residents to shelters in Houston and other cities...

But, wait, there's more of the same:

In a regulatory filing last week, Landstar Express said it has received government orders worth at least $125 million for Katrina-related work. It's not known how much of that total pertains to the bus evacuation.
Landstar Express is a subsidiary of Landstar System, a $2 billion company whose board chairman, Jeff Crowe, also was chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the nation's premier business lobbies, from June 2003 until May 2004.
[...Landstar and the others are now aware of each other and cooperating...]
Landstar's regulatory filing also said that because of Hurricane Katrina, the maximum annual value of its government contract for disaster relief services has been increased to $400 million...

A situation similar to the last could have happened under Clinton or other presidents, but I have a feeling that under Bush it's a bit more "pronounced."

FEMA, DHS looked at different weather forecasts?

This completely unconfirmed post says that FEMA and the DHS might have been looking at different weather forecasts: one from the National Weather Service, and the other from Accuweather. Developing:

The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings this afternoon on Katrina. The House Science Committee will be holding hearing Wednesday morning (9/21). Sen. Ben Nelson (Florida) asked Max Mayfield whether it was true that Secretary Chertoff (the head of homeland security) & Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used Accuweather for hurricane forecasts of Katrina and he confirmed it. The National Infrastructure Command Center in DHS prepared an "overnight summary" for Secretary Chertoff on Katrina that was based on Accuweather hurricane predictions rather than hurricane forecast information from the National Hurricane Center. This dates from when former PA. Governor Ridge was Secretary of homeland security.
What's even most shocking is that the "NOAA Desk" in the DHS Ops Center, staffed by a primary & two backup NWS meteorologists, prepared forecasts for Secretary Chertoff based on the National Hurricane Center; however, it is unsure that this ever made it to the Secretary. To make matters worse & even more confusing, FEMA relies solely on NWS products, which includes those issued by the National Hurricane Center. So FEMA (which only uses NWS) and the DHS (which uses Accuweather) are not even looking at the same forecasts! The NWS NHC's track for Katrina was significantly different & more accurate than Accuweather's. Just recently, Accuweather's track for Ophelia brought it across Florida & into the Gulf. In both cases, Accuweather's forecast was dead wrong. The end result is that the head of homeland security & DHS & FEMA received conflicting forecasts.
Sen. Bill Nelson also asked Max Mayfield about consolidation and downsizing of WFOs and Max Mayfield unequivocally said it was a very bad idea, and that he hopes that it doesn't happen and that the local WFOs are an essential part of NWS. Senator Nelson also trashed Accuweather and, without naming Santorum, blasted those who would try to take NWS off the air and off the internet to help commercial interests.

Here's the hearing site, and here's a video. See also this.
10/19/05 UPDATE: Someone left the following comment on another blog:

Uh - I have video tape of night's news on CNN between 6pm ET and 12am ET from Wed before the storm hit through Wed after the storm hit. Are people saying that AccuWeather or the DHS got this wrong?
They were BEGGING people to leave N.O. and the Gulf area beginning on Wed night. Its right there on the video tape. And yet, the morning after the first PLEA by Chertoff to leave N.O. comes on the GOVERNOR or L.A. telling people to stay put and "hang tight" because there is NO MANDATORY EVACUATION PLAN IN EFFECT.
...No one, NO ONE but those two dimwit twits (mayor and governor) are to blame for all those deaths.

Will investigate and report...

Jimmy Carter on FEMA

From this:

When I founded FEMA "we put it together with three specific commitments," Carter remarked. "One, that it would be led [by] highly trained professionals in dealing with disasters. Secondly, that it would be completely independent and not under another agency that would submerge it. And third, that it would be adequately funded."
The former president said the key reason for creating the agency was to respond to governors who asked for a consolidation of the 16 bureaucracies previously responsible for emergency relief efforts. Carter said he hoped that the changes he ordered would have remained permanent, allowing for a more effective response to a hurricane now claiming upwards of 1000 lives.
Carter agreed with Bush on one point: "I think that now is the best time not to look back on blaming about Katrina, but to try to correct the defects that have evolved in recent years and make sure it is not repeated."

FEMA's Flood Insurance Program questioned

From ABC:

Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 4.5 million people pay premiums to be covered up to a maximum of $250,000. Residents have to pay extra to cover household goods.
"My first thing was, 'We have flood insurance,'" recalled Jennifer Dieux of Shady Side, Md. Her home was hit by the Chesapeake Bay flood surge. "It's not going to matter. We're covered. We're going to be fine," Dieux remembers thinking.
Two years later, Dieux and her family are still living in a government-provided camper parked in front of their flood-ruined home, which they cannot afford to fix...
Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer told ABC News that FEMA adjusters systematically low-balled the losses of Maryland flood victims...
...Even before Hurricane Katrina hit, the Bush administration had quietly sought to cut back the flood insurance program. In a letter to Congress, the administration said it was only a form of "aid" and a "misconception" that the policyholders' homes should be restored to pre-flood conditions.
According to a former program administrator, that is at odds with the program's intent...

Tag: 

FEMA ice trucks reach Maine; Sen. Collins responds

FEMA's caravan of trucks carrying ice have finally reached Portland, Maine. This prompted Sen. Susan Collins to send a letter to FEMA Acting Undersecretary Paulison and Lt. Gen. Strock

I am writing to request that you inquire into an apparent decision to send ice initially designated for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts to cold storage in Portland, Maine.
My office has been contacted with information that the federal government paid truck drivers $800 per day to haul bags of ice to the Gulf region for Hurricane Katrina victims, only to order them to turn around, leave the Gulf region, and drive to Portland for storage of the ice at a refrigerated storage facility. More than 200 trucks reportedly might arrive in Portland this week to store their loads of ice. As a result, the resources spent to procure this ice and retain these truck drivers will have been diverted from Hurricane Katrina relief efforts...

We're informed that it's 169 Million Pounds of Ice.
For the other side, see "Army Corps defends call to ship ice to Portland". Basically, they need to have ice available, and they ordered more than was needed.
Previously: FEMA ice trucks reach Massachusetts

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - fema