Who will save us from this disaster??? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Harvey Johnson fucks up a wet dream & wins the Mike Brown Incompetence Award
FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson [see official FEMA biography at bottom] talks about the agency's response to the California wildfires at the FEMA press briefing room in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday 23 October 2007.
It was later revealed that reporters were not given adequate time to travel to the event, so instead, the agency's public affairs staff asked questions. The decision prompted backlash from the media, Department of Homeland Security and the White House. (photo: Bill Koplitz, FEMA)
FEMA is the Federal Emergency Managemant Agency. These are the federal officials charged with the responsibility of saving your life in case of a disaster or catastrophe -- hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, tornado, flood, and this week, forest fires of historic proportions in Southern California.
This remarkable story raises a very important and interesting question:
How stupid can a human being be and still be able to breathe and urinate without professional assistance?
Or, as we used to say in the Army -- these guys could fuck up a wet dream.
(American Broadcasting Company
USA commercial television network
owned by the Walt Disney Company)
Friday 26 October 2007
After Sham News Conference
White House, Homeland Security
Angered by FEMA 'Stunt'
by PIERRE THOMAS, THERESA COOK, JASON RYAN and JACK DATE
It looked like any other Washington press briefing, with a public affairs official walking up to a podium, introducing a government official and kicking off a press conference.
But what happened next raised the ire of the news media and ticked off Bush administration officials.
Tuesday the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it was holding a news conference to answer reporters' questions about the federal agency's emergency response to the Southern California wildfires.
The agency gave reporters just 15 minutes notice to attend, and those members of the media who called in via phone lines could listen to the event but were not able to ask questions.
FEMA's Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson conducted the event like a regular press briefing, assuring those in attendance that FEMA -- the agency that performed so poorly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- was responding well to the disaster in Southern California.
"The report basically is that were doing a fine, doing a pretty good job," Johnson told the audience.
The event went smoothly. That is, until the news media discovered that the press conference wasn't exactly a press conference at all.
Unlike most press briefings, this one was missing a key component: members of the press.
FEMA: No Reporters? No Problem.
No reporters? No problem for FEMA. The agency filled the press room with its own public affairs personnel who asked questions.
It looked real enough for cable networks to briefly air the live event.
"I'll be glad to take some of your questions," Johnson said.
"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" one staffer asked.
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson replied.
And so it went for more than 10 minutes, without any journalists.
Kicking Katrina Comparisons
The inevitable comparisons to Katrina came up during the questioning, giving Johnson an opportunity to tout the agency's improved disaster response.
He said, "In lessons learned from Katrina, it's like, is there day and is there night?"
"But what you're seeing now is a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team," he said.
After the event was over, FEMA staff members went back to their day jobs, perhaps unaware of the fallout to come.
'Inexcusable and Offensive'
Over the next few days, the incident became fodder for news blogs.
Friday a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, said Secretary Michael Chertoff was not pleased with the decisions made by agency staff.
"This is simply inexcusable and offensive to the Secretary [Chertoff] that such a mistake could have been made," Laura Keehner said Friday on a conference call with the media.
"We have made it clear stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated."
Keehner noted that the department is looking into the possibility of reprimanding FEMA staff.
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters Friday that the White House did not know about FEMA's plan beforehand, and said, "It was just a bad way to handle it, and they know that."
"It's not something I would have condoned. And they, I'm sure, will not do it again."
FEMA Issues Apology
FEMA released a statement of apology Friday afternoon.
In the statement, Johnson said FEMA is reviewing its procedures to ensure that future communications with the press are "straightforward and transparent."
"We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgment," Johnson said.
But he asked the media not to focus on that misjudgment, and instead concentrate on the "real story" of the successes of the efforts in California.
Turns out the U.S. government still believes the news media is needed -- at least at press conferences.
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Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures
The Associated Press (US news wire service)
Friday 26 October 2007
FEMA Workers Play
Role of Reporters
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House scolded the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday for staging a phony news conference about assistance to victims of wildfires in southern California.
The agency -- much maligned for its sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina over two years ago -- arranged to have FEMA employees play the part of independent reporters Tuesday and ask questions of Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the agency's deputy director.
The questions were predictably soft and gratuitous.
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response," Johnson said in reply to one query from an agency employee.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said it was not appropriate that the questions were posed by agency staffers instead of reporters. FEMA was responsible for the "error in judgment," she said, adding that the White House did not know about it beforehand and did not condone it.
"FEMA has issued an apology, saying that they had an error in judgment when they were attempting to get out a lot of information to reporters, who were asking for answers to a variety of questions in regard to the wildfires in California," Perino said. "It's not something I would have condoned. And they -- I'm sure -- will not do it again."
She said the agency was just trying to provide information to the public, through the press, because there were so many questions.
"I don't think that there was any mal-intent," Perino said "It was just a bad way to handle it, and they know that."
FEMA gave real reporters only 15 minutes notice about Tuesday's news conference . But because there was so little advance notice, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in. And many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement.
On Tuesday, FEMA employees had played the part of reporters. Johnson issued a statement Friday, saying that FEMA's goal was "to get information out as soon as possible, and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment."
"Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received," he said. "We can and must do better."
Officials at the Homeland Security Department, which includes FEMA, expressed their concern.
"This is simply inexcusable and offensive to the secretary that such a mistake could be made," Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said Friday, referring to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. "Stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated."
Keehner said senior leadership is considering whether a punishment is necessary.
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Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
From the FEMA website:
Harvey E. Johnson, Jr.
Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer
Harvey E. Johnson, Jr. (US Coast Guard, retired Vice Admiral) is the Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer of FEMA. He came to FEMA in April 2006 after serving as Commander, Pacific Area of the U.S. Coast Guard since June 2004.
Mr. Johnson has a wealth of emergency and crisis management experience, including support to Admiral Thad Allen and the Coast Guard's Hurricane Katrina response efforts by coordinating and deploying West Coast resources.
His operational experience includes various Coast Guard efforts, including search and rescue, freighter grounding, vessel break-up and pollution response for the motor vessel Selendang Ayu and the tank vessel Seabulk Pride in Alaskan waters. In addition, he participated in multiple Naval War College, Lead Shield and Rogue Vessel exercises in response to simulated maritime homeland security threats and the management of hundreds of Coast Guard law enforcement, search and rescue and pollution response cases in the Pacific.
While serving as Commander, Pacific Area, Mr. Johnson led efforts that encompassed more than 73 million miles west of the Rocky Mountains and throughout the Pacific Basin to the Far East. Prior to this assignment, he was the Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District and served as the Director, Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast, where he directed Operation Able Sentry, the Department of Homeland Security's response to the crisis in Haiti. In addition to these duties, he served as the Executive Director of the Coast Guard's transition into the Department of Homeland Security, Director of Operations Capability and Director of Operations Policy.
Prior to promotion to Flag rank in 2001, Mr. Johnson served as the Executive Assistant to the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Other assignments included: Commanding Officer of Air Station Brooklyn, and concurrently as Commanding Officer of Air Station San Diego and Commander, Activities San Diego. He also served as a fellow at the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group in Newport, Rhode Island.
Mr. Johnson began his career as a Deck Watch Officer aboard the Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-623). He then earned his Naval Aviator wings in 1977. He flew the HH-52A helicopter at Coast Guard Air Station Houston, the HH-3F at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, the HH-65A in Brooklyn and Corpus Christi and the HH-60J in San Diego. His staff assignments include: Aviation Assignment Officer in the Office of Personnel and Training; Program Reviewer and Analyst within the Office of the Chief of Staff; Deputy Chief, Programs Division within the Office of the Chief of Staff; and member of the Streamlining Team.
His major decorations include the Legion of Merit (3), the Meritorious Service Medal (3), the Coast Guard Commendation Medal (2) and the Coast Guard Achievement Medal.
Mr. Johnson received a Bachelor of Science degree at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1975. He earned a Master of Science degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in 1983 and a Master of Science degree in Management as a Sloan Fellow at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993.
Mr. Johnson is a native of Tampa, Florida. He is married to the former Janet L. Cronin of Boston, Massachusetts, and they have two children, Jennifer and Scott.
R. David Paulison
Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
R. David Paulison serves as the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Appointed by the President George W. Bush, Administrator Paulison, reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Administrator may also be called upon by the President to serve as a member of the Cabinet in the event of natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other man-made disasters.
Serving under the Administrator are two Deputy Administrators, nine Assistant Administrators and 10 Regional Administrators.
Administrator Paulison has more than 35 years of experience in emergency management. He began his career as a firefighter and paramedic, rising to serve as Fire Chief in Miami-Dade, Florida. Since 2001, he has held a number of senior positions within the federal government, including the Director of the Preparedness Division of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate and the U.S. Fire Administrator. In 2006, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Director of FEMA and, with the 2007 Reorganization, continues to lead FEMA as Administrator.
As a career firefighter, the Administrator began as a rescue firefighter and climbed the ranks of rescue lieutenant commander, district chief of operations, division chief, assistant chief and then deputy director for administration before becoming the Miami-Dade Fire Chief. He is a certified paramedic and, as fire chief, oversaw the Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. His emergency management experience includes Hurricane Andrew and the crash of ValuJet Flight 592. He is also past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
A native of Miami, Florida, Mr. Paulison earned a bachelor of arts from Florida Atlantic University and completed the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2004, he received the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award from the Congressional Fire Service Institute. Additionally, he has received the LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award and has been inducted into the Miami-Dade Community College Hall of Fame. Mr. Paulison was selected as Fire Chief of the Year by his colleagues from the State of Florida in 1993 and holds positions in several professional associations.