Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 10, 2006

Mike Brown testifies on the Hill

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on February 10, 2006

From CNN:

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown told a Senate panel Friday that he feels he’s been made a scapegoat for the government’s sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina.

“I certainly feel somewhat abandoned” by the Bush administration now, Brown said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

In the hours after Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast on Monday, August 29, Brown said he bypassed his boss at the Department of Homeland Security and communicated directly with the White House about the disaster.

He described how he “got around DHS” by dealing with President Bush’s top aides instead of going to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

He also contradicted comments by Homeland Security officials that they were unaware of flood dangers in New Orleans, Louisiana, the day that Katrina made landfall.

“For them to now claim that we didn’t have awareness of it, I think is just baloney,” he said. “They should have had awareness of it because they were receiving the same information that we were.”

Brown said FEMA held daily video conference calls on the storm’s impact.

He said, “The record indicates that on numerous occasions” a senior Homeland Security official was “in on those conversations.”

“I find it a little disingenuous that DHS would claim that they were not getting that information,” Brown said.

For more information, see the prepared statements from the HSGAC hearing which are available here.

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1 Comment »

229

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 11, 2006 @ 9:53 am

This comment is posted with intention of assisting future improvement in federal level response to a large-scale domestic catastrophe regardless of cause.
A number of violations of what I have called the administrative ten commandments led to problems in the Katarina response. These are available on request.
More importantly, trust and a sense of what skills are brought to the incident/event by each individual and organization need to be known in advance. If nothing is brought to the crisis management by individuals and organizations, and that is known in advance then it is only a waste of time to try and make those individuals/organizations productive and helpful during the crisis. Probably unknown to Mike Brown, Secretary Chertoff once was the Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Division within the Department of Justice. This organization is responsible for emergency management within DOJ including DOJ particpation in blackworld programs government wide that require participation Government-wide or are DOJ led. Typically these involve law enforcement emergencies and emergency assistance. See 28 CFR Part 65.
Katrina response was beyond State and local capabilities as recognized by the President with his early declaration of an “Emergency” pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Emergency Assistance and Disaster Relief Act, Public Law 100-707 (November 23, 1988) 42 USC Sections 5121 et. seq.
A brand new National Response Plan (NRP) had been adopted in April 2005 and while some changes from the former Federal Response Plan (FRP) adopted in 1992 had been bureaucratically accepted many had not been. Early comments on drafts of the NRP and its concept of Principal Federal Official (PFO) had failed to reconcile that concept with the Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) approach of the FRP pursuant to the Stafford Act. This key reconciliation failure was identified fully in the Senate hearing but not specifically labeled. The Senate should legislative reconcile the concepts in coordination with the House and the Executive Branch.
Again, the Senate hearing pointedly reminded everyone that the statutory organization adopted for DHS in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (November 25, 2002)eliminated the agency known as FEMA and all PAS positions in FEMA effective with DHS startup on March 2, 2003. This fact and the continued use of the FEMA brand name meant that legal clarity in the authority of DHS and what became relabeled FEMA foreshadowed theKatrina response problems. The Senate should request all the legal opinions post november 2002 on DHS organization, PAS positions, and legal authority to determine what legislative fixes may or may not be necessary. Also a complete review of all formal and informal delegations and the opinions and training on those delegations should be reviewed. This probably requires a GAO type analysis even before legislation. In the meantine, the NRP concept of the Principal Federal Official and that of the Stafford Act FCO concept should be the highest priority of Secretary Chertoff.
A final note is that whether notice of levee failure was even material to the response (no person or organization has identified what an extra 24 hours notice would have resulted in) in some terrorist or man-made events Protective Action Recommendations (PAR’s) could have been issued to the public. Even for the levee failure the PARs issued to the public in the 96 hours after Katrina made landfall could be helpful in determining the materaility of the 24 lapse in actual notice to key officials. In this instance, unless the White House is now considered the operational/coordination center for federal response it made no difference. Could it be that other agencies waited for Secretary to Secretary interface before responding to an administratively recreated FEMA, with its “fictional” Director.

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