Hung Out to Dry by Underlings
The FEMA implosion
Oct. 25, 2005: Vol. 1, Issue No. 42
IN THE NEWS
WASHINGTON--The only FEMA employee to ride out Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans painted a grim portrait yesterday of an agency led by officials who were unprepared for the scope of the disaster and failed to respond to his increasingly desperate pleas for help.
"FEMA official: Agency was clueless on Katrina"
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 2005
Like people the world over, I was appalled and sickened by what happened to the citizens of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Who was to blame?
Clearly this was a major tragedy of errors with plenty of blame to go around as local, state and federal officials dithered in a state of paralysis for days.
Initial media analysis tended to blame the Bush Administration for downsizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Bush appointed one of his campaign operatives, Joseph Allbaugh, to replace Clinton appointee James Lee Witt as head of FEMA. On May 15, 2001, Allbaugh told a Senate subcommittee:
Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level.
The publication of the internal FEMA e-mail exchanges during the Katrina nightmare reveals a corporate culture so mired in sycophantic bureaucracy and rife with internecine bickering and politics that the agency could not have functioned even if it had a budget the size of the Pentagon's.
The FEMA E-mails
From 1991 to 2000, Michael DeWayne Brown, an Oklahoma lawyer, worked at the International Arabian Horse Association as commissioner of judges and stewards. Amid a controversy, he was ousted in 2000. When his friend from Oklahoma, Joseph Allbaugh, became head of FEMA in 2001, Brown went along as general counsel.