FEMA Administrator Brock Long (right) attends a briefing after visiting areas impacted by Hurricane Florence last week.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long (right) attends a briefing after visiting areas impacted by Hurricane Florence last week. Evan Vucci / AP

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FEMA Chief Agrees to Reimburse Agency for Personal Travel Costs

Long and Homeland Security Sec. Nielsen announce review of rules, but he’ll stay in job.

The embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency chief agreed on Friday to reimburse the Homeland Security Department for the controversial travel expenses he ran up over the past year during weekend trips to his home in North Carolina.

Brock Long issued a statement taking responsibility for his wrongful use of agency vehicles and staff, which had prompted an investigation by the DHS inspector general and a referral to criminal prosecutors. The burgeoning story had also prompted rumors that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants him out of the job.

“As the leader of this agency, I accept full responsibility for any mistakes that were made by me or the agency,” Long said in a Friday statement to reporters. “The secretary and I are taking corrective action to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future. I remain committed to the critical mission of FEMA—helping people before, during and after disasters—and want to thank my family, the FEMA workforce and the secretary for their continued support throughout this process.”

Nielsen, who had met with Long after reviewing a still-unreleased IG report, said “the report found that the FEMA administrator had made use of home-to-work transportation in government-owned vehicles without proper authorization. The FEMA administrator has unique responsibilities to ensure the government continues to operate effectively in catastrophic circumstances,” she added. “For nearly a decade, FEMA administrators have been transported in and had access to government vehicles equipped to ensure senior leader connectivity in times of crisis. Despite this established practice, use of government vehicles to provide home to work transportation for the FEMA administrator was never authorized in accordance with applicable law.”

Nielsen noted that FEMA in April had “corrected” a long-standing practice and that Long was now executing his responsibilities “in a more appropriate manner and consistent with the law. Additionally, the DHS OIG report found instances in which the administrator utilized government vehicles for non-official reasons.”

The DHS chief has directed both the department and FEMA to conduct a thorough review of existing policy regarding home-to-work transportation programs; update DHS’s analysis of roles and requirements in FEMA’s National Continuity Program; and implement a departmentwide review of training regarding the proper uses of government vehicles. The DHS chief security officer will assess the efficiency of continuity programs and associated communications requirements at FEMA and across all of DHS.

The DHS IG declined to comment to Government Executive.