Bush, lawmakers at odds over qualifications for FEMA chief

Remarks in President Bush's signing statement on the fiscal 2007 Homeland Security spending bill regarding the leadership of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have prompted criticism from both House and Senate lawmakers.

In the statement, Bush said he disagrees with a requirement in the appropriations act (H.R. 5441) that the next director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years of related experience. He signaled he might not abide by the requirement.

The appropriations bill language "purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from [which] the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office," the Oct. 4 statement said.

But Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an Oct. 6 letter to the White House that in light of FEMA's poor performance during Hurricane Katrina, the president must "follow the black-letter intent of our legislation." Michael Brown, director of FEMA when the hurricane hit, lacked relevant experience, contributing to the agency's insufficient response, Thompson said.

"Choosing an appointee without an emergency management background to manage federal emergency management is both reckless and dangerous," Thompson wrote. "[T]he Congress has previously found it suitable to impose qualifications upon executive appointees in positions of a nonpartisan nature."

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators sent a similar letter to Bush, demanding that emergency managers have the experience mandated in the bill. The three signers were Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., ranking member of that committee. "The bottom line is that we need FEMA leadership that meets high standards," the senators wrote. "Disregarding provisions of the act that are intended to strengthen those standards is a move in the wrong direction."

The language in the spending legislation also gives FEMA's chief heightened authority and the new title of "administrator." In May, when lawmakers were discussing a similar proposal to reform FEMA, Collins said that despite current director R. David Paulison's qualifications, he might need re-evaluation.

Privacy groups also have criticized the signing statement. Bush said in it that he has the authority to edit DHS reports pertaining to privacy rules. The "department and agency shall ensure that any reports or recommendations submitted to the Congress are subjected to appropriate executive branch review and approval," the statement said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.