Hung Out to Dry by Underlings
In February 2003, President Bush named Brown director of FEMA with the formal title of undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response in the Department of Homeland Security.
When the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina became apparent on August 30, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appointed Brown to be the on-site disaster coordinator.
Here was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Brown to make a real difference in the lives of thousands and to go down in history as the crusading savior of the huddled and battered masses in teeming New Orleans.
That was not how the appointment was perceived at FEMA.
Two hours after the announcement--just before 11:00 p.m. on Aug. 30 the following e-mail exchange occurred between FEMA Press Secretary Sharon Worthy and Michael Brown:
Demote the Under Sec to PFO [Principal Federal Officer]? What about the precedent being set? What does this say about executive management and leadership in the Agency?
It gets worse.
New England Regional Director Marty Bahamonde was the only FEMA representative on the ground in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.
Read this e-mail exchange:
Marty Bahamonde to Michael Brown:
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 11:20 a.m.
Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical. Here some things you might not know.
Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes.
The dying patients at the DMAT [Disaster Medical Assistance Team] tent being medivac [sic]. Estimates are many will die within hours. Evacuation in process. Plans developing for dome evacuation but hotel situation adding to the problem. We are out of food and running out of water at the dome, plans in works to address critical need.
Another e-mail exchange:
Sharon Worthy to Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs, and to others: