Senate confirms FEMA, GSA chiefs

As part of a spate of confirmation votes Friday afternoon, the Senate approved President Bush's picks to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency and General Services Administration.

Senators confirmed acting FEMA chief R. David Paulison as the agency's permanent director, in a move praised by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"Chief Paulison is fully committed to strengthening FEMA's response and recovery capabilities and building an integrated emergency management structure," Chertoff said in a statement.

Though Paulison is confirmed, he may face a second round of examination if lawmakers' recent bids to restructure FEMA are successful.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters earlier this month that Paulison may have to return before senators if his rank is boosted to a Cabinet-level post, as it would be if bicameral legislation introduced earlier this month is approved.

Senators also approved, by unanimous consent, the nomination of Lurita Alexis Doan to become the next GSA administrator.

Doan now takes on responsibility for a contracting agency beset by ongoing troubles, including shrinking revenues and disagreements with the Defense Department.

Before she can be sworn in, her appointment papers have to be signed by President Bush, who left for Camp David on Friday afternoon. He is due back in the capital Sunday.

Reached at home, Doan said she is excited about becoming the next administrator. "It's an incredible opportunity," she said. The agency, she acknowledged, is "a little troubled, but it's nothing that can't be fixed."

GSA spokesman David Bethel said the agency likewise is excited about Doan's arrival. "We are looking forward to having Ms. Doan here at GSA," he said.

The quick turnaround time between Doan's nomination and her confirmation is a good sign, said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Washington-based Coalition for Government Procurement, a contractor trade association. GSA is in the midst of a years-long reorganization that many say has sapped the agency's ability to deal with declining business.

Doan's Senate approval "means that GSA will be able to maintain its forward momentum toward reorganizing itself and do it much more quickly than I think a lot of people thought," Allen said.

Also confirmed late Friday was David Norquist as the DHS chief financial officer.

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