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Screw Up, Move Up
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There’s lots of buzz about last night’s CBS News report on former/not-so-former FEMA director Michael Brown’s status:

Former FEMA director Michael Brown is continuing to work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency at full pay, with his Sept. 12 resignation not taking effect for two more weeks, said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke.

CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Knocke told her that technically Brown remains at FEMA as a “contractor” and he is “transitioning out of his job.” The reason he will remain at FEMA about a month after his resignation, said the spokesman, is that the agency wants to get the “proper download of his experience.”

During that time, Brown will advise the department on “some of his views on his experience with Katrina,” as he transitions out of his job, Knocke told the Associated Press.

Also significant are Brown’s reported admissions of screwing up the federal response:

Brown also said Monday he should have sought faster help from the Pentagon after Hurricane Katrina hit, and accused state and local officials of constant infighting during the crisis, according to congressional aides.

Brown spoke to congressional aides from both parties a day before he is scheduled to testify in front of a special House committee investigating the government’s response to the Aug. 29 disaster…

A memo from a Republican staffer who attended Monday’s 90-minute briefing said Brown expressed regrets “that he did not start screaming for DoD (Department of Defense) involvement” sooner. The first substantial numbers of active-duty troops responding to the Gulf Coast were sent on Saturday, Sept. 3 — five days after the storm hit.

According to the memo, obtained by The Associated Press, Brown took several shots at Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He said the two officials “sparred during the crisis and could not work together cooperatively.”

He also described Blanco as “indecisive” and refusing to cede control of the Louisiana National Guard to federal authorities because “it would have undercut her image politically,” according to the memo.

The document also criticized the conference calls with state and federal officials that Brown ran during the crisis, saying that no official notes were taken and that Brown “just assumed that agencies would follow up on taskings resulting from the calls.”

Brown had a deadly habit of assuming things were getting done instead of taking responsibility himself.

“Download” that, FEMA.

The retention of disgraced bureaucrats is, unfortunately, nothing new. In my first book, Invasion, I documented numerous cases of incompetent and corrupt immigration officials under both Democrat and Republican administrations who were pushed out of their jobs–only to return in different (sometimes, higher) positions or to be hired back as consultants/independent contractors. For a particularly egregious example of this phenomenon under both the Clinton and current administrations (even more disturbing than the Brown debacle, I think), see here and here.


And remember Mary Ryan? As Joel Mowbray reported in October 2002, this State Department official in charge of implementing the “Visa Express” program that expedited visas for the 9/11 hijackers (along with several other colleagues) received “cash prizes for ‘outstanding performance in the 12 months from April 16, 2001 to April 15, 2002 — a period during which at least five of the 9/11 terrorists received visas that should have been denied, according to the law, and during which September 11 happened.”

Bureaucratic insiders at the old INS had a slogan that sums up the management philosophy of the government workforce concisely: “Screw up, move up.”

Alas, it’s still business as usual in a post-9/11 world.


I’ve contacted Brown for comment and will report on his response, if any.


Blogger reax:

Sean Sirrine: “Only a government agency would pay someone to explain to them why he screwed up so bad.”

Bill Quick, PunditGuy: “That’s right. The man who couldn’t find his brain in the 72 hours after Katrina made landfall is now going to dig deep to investigate and reveal the actual facts about how he couldn’t find his brain 72 hours after Katrina made landfall.”

Much more at Memeorandum.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology