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Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative.
Because of the turnover, three of the five FEMA chiefs for natural disaster-related operations and nine of 10 regional directors are working in an acting capacity, agency officials said.
Patronage appointments to the crisis-response agency is nothing new to Washington administrations. But inexperience in FEMA's top ranks is emerging as a key concern of local, state and federal leaders as investigators begin to sift through what the government has admitted was a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.
"FEMA requires strong leadership and experience because state and local governments rely on them," said Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association. "When you don't have trained, qualified people in those positions, the program suffers as a whole."
WASHINGTON - Top U.S. disaster official Michael Brown, under fire over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, cited prior emergency-management experience in an official biography but his duties were “more like an intern,” Time magazine reported.
Brown's biography on the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site says he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," and a White House news release in 2001 said Brown had worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., in the 1970s "overseeing the emergency-services division."
However, a city spokeswoman told the magazine Brown had actually worked as "an assistant to the city manager."
Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen assumed duties as Chief of Staff, U.S. Coast Guard and Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC in May 2002. Vice Admiral Allen is third in command of the Coast Guard and is responsible for all planning, budget, and personnel functions of the service.
Prior to this assignment he served as Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, Fifth Coast Guard District; and U.S. maritime Defense Zone, Atlantic where he was the operational commander for all Coast Guard activities in an area of responsibility spanning five Coast Guard Districts, over 14 million square miles, involving 26,000 military and civilian employees, and 27,900 auxiliarists. He served concurrently as Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District, and Commander U.S. Maritime Defense Zone Atlantic. In response to terrorist events in September 2001, VADM Allen lead the effort to divert numerous assets to support local port commanders and establish critical command and control capability through the Atlantic Area. He served as the Executive agent for the Coast Guard in operations in support of Commander Fleet Forces Command, Joint Forces Command and NORAD; developing the interim Homeland Security campaign plan and joint Anti-terrorism and Force Protection procedures.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Karen Hughes, a confidante of President George W. Bush who has long helped shape his policy, was sworn in on Friday with the new task of trying to improve the image of the United States in a world that often takes a dim, if not hostile, view of Washington.
After years of working as a political adviser known for her expertise in helping Bush put out his message to voters, Hughes formally took up the post of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.
Bush called the job vital, saying it was needed partly to curb what he said were myths being spread by militants such as those behind the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
One immediate task for Hughes will be countering the negative effects abroad of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.