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Ex-FEMA head takes blame, changing tune

first_imgMAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown said Wednesday that he shared the blame for pre- and post-Katrina failures, saying he fell short in communicating 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,” said Brown, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It was beyond the capacity of the state and local governments and it was beyond the capacity of FEMA,” he told a gathering of meteorologists at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada. Brown said he failed to communicate the extent of the devastation to the media and to the federal government. FEMA came under fire immediately after Katrina struck the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines Aug. 29, killing more than 1,300 in five states and leaving some 3,200 unaccounted for. He was relieved of his on-site command and recalled Sept. 9 to Washington, D.C. Brown resigned three days later, saying he feared he had become a distraction. Asked on Wednesday if he felt he had been railroaded out of his post, Brown replied, “I’m moving on.” He said his biggest concern was the current emphasis on reorganizing FEMA, particularly in light of past budget cuts that had left hundreds of vacancies in an agency with 2,500 employees. “It’s time to stop organizing and get FEMA back to what it was before – get its budget back up to where it was.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card His statements changed his version of the events stated during a congressional hearing Sept. 27. At that time, he blamed most of the government’s failure to properly respond to the hurricane on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin – both Democrats. “I think it’s important to realize that all of us made mistakes,” he told The Associated Press in an interview after his speech. “After a while you get a different perspective. I still do believe that things weren’t working too well down there. I’m not into this whole thing of ‘let’s blame somebody for this or that.’ But let’s figure out what went wrong and what we can do to make it better next time.” He told attendees at the annual Operation Sierra Storm – a gathering of broadcast and National Weather Service meteorologists at snowy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area – that he failed to delegate responsibility and instead 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. President George W. Bush appointed Brown to head FEMA in April 2003. He previously chaired the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, served on the City Council in Edmond, Okla., and practiced law in Oklahoma and Colorado. last_img read more