Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, under fire and recalled to Washington in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, resigned on Monday, senior administration officials said on Monday.
Under fire for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, Brown was pulled out of Gulf Coast operations on Friday and recalled to Washington. President George W. Bush has been under pressure from Democrats to fire him.
Accusations also arose last week that Brown had exaggerated his background in disaster relief in his official biography and resume.
The officials would not give any details except to confirm that Brown, who has been FEMA's director since 2003, had resigned.
The resignation came three days after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff removed Brown from federal relief efforts in the Gulf Coast and sent him back to Washington.
Although the meme is incredibly popular on all sides of the blogosphere, I am still unsure if FEMA performed poorly in the catastrophe. I don't know what benchmarks to use to judge it, how much and how fast should be mobilized against a disaster of what magnitude?
Obviously, it would be wonderful if Brown could have waved a magic wand and sealed up the levees, repaired all damage from the hurricane, and made sure everyone had a wonderful time the moment after the hurricane had passed. Equally obviously, such an expectation is not relevant. Where the expectation should be, and how far from that FEMA actually achieved is much less clear.
Much had been made about Brown being a crony appointment and unsuited to the task to begin with. Perhaps that is true. However we had a pretty severe hurricane season last yeah, although obviously no where near as devastating as Katrina, and I didn't hear any complaints about FEMA.
I don't have any particular affection for Brown, and I don't really care if he is head of FEMA or not. With this sort of thing though I worry that the actual problems are not being resolved, merely the leader is being scapegoated to bussiness can procede as usual.
This whole episode with FEMA (and the lackluster response from the city and the state as well) raises interesting questions that I think should be looked at, which probably will not be. What do we expect from FEMA (besides the obvious but impossible fix everything instantly.) How different our the expectations we have for FEMA differ from what it is actually able to deliver and how do we bridge that cap. Is the cost of our expectations to much to be reasonably born, and should the be revised?
I have no indication that Brown would be able to help us as a society answer those questions. I am afraind though that due to Brown's resignation, those questions won't even be asked.