WASHINGTON (CNN) - The man tapped to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the agency will remain under the Department of Homeland Security. But it was not immediately clear if nominee Craig Fugate was representing only his personal opinion or administration policy.
"That debate, as far as I'm concerned, is over," Fugate said in response to a question at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. He said FEMA will stay inside the department.
Some critics say FEMA's poor performance during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was exacerbated by its inclusion inside DHS. Those critics want FEMA to be a stand-alone agency reportable directly to the president.
But others say FEMA's mission - to provide assistance in both man-made and natural disasters - mirrors the mission of DHS, and say it belongs in the department.
In recent months, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has declined to give her own opinions, saying she had not yet discussed the matter with President Barack Obama. She said it is more important to plan on a response to the next disaster than to plan where FEMA fit on organizational charts.
Asked for clarification Wednesday, DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban issued a similar statement: "Secretary Napolitano applauds Mr. Fugate's focus on FEMA's disaster-response mission, rather than on the very Washington question of where the agency's box is on the organizational chart."
(CNN) – The White House announced Wednesday that President Barack Obama will nominate Craig Fugate, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, as the new FEMA administrator.
“From his experience as a first responder to his strong leadership as Florida’s Emergency Manager, Craig has what it takes to help us improve our preparedness, response and recovery efforts and I can think of no one better to lead FEMA,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m confident that Craig is the right person for the job and will ensure that the failures of the past are never repeated.”
In his current position, Fugate is in charge of coordinating the disaster response and preparedness for the state of Florida, which has been hit by a number of devastating hurricanes since he took charge in 2001.
Fugate will join Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for an event in New Orleans on Thursday.
(CNN) - Despite years of warnings, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had no plan to house disaster victims after Hurricane Katrina and remains unprepared for another catastrophe, a Senate investigation concluded Thursday.
The probe found FEMA failed to prepare for a major disaster even after a 2004 exercise by emergency responders predicted a quarter of a million people could be left homeless by a major hurricane strike on New Orleans, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu told reporters.
"So when the storm hit, they just started ordering trailers with no thought to how expensive it would be, where they would put them, how expensive it would be set them up or what the capacity would be to manufacture them to begin with," said Landrieu, D-Louisiana.
FEMA Administrator David Paulison has received the resignation of the agency's press secretary.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Aaron Walker, press secretary for FEMA, submitted his resignation to FEMA administrator David Paulison this afternoon, according to a FEMA official. The official will not say whether Walker was asked to resign or did so voluntarily. His resignation becomes effective in early December.
Walker is the second FEMA press official to suffer the repercussions of a staged FEMA news conference during the California wildfires.
John (Pat) Philbin, FEMA's director of external affairs, left his job two days after the news conference to become head of public affairs for the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell. That job offer, however, was rescinded as Philbin's role in the press conference became clearer.
The FEMA said that Philbin and Walker bore the "greatest degree of responsibility for the planning and execution" of the press conference. "They had the greatest ability to stop that train from going down the track, and they didn't," said the official.
– CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve