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Context of 'May 15, 2001: FEMA Director Plans to Reduce FEMA’s Role in Disaster Mitigation and Prevention'

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President Bush appoints Joseph M. Allbaugh, a longtime Bush aide, to serve as the director of FEMA. In his new role, Allbaugh will coordinate “federal disaster relief activities on behalf of President Bush, including the Federal Response Plan that authorizes the response and recovery operations of 28 federal agencies and departments and the American Red Cross.” Additionally, he will oversee the National Flood Insurance Program and the US Fire Administration and initiate proactive mitigation activities to reduce loss of life and property from all types of hazards. Allbaugh will manage FEMA’s annual budget of about $3 billion, about 2,500 permanent federal employees, and 4,500 temporary disaster assistance employees. Allbaugh has served Bush in the past. He was “the governor’s point person for nine presidential disaster declarations and more than 20 state-level emergencies.” Allbaugh also served as Bush’s national campaign manager for the 2000 election and as the campaign manager for Bush’s first run for Texas governor in 1994. He also served as Governor Bush’s Chief of Staff. Along with Bush’s longtime aides, Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh is known as one of the three members of Bush’s so-called “iron triangle.” [Fire Chief Magazine, 3/1/2005; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh appears before Congress to discuss his agency’s goals and priorities for fiscal year 2002. A chief priority is to reduce the federal government’s role in disaster mitigation and prevention, which, he asserts is “inherently grassroots.” He explains: “These activities involve local decision-making about zoning, building codes, and strategy planning to meet a community’s unique needs. It is not the role of the federal government to tell a community what it needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure.… At the same time we are giving more control to state and local governments through the Managing State concept of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and other initiatives, we are asking that they take a more appropriate degree of fiscal responsibility to protect themselves. The original intent of federal disaster assistance is to supplement state and local response efforts. Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, state and local efforts.… FEMA is looking at ways to develop meaningful and objective criteria for disaster declarations that can be applied consistently. These criteria will not preclude the president’s discretion but will help states better understand when they can reasonably turn to the federal government for assistance and when it would be more appropriate for the state to handle the disaster itself.” Allbaugh also discusses how FEMA will bring Bush’s compassionate conservatism to disaster survivors. “President Bush’s compassionate conservatism is a hallmark of his core philosophy,” Allbaugh states. “The president is promoting faith-based organizations as a way to achieve compassionate conservatism. Not only does FEMA work with… faith-based organizations…, but FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program is the original faith-based initiative and is a perfect fit with President Bush’s new approach to helping the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Through this program, FEMA works with organizations that are based in the communities where people need help the most.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/16/2001; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency, George W. Bush, Joseph M. Allbaugh

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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

In a memo to FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, the agency’s inspector general relays concerns over the Bush administration’s proposal to merge FEMA, along with several other agencies, into the newly-constituted new Department of Homeland Security. “There are concerns of FEMA losing its identity as an agency that is quick to respond to all hazards and disasters,” the inspector general writes. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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

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