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DHS preparedness chief resigns amid reorganization

FEMA is taking over grant programs, disaster assistance and operations, and other activities in the soon-to-be-gone preparedness directorate.

In December 2005, George Foresman became the first undersecretary for the Preparedness Directorate at the Homeland Security Department. He will likely be its last.

Foresman resigned Thursday, two days before the directorate officially disappears. The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act signed into law last October reorganized the department's preparedness functions, eliminating the Preparedness Directorate and significantly diminishing Foresman's duties.

The law -- intended by supporters to prevent future federal disaster response failures like those after Hurricane Katrina -- reconstituted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, moving many of the Preparedness Directorate's activities under FEMA's umbrella and elevating FEMA's administrator to the undersecretary level.

There was reportedly internal conflict at DHS over who should lead the new FEMA: Foresman or R. David Paulison, who became acting director of FEMA in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Ultimately, DHS chose Paulison.

That left Foresman to lead the vestiges of the Preparedness Directorate, which was renamed the National Protection and Programs Directorate. Grant programs, disaster assistance and operations, logistics, the U.S. Fire Administration and other functions that used to be the domain of the Preparedness Directorate will now fall to FEMA.

The NPPD will include the Office of Cyber Security and Communications, the Office of Infrastructure Protection, the Office of Risk Management and Analysis and the Office of Intergovernmental Programs. DHS had proposed also moving the multibillion-dollar entry-exit program US VISIT into the new directorate, but the fiscal 2008 Homeland Security authorization bill approved by the House Homeland Security Committee would prohibit that transfer.

Foresman, who was Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's homeland security adviser and spent 22 years in state and local emergency management before joining DHS, received generally high marks throughout his tenure.

"He has been a great advocate of our profession and a forceful voice for strengthening state and local preparedness," said Karen Cobuluis, spokeswoman for the National Emergency Management Association, in a statement. "George regularly sought out the opinions and ideas of stakeholders like NEMA, and he demonstrated true partnership with state and local governments."

Foresman's resignation is effective in the coming weeks, according to a statement by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"George is an exceptional professional who has shown a steadfast commitment to the ideals of leadership by example," Chertoff said in the statement. "Through his tireless dedication, George helped sharpen the federal government's focus in the areas of infrastructure protection, including the security of chemical facilities, national information technology and telecommunications systems, and he has been instrumental in leading refinements to our grants processes, approaches to risk management, use of biometrics and communications interoperability."