Michael DeWayne Brown (born November 8, 1954) was the first Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This position is generally referred to as the director or administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He was appointed in January 2003 by President George W. Bush and resigned in September 2005. Brown first had been appointed as General Counsel at FEMA. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks President Bush nominated Brown to become Deputy Director of FEMA. Brown currently hosts a radio talk show on NewsRadio 850 KOA in Denver, Colorado. On August 31, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina being named an "Incident of National Significance", Brown was named the Principal Federal Official and placed in charge of the federal government's response by Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff. On September 7, 2005, then Coast Guard Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Thad Allen was named Brown's deputy and given operational control of search and rescue and recovery efforts.
On September 9, 2005, Chertoff relieved Brown of all on-site relief duties along the Gulf Coast, officially replacing him with then Vice Admiral Allen. Brown remained Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response. Brown told the Associated Press that "the press" was making him a scapegoat for the slow federal response to the hurricane.
On September 12, 2005, in the wake of what was widely believed to be incompetent handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by state, local and federal officials, Brown resigned, saying that it was "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president." His standing had also been damaged when the Boston Herald revealed his meager experience in disaster management before joining FEMA. Shortly after his resignation the Associated Press obtained a videotape of Brown briefing Bush, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin and others in which he questioned the wisdom of the Mayor's use of the Louisiana Superdome as a "shelter of last resort" and questions the structural integrity of the Superdome during the briefing.
By the time he resigned from FEMA, Brown had already been discharged from his functions as coordinator of the federal efforts in New Orleans and Gulf Coast by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and was sent back to Washington to continue FEMA's central operations. Bush, who had appointed Brown in 2003, praised Brown shortly after the storm hit, saying "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," but later deflected questions about the resignation, except to deny having discussed the resignation with him.
At least one reliable source, The Economist, recognized the likelihood that Brown was "pushed" out by the administration rather than having resigned voluntarily, although internal e-mails from Brown indicated that he was already planning to leave FEMA at the time Katrina hit. The same suggestion was made by at least one member of Congress during a hearing on what went wrong during Katrina. Brown concentrated his testimony at that hearing on alleging that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin bore most, if not all, of the blame for the failures in the response to Katrina, and that his only fault had been not to realize sooner their inability to perform their respective duties.
After his September 12 resignation, Brown continued working for FEMA as a contractor to help the agency assess what went wrong in the response to the hurricane.
On November 2, 2005, Brown ended his contract early (it had been extended to mid-November by Chertoff) and left the federal government.
On January 18, 2006, Brown stated that certainly things could have been handled differently, such as calling in the military. As one of the largest natural disasters to ever strike the US, he stated, "It was beyond the capacity of the state and local governments, and it was beyond the capacity of FEMA." On February 10, 2006, Brown again testified before Congress, this time placing blame on the Department of Homeland Security for the poor handling of the disaster, asserting that the anti-terrorism focus of the Department had caused it to deny resources needed to FEMA. In his February 2006 testimony, Brown also contradicted earlier claims that the White House was unaware of levees having been breached, stating: "For them to claim that we didn’t have awareness of it is just baloney."
On March 1, 2006, AP re-released a recording of Brown and Bush in a video conference in which the vulnerability of the levee system was raised with a great deal of concern over potential loss of life. Bush denied any awareness of the possibility of a levee-related catastrophe in a live interview