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Context of 'Early September 2001: FEMA Counterterrorism Official Is Replaced with Inexperienced Political Appointee'

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John Magaw.John Magaw. [Source: Public domain]About a week before 9/11, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joe Allbaugh replaces the agency’s acting deputy director, John Magaw, a veteran federal law enforcement agent and experienced counterterrorism official, with Michael Brown, a close friend of his and a long-time political associate with no previous experience in emergency management. [Baker, 2009, pp. 484] Magaw is a former director of the US Secret Service and of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). In December 1999, Magaw was appointed at FEMA to coordinate the agency’s domestic terrorism efforts. [Market Wire, 12/1999] Allbaugh nominated Michael Brown as the agency’s general counsel upon taking office in January. Brown previously worked as a lawyer for a horse racing association. He has no experience in disaster management (See March 1, 2003). According to Russ Baker, an independent investigative journalist and author of Family of Secrets, a Bush family expose: “One day, Mr. Allbaugh came in and said, ‘I know you’ve got these other things to do. I’m going to ask Mr. Brown to be deputy,’ recalled Magaw who promptly returned to the subordinate position assigned him by Clinton. The timing was remarkable. Just a week before September 11, 2001, Allbaugh replaced a key anti-terrorism official with a crony who had close to zero relevant experience.” [Baker, 2009, pp. 484]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, John W. Magaw

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Joseph Allbaugh.Joseph Allbaugh. [Source: Greg Schaler / FEMA]Joseph Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is flown back to Washington, DC, after leaving a major conference he has been attending in Montana. [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file; CNN, 10/4/2001; 119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Allbaugh was one of hundreds of emergency management officials from around the US attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in Big Sky, Montana, which began on September 8 and was originally scheduled to continue until September 12 (see September 8-11, 2001). He was the keynote speaker at the conference, and in his speech the previous day, September 10, talked about his focus on improving capabilities and preparing for disaster. [National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
Allbaugh Sees Second Attack on TV - Allbaugh will later recall that on this morning, he “turned on CNN” and “actually saw the second plane hit the tower.” He will comment, “I thought it was a movie clip,” but then “reality started sinking in.” When he learned that the plane was the second to have hit the World Trade Center, he knew “immediately it was terrorism.” [CNN, 10/4/2001] Allbaugh went into the meeting he was due to attend and announced: “You all will have to excuse me. I have more pressing matters.” [Associated Press, 9/8/2002] He was then one of the first to leave the NEMA conference. [New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Conflicting Accounts of Flight - Allbaugh is subsequently flown back to Washington, although there are conflicting accounts of his journey. Allbaugh will later recall that after leaving the conference, he moved on to the city of Bozeman, Montana, and then “waited a couple of hours for a plane.” Finally, he will say, a KC-135 military tanker plane flies him back to the capital. [CNN, 10/4/2001] According to another account, Major Rick Gibney, a pilot with the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, was originally tasked with flying Allbaugh home in his F-16 fighter jet, but, instead, an Air Force C-17 cargo plane is diverted to transport the FEMA director back to Washington. [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] But the Gainesville Sun will report that Allbaugh initially headed out from the conference with Craig Fugate, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Fugate rented a car to drive back to Florida and Allbaugh joined him as a passenger. Allbaugh was then dropped off in Missouri, from where he is flown back to Washington. [Gainesville Sun, 10/22/2005] Other emergency management officials that were at the NEMA conference are also flown home on military aircraft throughout the day (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file; Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001]
Allbaugh Joins President and Others at the White House - Allbaugh will recall that his flight to Washington takes four and a half hours. After arriving back in the capital, he heads directly to the White House, where he spends the evening with the president, vice president, and many others. [CNN, 10/4/2001] It is unclear when exactly Allbaugh arrives in Washington, though he will be at the White House by 7:15 p.m., when he gives a press briefing. [White House, 9/11/2001]
Allbaugh in Charge of Responding to Domestic Terrorist Attacks - In May this year, President Bush put Allbaugh, as FEMA director, in charge of “consequence management” in response to any terrorist attacks in the United States. Allbaugh was charged with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to any such attack (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] FEMA plays an important part in the government’s response to the attacks in New York and Washington on this day. It puts its “federal response plan” into effect, which involves coordinating with 28 other federal agencies and the American Red Cross; it dispatches eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the rubble of the WTC; and it has four urban search and rescue teams sifting through the remains of the crash at the Pentagon. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Craig Fugate, Joseph M. Allbaugh, National Emergency Management Association, Rick Gibney, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael D. Brown, an Oklahoma lawyer, replaces Joseph Allbaugh as Director of FEMA. Brown, who was Allbaugh’s college roommate, joined the Bush administration in 2001 as FEMA’s general counsel at Allbaugh’s invitation. [Knight Ridder, 9/3/2005; Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005] Upon Brown’s appointment, Allbaugh says, “The president couldn’t have chosen a better man to help… prepare and protect the nation.” However, prior to joining the Bush administration, Brown apparently had little prior experience in disaster relief or prevention. From 1991 to January 2001, Brown worked as the commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association, earning about $100,000 per year. In this role, Brown was charged with ensuring that horse-show judges followed the rules and investigating any allegations of cheating. He was asked to resign in 2001 after accepting donations to a personal legal defense fund. [Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

An article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes: “[Joseph M.] Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration’s organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation.” [Sylves and Cumming, 2004; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Boeing is awarded a contract to upgrade the fleet of four E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes over the next five years. The E-4B is a modified Boeing 747 crammed with electronics to serve as a flying command post in war or during an emergency. The contract is capped at $2 billion, but it is unclear why so much money is needed to modernize such a small number of aircraft. [Defense Industry Daily, 12/27/2005] An E-4B was seen over Washington, DC on 9/11 (see Early September 2001).

Entity Tags: Boeing Company, E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: US Military

Congress, stung into action by the Bush administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ineptitude of Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA—see Early September 2001), passes a law saying that President Bush must nominate a replacement who has “a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management,” and “not less than five years of executive leadership.” In a signing statement, Bush says that only he, the head of the executive branch, can decide who to appoint to offices. Therefore, he states, he is ignoring the prohibition. [Savage, 2007, pp. 239-240]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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