Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 6, 2006

Chertoff makes FEMA director an Under Secretary

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on April 6, 2006

Sec. Chertoff has sent identical letters this week to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), indicating the Department’s intention to rename the FEMA director position as the Under Secretary for Federal Emergency Management. From the letters:

In accordance with Section 872 of the Homeland Security Act (HSA) of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), I am writing to provide Congress notification of the change in the name of one of the offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS plans to replace the title of the office and position of the Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response with the title, “Under Secretary for Federal Emergency Management.” ….

There is no proposed abolition of any function or creation of any new programs contemplated by the proposed name change. The purpose of the name change is not to shift or alter any function, but to clarify the responsibilities of the office and position in light of the Second Stage Review reorganization and the FY 2006 Appropriations Act.

Perhaps this is a response to the difficulty that DHS has had finding a new director for FEMA. And it’s possible that there will be some pushback on this decision from Congress, consistent with the spat after the Second-Stage Review announcement as to DHS’s authority to create new Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary positions short of congressional approval.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 6, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

Congress (perhaps most members did so unknowingly) signed off on the second stage review reorganization that created a new Emergency Preparedness Directorate, headed by an Under Secretary. George Foresman was confirmed in this job in December by a voice vote in the Senate. That new PAS position swallowed the old Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response and left the remains of FEMA an office reporting to the Secretary.
In my judgement, Congress will have to approve the new organization named FEMA as a Directorate in DHS and the position of Under Secretary or Director of or for FEMA. PAS (Presidentially Appointed Senate confirmed) positions are statutory and codified in Title 5 of the United States Code. Oddly enough the organization that tracks these and is the final arbiter of seniority for these jobs is the Department of State which for protocol reasons, including foreign travel is the final say on Executive Branch pecking order. After Congress approves the new organization and position, then the Administration can send forth a nominee. David Paulinson was confirmed as the United States Fire Administrator and has been running FEMA since the departure of Michael Brown. FEMA, of course, was statutorily terminated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (November 25, 2002) and that termination was effective March 1, 2003. Then, Secretary Ridge (or perhaps Mike Brown himself) authorized the use of the term FEMA administratively in August of 2003 supposedly because of its brand name recognition. It is of little consequence at this point, but Mike Brown who had been confirmed as the Deputy Director of FEMA, a level IV position, was made a level II Under Secretary for Emergency Management and Response in the new DHS. He never underwent confirmation for that job. Essentially fired in July 2005 when the 2SR was announced, Brown left after Katrina. Congress did approve the 2sr reorganization in the annual DHS appropriations act last fall. This is an entirely new proposal and I am in agreement with Mr. Beckner that perhaps if approved by Congress a new PAS Director of FEMA job may be able to attract qualified candidates. Time will tell.


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April 6, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

[…] Chertoff makes FEMA director an Under Secretary […]


Comment by William R. Cumming

April 6, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

Correction! Under Secretary’s are typically ES-III’s not ES-II’s. Assistant Secretarys are typically ES-IV or ES-V. All PAS are listed in Title 5 of the United States Code.

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