FEMA Director Relieved of Katrina Duties

Michael Brown is being pulled out of the disaster area and sent back to Washington, D.C.

Michael Brown, the director of FEMA, is being pulled out of the Hurricane Katrina disaster area and sent back to Washington.

Brown, who has been criticized for his managing of the Katrina relief efforts, is leaving Baton Rouge, where he was the primary official overseeing the federal government’s response to the disaster. He’ll be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts.

In making the official announcement, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said: “Mike Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge.”

He said Brown was being sent back to Washington in order to oversee other FEMA tasks. FEMA has “a lot of other responsibilities,” said Chertoff. “We could have other disasters natural and manmade. We cannot afford to let our guard down.”

Removing him from ground duties, however, was not enough for some Democratic lawmakers who demanded Friday that Brown be fired.

“The events of the last ten days have shown that Mr. Brown has repeatedly exercised poor judgment and has failed in his basic responsibilities,” said a letter to President Bush from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sens. Dick Durbin, Debbie Stabenow and Charles E. Schumer. “It is not enough to remove Mr. Brown from the disaster scene.”

Republican Sen. Trent Lott, whose Pascagoula, Miss., home was destroyed in the storm, said he, too, had concluded that FEMA wasn’t working under Brown’s leadership.

“Michael Brown has been acting like a private, instead of a general,” Lott said.

As FEMA grapples with criticism from all sides regarding the speed and effectiveness of its response to Hurricane Katrina, questions also arose about Brown’s background.

On Thursday, Time magazine raised questions about whether Brown padded his resume to highlight his previous emergency management background. When asked about the accusations, and about whether Brown would resign, Chertoff dismissed the question.

Earlier in the day asked if he was being made a scapegoat for the slow federal relief effort, Brown told AP: “By the press, yes. By the president, no.”

Less than an hour before Brown’s removal came to light, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Brown had not resigned and the president had not asked for his resignation.

McClellan did not directly answer a question about whether the president had full confidence in Brown.

“We appreciate all those who are working round the clock, and that’s the way I would answer it,” he said.

Brown told the AP that Chertoff decided to move him out of Louisiana and that it was not his own decision

As for what’s next for him, Brown said: “I’m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and, maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night’s sleep. And then I’m going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims.”

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