Thanks to Horse Whisperer for pointing me towards an article in today’s Washington Post, chronicling the disintegration of FEMA under Michael Brown’s watch: “Brown’s Turf Wars Sapped FEMA’s Strength.”
Katrina exposed FEMA as a dysfunctional organization, paralyzed in a crisis four years after the supposedly galvanizing attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And it turned Brown — a former executive of the International Arabian Horse Association who had no emergency management experience before joining the Bush administration — into a symbol of government ineptitude. But Brown’s well-chronicled gaffes in Louisiana had less impact on FEMA than his little-known power struggles in Washington. Brown lost almost all of them — partly because he was widely despised at DHS for his relentless infighting — and FEMA paid a price in money, manpower, missions and prestige.
And of course, a big thanks to Horse Whisperer for tipping me off to Brown’s tumultuous tenure at the IAHA — a story that first broke here on HA — that came to symbolize the cronyism endemic in the Bush administration, and hastened Brown’s removal from office. (I say that with all modesty, as Brown blamed HA himself.)
While the article makes it clear that Brown is not the only incompetent Bush appointee to blame for FEMA’s decline, it certainly shows what inevitably happens when you put a man who fell victim to the inside politics of a horse association in charge of a major federal agency.