Reports of FEMA personnel turning away trucks full of supplies, barring local authorities from fueling up on gasoline and diesel brought in by Coast Guard ships and cutting communication lines for local emergency response organizations have left some people wondering if the initial federal response actually made the situation worse.
Sept. 12, Brown released a statement about his resignation, saying, "As I told the president, it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA."
"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this President and to work shoulder to shoulder with the hard working men and women of FEMA. They carry out an unusually difficult task under the harshest of circumstances. My respect for these dedicated professionals and this organization is unyielding," he added. "There is no other government agency that reaches people in a more direct way. It has been the best job in the world to help Americans in their darkest hours."
The president has asked R. David Paulison, a former fire chief in Miami-Dade County who has some 30 years of firefighting and emergency response experience, to step in for Brown. Paulison is the highest ranking permanent professional at FEMA. It is unknown who will be asked to be the permanent replacement.
Said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, "Michael Brown's departure is a welcome step in moving the nation forward on helping the Gulf Coast recover. I urge the administration to put aside partisan politics when selecting the new leaders for FEMA and focus on assuring that they are qualified and understand emergency management."
Thompson went on to commend Bush for selecting Paulison. He pointed out that Paulison served as the fire chief for Miami-Dade county during the Hurricane Andrew disaster and the 1996 ValuJet Flight 592 airplane crash in the Everglades, adding of Paulison, "He brings the type of expertise that FEMA needs."
In 2001, Paulison was appointed director of the U.S. Fire Administration. In 2003, he was named director of the Department of Homeland Security's preparedness division.
International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold A. Schaitberger called Paulison "an excellent choice" to head FEMA, if only temporarily. "Our nation will be better protected with David Paulison as the head of preparedness and response for our government," said Schaitberger.
"Hurricane Katrina was more than just a wake-up call to our country. She shined a bright light on the need for being prepared for swift and immediate action to save lives and property before, during and after a disaster," said Schaitberger. "Now is the time for our federal government to prepare to fully respond to the next disaster that hits our nation. Having known and worked with David Paulison for many years, and having been on the ground both in New York at Ground Zero in 2001 and in Louisiana and Mississippi in recent days, I know firsthand what kind of leader is needed to fill that position."
Schaitberger commended Paulison's "proven track record and decorated career in emergency response planning, preparedness, management, emergency medical care, rescue, recovery and emergency incident mitigation," adding Paulison has "all of the qualifications that should and must be considered for the top emergency response position in our country's government."