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The Gross National Debt

Monday, September 12, 2005
Be Very afraid.

So by now it's old news that Michael "Brownie" Brown resigned his post as head of FEMA. To digress somewhat from the point of this post, let me say that I'm simply stunned as to why Bush didn't simply fire him when it could have helped his numbers... It makes me wonder if there isn't some additional nugget of information about Mr. Brown that is out there that Chertoff and the Administration were trying to get ahead of...

CNN's Jack Cafferty (The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer) has the definitive rant on FEMA and the quality and caliber of its top appointees:
CAFFERTY: Indeed I do, Wolf. Thanks very much.
Somewhere along the way, FEMA became a dumping for the President's political cronies with little experience in disaster relief. The Agency's first director was Joe Albaugh. He was President Bush's 2000 campaign chairman. Albaugh brought in the current failure, Michael Brown. His previous work was with Arabian horses. The number two guy, Brown's top deputy at FEMA is a fellow named Patrick Rhode. He worked for the President's 2000 election campaign. The number three guy at FEMA is Brooks Alchuler. He used to work in the White House. His job was planning Presidential trips. And FEMA's long-term recovery director is a guy named Scott Morris. He produced television and radio commercials for the Bush campaign.

The Federal agency charged with handling national emergencies is staffed at the very top by a bunch of political hacks with virtually no experience that qualifies them to respond to something like Katrina.

But I digress.

An interesting FYI for you readers out there - Joe Albaugh, former head of FEMA, former Bush 2000 national campaign manager, former Chief-of-Staff for then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, appointer of college roommate and pal Mike "Brownie" Brown to the top post at FEMA, current "strategic consultant" and finder of fat government contracts for KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, has found another one. A contract through the US Navy to repair Katrina-damaged naval facilities.

In March, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is tasked with responding to hurricane disasters, became a lobbyist for KBR. Joe Albaugh was director of FEMA during the first two years of the Bush administration.
These people have no shame.

But I've digressed again. Mike "Brownie" Brown's interim replacement is a man named R. David Paulison. In his previous role as Acting Under Secretary / U.S. Fire Administrator, he brings more emergency management expertise to the position than do the above shameful list of Bush cronies. According to FEMA's website:
Before joining FEMA, Mr. Paulison, who has 30 years of fire/rescue services experience, was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. In that position, he oversaw 1,900 personnel with a $200 million operating budget and a $70 million capital budget. He also oversaw the Dade County Emergency Management office.
Good, yes? Not so fast. R. David Paulison is also the mastermind behind the duct tape/plastic sheeting defense in response to a radiological or biological attack. From this 2003 article on CNN online:

On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison described a list of useful items, stores in the greater Washington, D.C. area reported a surge in sales of plastic sheeting, duct tape, and other emergency items.

These items, Paulison said, can be helpful after a biological, chemical or radiological attack.

A Lowe's hardware store in Alexandria, Virginia, said every roll of duct tape has been sold. Another Alexandria Home Depot store reported sales of duct tape tripled overnight.

I have to wonder - is there no better individual qualified to lead this critical organization when we are beginning the worst part of hurricane season??

A few words of knowledge for each of you about FEMA, Homeland Security, and government structure. Budget requests are always a harrowing process. Each cabinet-level secretary is responsible for the budget of his/her agency. ALL Federal agencies have a host of sub-organizations within them. The Treasury, for example, has a host of bureaus - the Comptroller of the Currency - The Financial Management Service - The Internal Revenue Service - you get the picture. Each of these bureaus has a Commissioner or Director who is responsible for the bureau's budget. The bureau's budget gets rolled up to the agency's Secretary who then prioritizes and makes the ultimate and final request (this is a simplified example - hopefully you get the picture).

Budget are political. Bigger agencies with more "popular" missions get higher priority. Bigger bureaus, offices and directorates within an agency get higher priority as well.

FEMA, prior to 9/11, was an independent agency. It didn't have a Secretary through whom it would have to vet its budget requests. Its requests when directly up the food chain. It prioritized its own projects within FEMA itself. FEMA projects competed only with other FEMA projects for funding. When FEMA was moved under Homeland Security, the structure of prioritizing requests for funding became more complex and the likelihood of low prioritization increased. Homeland Security came into existence from these organizations:

Each of those big dogs on the block have big projects and visible priorities. They submit their funding requests and FEMA submits theirs and then Chertoff sorts it all out - decides what's a priority and what isn't. In short, it really knocked FEMA down the totem pole of importance and affected its importance and visibility in the funding process - critical funding to be able to fulfill its mission. Never mind the fact that, from a communications protocol perspective, the President of the United States speaks to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security then speaks to the Director of FEMA. This was clearly evidenced in Bush's comments today, when asked about Brown's resignation. Initially, he didn't seem to know that Brown had resigned and then indicated that he speaks to Chertoff and hadn't spoken with him yet that day.

Be very afraid. The level of bureaucracy and ineptitude demonstrated by this Administration is a danger to each and every American's personal safety.

Better go get some duct tape and plastic sheeting.

posted by RenaRF at 7:04 PM 3 comments links to this post


Blogger Myrrander said...

good compilation -- i've read some of this here and there, but not all of it in one spot.

9:06 PM  
Blogger RenaRF said...

It's some stuff here, some stuff there - as I'm sure you've noticed, dKos is big on "BREAKING" news diaries. I usually sit a bit with some info and then wait for some source material, etc. so I can link it.

The info on Homeland Security and budgeting and prioritizaiton is strictly hands-on experience.


9:11 PM  
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