Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 5, 2009

Fugate’s Challenge at FEMA

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues — by Philip J. Palin on March 5, 2009

The President’s pick for FEMA administrator, W. Craig Fugate is one of the nation’s most experienced emergency managers.  He is known as a communicator, an innovator, and – when necessary – a rabble-rouser.

A native of Florida Fugate has risen through the ranks.  He has directed  the Florida Division of Emergency Management since 2001 and served with the agency since 1997.   During his career Fugate has worked as a firefighter, paramedic, and director of the Alachua county (Gainesville is the county seat)  emergency management agency.

Fugate knows that the most important work of emergency management is done before the sirens go off.  He has been a passionate evangelist for personal readiness and neighbors being ready to respond to the needs of neighbors.   

In Florida Fugate benefited from a lifetime’s network of personal and professional connections and a state unusually committed to strategic risk management.   His leadership has been well-matched to a mature and generally well-funded statewide emergency management system.

At FEMA Fugate will inherit a 4400 person agency with a confused – even schizophrenic – mission, continuing morale problems, and a nation that, as a whole, tends to ignore and underfund emergency management until it is looking for a scapegoat after disaster hits.

It will be tough for Fugate and his senior team to avoid being consumed by the organizational question of whether FEMA remains inside DHS or not.   The sooner the White House makes known its intention on this organizational issue, the more time and energy Fugate will have for substantive issues of prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery.

It is not a coincidence that Fugate was named just before the National Emergency Management Association begins its mid-year conference.  The NEMA meeting will open tomorrow in Alexandria.

Yesterday it was also announced that Jason McNamara will serve as Fugate’s Chief of Staff.  Mr. McNamara is currently with the Dewberry consulting group.   He is a former member of the professional staff of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and served as a program analyst with FEMA from 1993-2001.  During the presidential campaign McNamara was a member of the Obama Homeland Security advisory panel where he chaired the FEMA working group.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 5, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

The position of Administrator FEMA is statutory since the PKEMA (Post Katrina Emergency Management Act of 2006) which became effective March 1, 2007, and is subject to Senate Confirmation. This is a much more interesting selection than many know. Fugate said no to the White House over incident command issues ensuring that Florida maintained command and control of the response in at least one major disaster. His then Governor stood full square behind his EM Director on that issue and the White House acceded to the State of Florida’s position. Florida officials do know well incident command–a doctrine adopte for FEMA officially by James Lee Witt when Director in 1995. Fugat gets it–it being incident command.

Jason McNamara is being bashful when listing his postion as program analyst in FEMA from 1993-2001. Although I retired in October 1999 I was involved in several meetings in which Jason (outranked by many others in the room) brought the most common sense, political sense, and bureacratic sense to the issues being addressed. Assuming that Craig Fugate was given a pass on Jason and they know each other this could be a really formidable team leading FEMA. Hope other appointments are equally high quality.

Remember the positon of Deputy Administrator is also subject to confirmation. Both David Paulison and Harvey Johnson should have been allowed to continue until the new Administrator was sworn in— a major mistake in my judgement in disruption of domestic crisis management system and chain of command, but hey no one is perfect.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 6, 2009 @ 6:44 am

Finally experienced competencies of a a team we can rely on in our time of need…..DHS and FEMA are integral to maintaining an orderly, organized response that can see clearly through the smoke.

I again emphasize the – immediate – need of the federal government to appropriate substantially more funding for our “esteemed” – first responders – to address our call for help and to assist in the continued training of all first responders for a national emergency. Funding for these very committed and appreciated men and women is needed now for our police, fire and EMT’s are being cut because of state revenue shortfalls as the economy slips into Depression.

With a great deal of passion and appreciation for those that respond to a 911 call in our moment of dire need, I will demand more monies from the federal “fiat” dollars being spent to bailout Wall Street and the bankers who duped the system until I am blue in the face whether from screaming to the ears of our new administration or blue in the face as they place me on a stretcher and into am ambulance as those in the frontline, whether teh first responders or te DHS/FEMA teams, these individuals are facing the real world every day – My ear is slanted towards the beltway waiting to hear of a national bailout plan to help our regional and local communities with understaffed personnel. We must be prepared to help in all scenarios and all should be well trained and prepared to address a national calamity as well.

Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

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