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.