Fascinating post today by California Yankee on FEMA head Brown being relieved of Katrina duties (though apparently not fired from his position).
A comment to an earlier post at California Yankee by Gordon Jones asks a very good question: If Brown was in fact as underqualified as much media criticism post-hurricane has alleged (and I believe), where was the criticism when he was up for confirmation?
That is a good question, and kudos to California Yankee for following up with some research finding that there was indeed lack of controversy about Brown’s qualifications at the time.
Nonetheless, the fact that an opposition party is not at time “A” playing its proper skeptical role with respect to an official’s appointment does not excuse either lack of qualifications or subsequent incompetence by said official, as revealed at time “B.”
The lack of scrutiny could be due to the institutional problems I have mentioned in previous posts: FEMA had become much less visible (and hence less controversial) as part of its subordination to the new DHS. Lack of scrutiny of a relatively low-level position could be additionally due to the general deference the “opposition” in Congress generally was according Bush in the post-9/11 period and in the immediate pre-Iraq-war phase (Brown was confirmed to be deputy director in June, 2002, and promoted to director in January, 2003).
As I have noted before, the decision to downgrade FEMA was a bipartisan one. That does not make it a good one.
I think this is all the more reason to re-upgrade the position to cabinet level (or better yet, a more independent agency like the FBI or CIA). Then there is likely to be better scrutiny of its head.
I agree that Brown must go. But I reiterate that just changing the head is not enough. The problems are deeper.