WASHINGTON - Former FEMA director Michael Brown aggressively defended his role in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday and blamed most coordination failures on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
He also said that in the days before the storm, he expressed his concerns that "this is going to be a bad one" in phone conversations and e-mails with President Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.
And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.
His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told Brown: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."
Brown appeared before a special congressional panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe.
"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown told the panel.
Brown, who for many became a symbol of government failures in the natural disaster that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, rejected accusations that he was too inexperienced for the job.
"I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said.
Brown resigned as the head of FEMA earlier this month after being removed by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff from responsibility in the stricken areas. Brown will remain on the FEMA payroll for two more weeks, advising the agency, said Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.
Brown, who joined FEMA in 2001 and ran it for more than two years, was previously an attorney who held several local government and private posts, including leading the International Arabian Horse Association.
Brown's testimony drew a scathing response from Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.
"I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans."
And in a testy exchange, Shays compared Brown's performance unfavorably with that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said.
"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted.
"I'm happy to be called not a Rudy Giuliani...a scapegoat ... if it means that FEMA that I knew when I came here is going to be able to be reborn," Brown said.
Criticized by Shays for not acquiring better equipment in advance that would have let different emergency agencies communicate with each other, Brown blamed the Department of Homeland Security.
"We put that money in our budget request and it was removed by the Department of Homeland Security" before the budget was finalized, he said.
Brown also said he was "just tired and misspoke" when a television interviewer appeared to be the first to tell him that there were desperate residents at the New Orleans Convention Center.
Brown testified that he had already learned, one day before the interview, that people were flocking to the center.
Brown in his opening statement said he had made several "specific mistakes" in dealing with the storm, and listed two.
One, he said, was not having more media briefings.
As to the other, he said: "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off."
Both Blanco and Nagin are Democrats.
In Baton Rouge, La., Blanco's press secretary, Denise Bottcher, ridiculed Brown's line of attack. "Mike Brown wasn't engaged then, and he surely isn't now. He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel," Bottcher said.
"The people of FEMA are being tired of being beat up, and they don't deserve it," Brown said.
The hearing was largely boycotted by Democrats, who want an independent investigation conducted into government failures, not one run by congressional Republicans.
But several Democrats from the stricken region, including Jefferson and Taylor, attended.
Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., cautioned against too narrowly assigning blame.
"At the end of the day, I suspect that we'll find that government at all levels failed the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and the Gulf Coast," said Davis.
He pushed Brown on what he and the agency he led should have done to evacuate New Orleans, restore order in the city and improve communication among law enforcement agencies.
Brown said: "Those are not FEMA roles. FEMA doesn't evacuate communities. FEMA does not do law enforcement. FEMA does not do communications."
In part of his testimony, Brown pumped his hand up and down for emphasis.
Brown said the lack of a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans before the storm was "the tipping point for all the other things that went wrong." Brown said he had personally pushed Louisiana Gov. Blanco to order such an evacuation.
He did not have the authority to order the city evacuated on his own, Brown said.
When asked by Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky, whether the lack of an ordered evacuation was "the proximate cause of most people's misery," Brown said, "Yes."
It's about time he speaks up for himself. I also don't feel that he is going to get a fair shake with an investigation either. It is (investigation) going to be political, no two ways about it.
What they should do is have an investigation committee comprised of Emergency Management, Fire Chiefs and people who don't have a political agenda, not these politicians or their hacks.
People who actually have "been there and done that" experience.
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Thread: Brown Speaks Out.
09-27-2005, 01:44 PM #1
Brown Speaks Out.SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
"Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"
Once a Marine, Always a Marine
I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine
09-27-2005, 02:09 PM #2Originally Posted by Trafficjockey93
09-27-2005, 02:22 PM #3Originally Posted by Trafficjockey93
I just caught a glimpse of Shay's comments on the news. Sickens me. We get this kind of crap after any incident (including 911) when our politicians see it as their jobs to point fingers instead of keeping their mouths shut. They think if they call for an investigation of an incident they can't say anything good about what happened. Better yet...when have we heard our politician, fed & local gov'ts actually tell the truth & say "the terrorists did it and no we didn't get a memo telling us when, where, and how"; "we had a Cat 4 hurricane...it hit us hard, we messed up here, we did this right, let's deal with it and move on?"
I commend for Davis for stepping up and saying let's not blame. He's right...all levels messed up. Citizens messed up too but no politician's going to come out and say that.
In the end....when this kind of thing happens again (or any major past incident for that matter)....many of the mistakes will be repeated. They won't be the same players, scenarios will be different, capabilities will be different, etc. But we'll go through this same BS "investigation" process everytime to see who we can blame.
I could go on, but I'll turn my rant off for now...I'm giving myself a headache...
Last edited by skyraider; 09-27-2005 at 02:25 PM.
09-27-2005, 04:48 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jun 2004
Awful article, Firehouse should not have printed
I know there are problems with media writing about technical areas that they have no expertise in, but I am suprised that Firehouse would give this article on former director Browns testimony any space on their site. What an awful misrepresentation of facts.
The media is not willing to accept the fact that much of the preparation for disasters is a local responsibility. THey state is the article that Brown did not perform as well as Giulliani did after 2001, Duh, that was Ray Nagins job. Giuliani was not head of FEMA, he was the Mayor, like Ray Nagin is.. I think it was clear from the first day that the Governor was in full panic mode, and completely unable to do anything but be in the way.
This is not to say that Brown did things right. I was disturbed that he kept repeating that he could not get unity of command, and his answer seemed to be to leave the command post and take a field trip to survey the damage firsthand. Bad move, that did nothing to unify command. And there were many other mistakes made, but it seems that the locals are immune to any criticism, although the New Orleans Police Chief resigned today. I expect the Fire Chief is probably not far behind.
THe Feds walk a fine line of overstepping their bounds on every call out, in fact that is the usual complaint that is heard. It seems that most reports that I read feels that all major incidents are a Federal responsibility, I hope I never see that day.
I am sure that you think I work for a Federal agency, as that is all that is defending the Federal response, but I work for a Municipal Department, and Have for 25 years. But I am still suprised that Firehouse would give this article any life at all, what a one sided mess. I would like to see someone with some expertise break this response down, and shed some light on how a coordinated Fed, State, and local response should be run. THe Federal Govt. is a resource, I have never heard that they have total responsibility for all forseeable events. Sad to see Firehouse propogate this misunderstanding.
09-27-2005, 07:04 PM #5
- Join Date
- Jun 2001
- Allen, Texas, USA
Anatomy and Physiology...NOT!
I too am not pleased with this (referenced Article), or other recent contributions from "AP" writers. In fact, my campaign in these weeks has been to respond to various TV and Print Media "talking heads" about what they don't know. I have no doubt many of my messages never reach these teleprompter talkers. It makes me feel better however, that maybe some staffer sees them. Perhaps someone will even look it up (well, it could happen, haha).
What Brown opened with today, was a good educational expose' of how/why FEMA does what it does. Unfortunately, the position jockeys on the Panel already know how the NRP works, as do many in our Industry. The Media generally isn't interested. Their format may/may not be agenda driven (leave this to our opinions), but their methods can clearly package anything/anyone to the public. And said Public is largely driven to focus on the "one eyed monster" in the living room. If a citizen or Department will just get a glimpse of what "tools" and advice FEMA offers them, AND if they heeded said advice, the outcome might be better. In any case they would know the part their local Officials should be doing. As we already know in Public Safety, most don't know how to prevent, prepare, or react to incidents. Some agencies are proactive in informing their community.
Brown will no doubt be one of the scapegoats in this, as we are in a political establishment. Even the Network news channel I prefer is falling into the blame game. Yeah, I wrote them too.
09-27-2005, 10:59 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Flanders, NJ
1. Having an "investigation committee" consisting of fire, EMS and OEM personnel only is a ridiculously un-thought out (is that a word?) idea. It is also symptomatic of the problem in thought process about the whole disaster. There are so many other facets to this problem. Emergency services is only one piece. Fire, EMS and OEM personnel are not going to be involved in the investigation. That is as it should be.
2. Michael Brown spoke the truth most of the time today. He was like a duck in a shooting gallery. These moron legislators knew it was a high-profile hearing and that they could get some face time by being as vile as possible.
3. The truest thing Michael Brown talked about all day was when he called the DHS on slashing his FEMA budget request.
4. This hearing is useless.
09-28-2005, 12:09 AM #7Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
2. I would hope that Mr. Brown could have forseen the fecal splatter if/when things were to go terribly wrong, and his credentials were to come under scrutiny. As for the intent of the politicians, it was an opportunity to pile on while on camera, and later claim that they were "tough" on the Gulf Coast response for political capital.
4. Most definitely agreed. I'd even suggest they are counterproductive to identifying what needs fixed.Steve Gallagher
"I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes
09-28-2005, 12:18 AM #8
Originally Posted by rgamma5
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...
The New Orleans Fire Department, on the other hand, stood fast and performed their duty throughout the incident, by all accounts. No stories of mass resignations or firefighters leaving the city in droves. The NOFD performed an exemplary job under almost impossible circumstances. I see no reason for the NOFD chief to resign....any lack of preparedness for this event was the fault of individuals above his level.....
And Brown was not entirely wrong....Louisiana IS dysfunctional. I've lived here my whole life and I'll vouch for that. I almost feel sorry for him....yes, he was a Bush appointee and loyalty, rather than qualifications, are why he had the position. That was a mistake. BUT, he is correct in stating that FEMA is not meant to be a first responder to disasters, which is the responsibility of local authorities. ...
"I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said.Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
"I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
— C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"
09-28-2005, 12:52 AM #9
do people really understand what FEMA is supposed to do? They don't run scenes. they aren't in charge or any operation. they are a support agency. they don't request anything, they do what is asked of them.
the local equivalent to FEMA is the Office of emergency management. at a big fire, OEM is called out. even though they might be firefighters, they don't take over. they do what the IC directs them to do. if the IC says he needs 50 engines, OEM finds a way to get them. if he needs 40 porta johns, OEM finds a way to get them. FEMA at the national level isn't much different.
yeah, they can prepare, but it's not their job to take the lead. they do what the host agency wants them to do. if the locals drop the ball, then it's their fault, not that of femas.If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!
09-28-2005, 03:40 AM #10What they should do is have an investigation committee comprised of Emergency Management, Fire Chiefs and people who don't have a political agenda, not these politicians or their hacks.
When Hurricane Ivan came ashore last year, the eye passed directly over Elberta. We have been through too many hurricanes to imagine. When Ivan came, and afterwards, we found the response by FEMA to be excellent. Our local Emergency Management Agency was well prepared, as were all other local agencies and state agencies. As FEMA has pointed out already, the plan worked in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. But it did not work in Louisiana.
I have personally been involved in emergency planning with these storms, and have seen the organization of FEMA up close and personal. FEMA and our local EMA both advise us always, and advises any residents staying through the storm, to be prepared to survive completely on your own for 3 days or more, depending on accessability to the area. Now, my intention isn't to completely exonerate FEMA from any blame. I'm sure they have a share in it. However, with this sort of thing, everything starts at the local and state level (i.e., the Mayor of New Orleans and Governer of Louisiana). Something has to be asked for to be given. They need to know where to take supplies, how much, what supplies. You can't just tell the National Guard "Okay, hurricane is over. Go ahead and head towars New Orleans and I guess we'll just figure everything out when we get there."
With what I have personally seen in the past, I cannot believe they are grilling Brown over this. I think the real problem here, is that the people doing the grilling have no idea what they are talking about. Also, they need to understand the role of FEMA too. As was said earlier in this thread, we just need to get a committee of people who at least know what they are talking about before we go on a witch hunt.
Last edited by evfd3100; 09-28-2005 at 04:01 AM.
09-28-2005, 10:23 AM #11
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Flanders, NJ
The empty pants suit Governor is on right now. Wanna bet they giver her a pass?
09-28-2005, 11:10 AM #12
- Join Date
- Apr 2003
- New York
How much do you think that they expected Brown to go down like the good soldier?
09-28-2005, 11:37 AM #13
- Join Date
- Jun 2004
I am sure that they will go pretty easy on her. No direct attacks such as Brown got. THere is plenty of blame to go around, but I Doubt the Gov wil get her share. THe news coverage amazes me on this whole event. Brown was on the stand for 6 hours, and the only things that he said that has gotten coverage is when he blamed the locals. And I am still disapointed that Firehouse picked up the worst of these stories, and it is their lead story still this morning. It is as if the news page is run by a 19 year old intern rather than someone from the fire service that would know how to read between the lines. Bit the coverage has been consistent.
09-28-2005, 01:34 PM #14
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
- Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!
It is very apparent that there are those who believe that the entire plan and execution of the plan should have been an effort solely expended by the Federal government.
Had the plan been practiced, the deficiencies identified and corrected and the Federal government aware of the results of the practice exercise, this might very well have been avoided.
It's too late to fix it after the disaster strikes and reality sets in.
Brown isn't the only one who should be fired.
In fact; I wouldn't have started there. I would have ENDED there.
But, there are others.
Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)
09-28-2005, 01:57 PM #15Originally Posted by ChiefReason
09-28-2005, 02:50 PM #16
"Great job Brownie"IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
09-28-2005, 03:03 PM #17
Originally Posted by MIKEYLIKESIT
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Flanders, NJ
Boy the double standard crowd is sure out in force today.
09-28-2005, 03:11 PM #18Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
09-28-2005, 03:42 PM #19
- Join Date
- Mar 2000
- Sitting in my chair, listening to the scanner while the young kids respond
One of the problems with exercises is that none of the top leaders participate. I do a FEMA evaluated exercise every other year for a nuclear power plant and I can tell you that the governor is never in the state EOC for the exercise. Heck, we have trouble getting our county board chair to participate. Thus, when it hits the fan the top dogs don't have a clue as to what is going on or what is in the plan. Hopefully they listen to the professionals but who knows.
IACOJ (Retired Division)
09-29-2005, 03:13 AM #20Hopefully they listen to the professionals but who knows.
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