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After Removal of Katrina Role, FEMA Leader Brown Resigns

By Richard W. Stevenson


Three days after being stripped of his duties overseeing the post-hurricane relief effort, Michael D. Brown resigned Monday as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying that he wanted to avoid distracting the agency at a time when it faces a massive challenge.

The White House quickly named R. David Paulison to succeed Brown on an acting basis. Paulison, a former firefighter, has been director of the agency’s preparedness division for the past two years.

In contrast to Brown, who had relatively little experience dealing with disasters and emergency response before joining FEMA, Paulison has spent his career in the field, having been chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department before joining the federal government in 2001 as administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration.

In an interview on Monday night, Brown said that he felt that his role had become an obstacle to the agency’s work.

“The press was too focused on what did we do, what didn’t we do, the whole blame game,” he said. “I wanted to take that factor out of the equation, so that the people at FEMA, who are some of the most hardworking, dedicated civil servants I have ever met, could just go do their job.”

Brown, 50, said he felt no pressure to resign. He said he made his decision Sunday with his family after a long conversation Saturday night with Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff.

“Andy was very, very supportive of me,” Brown said.

He said he planned to “take some time to just rejuvenate the old battery” before considering his options.

Brown’s departure was hardly surprising, given the decision, announced Friday, to remove him from management of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Brown had become a political liability to the White House, even in his constrained new role. Democrats in Congress had been questioning how the administration could retain him in such an important job as director of FEMA after his performance in responding to the hurricane.

A poll taken over the weekend by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, a nonpartisan research organization, found that more than six in 10 respondents judged the federal government’s response to be fair or poor. A variety of polls in recent days have found Bush’s approval ratings at or near their lows, with his support eroding even among Republicans.