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Ex-FEMA Chief Faults Himself on Katrina

January 19, 2006|From Associated Press

MAMMOTH LAKES — Former FEMA director Michael D. Brown on Wednesday accepted a greater share of the blame for the government's failures after Hurricane Katrina, saying he fell short in conveying the magnitude of the disaster and in calling for help.

"I should have asked for the military sooner. I should have demanded the military sooner," Brown told a gathering of meteorologists at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada.

"It was beyond the capacity of the state and local governments, and it was beyond the capacity of FEMA," said Brown, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The remarks stood in contrast to Brown's testimony at a congressional hearing in September, when he blamed most of the failures on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin -- both Democrats.

He specifically targeted them for failing to evacuate New Orleans, restore order and improve communication. "These are not FEMA roles," Brown testified then. "FEMA doesn't evacuate communities. FEMA does not do law enforcement. FEMA does not do communications."

On Wednesday, he told a gathering of broadcast and National Weather Service meteorologists that he had failed to delegate responsibility and instead had tried to attend to the details himself.

"It was the largest natural disaster ever to strike the United States -- 92,000 square miles. Logistics were falling apart," he said.

Before joining FEMA in 2001, Brown was a lawyer, held local government posts and headed the Arabian Horse Assn. President Bush appointed him in April 2003 to head the agency.

FEMA came under fire soon after Katrina struck the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines Aug. 29, killing more than 1,300 people in five states and leaving about 3,200 unaccounted for.

Brown was relieved of command in the region and recalled Sept. 9 to Washington. He resigned three days later, saying he feared he had become a distraction.

Asked Wednesday if he felt he had been railroaded out of his post, he replied: "I'm moving on."

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