Michael D. Brown

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Michael D. Brown
Michael D. Brown
For other people of the same name, see Michael Brown (disambiguation).

Michael Brown (born November 8, 1954) was Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) until 2005, a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 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.

On September 12, 2005, in the wake of what was widely believed to be poor handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and facing allegations that he had falsified portions of his résumé, Brown resigned, saying that it was "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president". [1]. Earlier, he was 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. President Bush, who had appointed Brown in 2003, praised Brown shortly after the storm hit, saying "you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie," 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 Hurrican Katrina hit. [2] [3] 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 the blame for the failures of the response to Katrina, and that his own only fault had been not to realize sooner the inability of Blanco and Nagin to perform their duties. This testimony drew harshly skeptical responses from some members of the Congressional panel, and by the next day was alleged by Governor Blanco to have comprised perjury under oath.

Brown is now (as of September 26, 2005) apparently working as a consultant for the Federal government, helping to determine what went wrong in the response to Hurricane Katrina. On September 27, 2005, Brown testified before the House Select Committee on Katrina Preparation and Response that he is currently paid over $140,000.00 annually by FEMA.

Brown is currently married and has two children.



Brown was born in Guymon, Oklahoma on November 8, 1954. He received a B.A. in public administration/political science from Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma) in 1978. He received his J.D. from Oklahoma City University's School of Law in 1981 (the school was not accredited by the Association of American Law Schools at the time).

While he was in college, from 1975 to 1978, he handled "labor and budget matters" [4] as an administrative assistant to the city manager of Edmond, Oklahoma. His White House biography states that he had emergency services oversight in this position. However, the head of public relations for the city denied that Brown had oversight over anybody, and explained that "the assistant is more like an intern." [5] Brown disputes this characterization of his position, and the city official cited by Time Magazine in this quote claimed on a local news broadcast (Oklahoma City's News 9) that the remark was taken out of context.

While attending law school, Brown was appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee of the Oklahoma Legislature as the Finance Committee Staff Director, where he oversaw state fiscal issues from 1980-1982. In 1981, he was elected to the city council for Edmond, but resigned to work in private practice[6].

Later in the 1980s he lived in Enid and practiced law there. He worked for prominent Enid attorney Stephen Jones, who later described him as "not serious and somewhat shallow." (ibid). Of 37 lawyers with Jones's firm, Brown was one of two let go when Jones and his partners decided to split up the firm.

He also taught at OCU law school as an adjunct. From 1982-1988, he was the chairman of the board of the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority. Several power plants were built during his tenure. One hydroelectric plant located at Kaw Reservior was completed in 1989 and named the Michael D. Brown Hydroelectric Power Plant and Dam in his honor.

He ran for Congress in 1988 against Democratic incumbent Glenn English, who had not been challenged in the previous election. English's well-financed campaign beat Brown with 122,763 votes against 45,199. After losing, Brown promised to try again in 1990, saying, "I have an excellent chance of prevailing. It's a Democratic state, but a very Republican district."[7]

IAHA tenure

Before joining the DHS/FEMA, Brown was the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, (IAHA), from 1989-2001. After numerous lawsuits were filed against the organization over disciplinary actions[8], Brown was forced to resign.[9]

A March 2000 two-part report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, chronicling one of the disciplinary actions, lauded Brown for pursuing an investigation against David Boggs, "the kingpin of the Arabian horse world," despite internal pressure to end the inquiry[10]. The Brown-led investigation found Boggs performed medically unnecessary surgery on horses to enhance their visual appeal. An ethics board suspended Boggs for five years. Boggs protested through multiple lawsuits against both the organization and Brown, alleging slander and defamation. Brown and the IAHA prevailed, but the lawsuits nonetheless took a toll on morale. Some members interviewed felt Brown showed an imperious attitude, and nicknamed him "The Czar." [11]

Brown started his own legal defense fund before resigning, a move he said was necessary to protect his family's assets. [12] However, some IAHA insiders claimed that this was what really led to his ouster. He raised money from breeders for the fund as well as IAHA, creating a conflict of interest. Also, his contract stipulated that IAHA was to pay all his personal legal expenses, on top of his $100,000 annual salary, so there was speculation as to why he needed a personal legal defense fund. [13] IAHA became financially depleted, and had to be merged with the Arabian Horse Registry of America. [14]

Bush administration service

After Bush entered office in January 2001, Brown joined FEMA as General Counsel. He was the first person hired by his long-time friend, then-FEMA director Joe Allbaugh[15], who also ran Bush's election campaign in 2000. Allbaugh later named Brown his acting deputy director in September 2001. President Bush formally nominated him as deputy director on March 22, 2002, and the Senate confirmed him many months later. Soon after, when Allbaugh left government, President Bush nominated Brown again in January 2003 for the directorship[16]. Brown was sworn in to his position on April 15, 2003.

Previously, shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Brown served on the Consequence Management Principals' Committee, which acted as the White House's policy coordination group for the federal domestic response to the attacks. Later, Bush asked him to head the Consequence Management Working Group to identify and resolve key issues regarding the federal response plan. In August 2002, Bush appointed him to the Transition Planning Office for the new Department of Homeland Security, serving as the transition leader for the EP&R Division. As undersecretary, Brown also directed the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Integration Center, the National Disaster Medical System and the Nuclear Incident Response Team.

Brown currently chairs the National Citizen Corps Council, part of the USA Freedom Corps volunteer initiative.

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, Coast Guard Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen was named Brown's deputy and given operational control of search-and-rescue and recovery efforts. [17]

On September 9, 2005, Chertoff relieved Brown of all on-site relief duties along the Gulf Coast, officially replacing him with 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 allegedly slow federal response to the hurricane. [18]

On September 12, 2005, Brown announced his resignation as director of FEMA. He commented that the negative publicity surrounding him was distracting attention from the relief effort.

FEMA controversies and criticism

Hurricane Frances

In 2004, FEMA disbursed $30 million in disaster relief funds for Hurricane Frances to residents of Miami, Florida, a city which was not affected by the hurricane. Brown admitted to $12 million in overpayments, but denied any serious mistakes, blaming a computer glitch. After investigating, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote that Brown was responsible and called for him to be fired.[19]

In January 2005, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) publicly urged President Bush to fire Brown, citing the Sun-Sentinel's report. [20] Wexler repeated his call in April to Chertoff, citing new reports that FEMA sent inspectors with criminal records of robbery and embezzlement to do damage assessments. [21]

Hurricane Katrina

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many Democratic politicians called for Brown to be fired immediately, including California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, Michigan Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick and Senator Debbie Stabenow, Louisiana State Rep. Peter Sullivan, Nevada Senator Harry Reid, and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

Republican politicians such as Senator Trent Lott have also criticized Brown's leadership of FEMA. Brown's performance was defended, however, by Republicans such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Presidential speechwriter Pat Buchanan. President Bush publicly praised Brown's handling of the disaster, saying "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." [22]

On August 29, 2005, five hours after the hurricane hit land, Brown made his first request for Homeland Security rescue workers, to be deployed to the disaster area only after two days of training. [23] He also told fire and rescue departments outside affected areas to refrain from providing trucks or emergency workers without a direct appeal from state or local governments in order to avoid coordination problems and the accusation of overstepping federal authority.

On September 1, 2005, Brown told Paula Zahn of CNN that he was unaware that New Orleans' officials had housed thousands of evacuees, who quickly ran out of food and water, in the Convention Center--even though major news outlets had been reporting on the evacuees' plight for at least a day. He also criticized those that were stuck in New Orleans as those "who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city" (disobeying a mandatory evacuation order).

On September 2, 2005, Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley stated that he pledged firefighters, police officers, health department workers, and other resources on behalf of the city, but was only asked to send one tank truck.[24]

Controversy arose in November of 2005 as a House committee investigating the response to Katrina released about 1,000 e-mails of Brown's. On the day Katrina struck, Brown jokingly wrote "Can I quit now? Can I go home?". He later quipped to a friend on September 2nd that he could not meet her because he was "trapped [as FEMA head]...please rescue me". When Marty Bahamonde, FEMA's only employee in New Orleans when Katrina struck Aug. 29 e-mailed Brown on Aug. 31, saying "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical...many will die." Brown replied, "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?" See E-mail. An email offering critical medical equipment was not responded to for four days. [25]

Media commentary

Calls for dismissal or resignation

Many media commentators from across the political spectrum called for Brown's dismissal or resignation. Robert Novak has stated that Republicans were angry that the President put lawyers such as Chertoff and Brown in charge of Homeland Security and FEMA. [26] Charles Krauthammer described Brown as "[l]ate, slow and in way over his head" in response to Hurricane Katrina. [27] He was also criticized on Nightline and by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show in a piece entitled "Meet the F**kers".

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel published an editorial comment on September 8, 2005: "[N]othing can restore FEMA's full functionality so long as the agency's incompetent director, Michael Brown, remains at the helm. Brown, a patronage appointee with no previous disaster management experience, embarrassed himself last year with his attempts to justify FEMA's waste of more than $31 million in hurricane relief given to areas not affected by a hurricane. After a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation exposed the waste, the newspaper called for Brown to be fired. It now repeats that call." [28]

On September 12, 2005, Brown announced his resignation as director.

Wikinews has news related to this article:

Accusations of false claims in Brown's credentials by TIME Magazine and other sources

TIME Magazine reported on Friday, September 9, 2005, that it had discovered serious inaccuracies and false claims within Brown's biography posted on FEMA's web site (FEMA) and on FindLaw, a legal directory with information provided directly by attorneys and their offices (FindLaw). A FEMA representative replied that "Mike Brown states there are many inaccuracies in the article."

Assistant City Manager with Emergency Services Oversight

In his official bio posted on the FEMA website, Brown claims previous emergency experience as "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" for the city of Edmond, Oklahoma. According to interviews and records obtained by TIME Magazine, Brown was a college intern in the city manager's office, without hiring, firing, or other management responsibilities.

The TIME article quoted Brown's boss at the time, Bill Dashner. Speaking of Michael Brown, Dashner stated, "He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University."

Outstanding Political Science Professor

Similarly, Brown's claim to have won an award for "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University" also appears fabricated on two counts. According to the University Relations office, Brown had been a student, not a faculty member. To confirm this information, TIME Magazine also spoke with a former Political Science professor, Carl Reherman, whose tenure at Central State overlapped with Brown's claim. According to Reherman, Brown "was not on the faculty."

There also appears to be a question as to whether the Political Science Department even offers such an award. Professor Reherman stated that he had spoken to the Chair about this matter the previous day and that neither individual was aware of an "Outstanding Political Science Professor" award.

Director, Oklahoma Christian Home, Edmond, OK, 1983 - Present

In the "Professional Associations and Memberships" section of his FindLaw biography, Brown claims to be a Director of the Oklahoma Christian Home from 1983 to the present. But according to an administrator with the Home, Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." The TIME Magazine article also quotes a veteran employee of the Home, who stated that Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

Chairman, Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, Edmond, OK, 1980 - Present

The TIME Magazine article missed another possible fabrication in Brown's FindLaw biography. According to his biography, Brown graduated from college in 1978 and, almost immediately afterward, began serving as Chairman of the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority from 1980 through the present. Yet the website of the OMPA (OMPA), which has only a couple dozen employees, does not list Brown as Chairman, an officer or an employee. According to the OMPA, Charles Lam serves as Chairman.

Conservative bloggers

Michelle Malkin stated about Brown: "[i]f someone is a worthless sack of bones, I'll say so. And I don't care if he has 'Bush appointee' stamped on his forehead or a GOP elephant tattooed to his backside. Brown's clueless public comments after landfall are reason enough to give him the boot...and he should have never been there in the first place." [29] Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online accurately predicted that Brown would resign from FEMA to avoid further embarrassment. [30]. Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online reported that firefighters from other states were forced to take sexual harassment classes and are not being deployed to assist as emergency support in the Katrina recovery effort. [31] Goldberg suggested that politically it would be smart (and effective) to fire Brown and replace him with Colin Powell. [32]


Columnist Al Kamen of the Washington Post wrote on December 5, 2001, "the White House has searched high and low to find a deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, only to discover the best candidate was right there among them all along, serving as FEMA general counsel and acting deputy director"[33].

Brown's appointment to the head of FEMA in early 2003 went largely unnoticed by the media. However, the Denver Post praised the Aurora, Colorado resident as an effective leader. An editorial in the paper in welcoming his nomination opened, "Michael D. Brown is a lawyer by trade, but will need a juggler's skill as the new chief of the nation's key emergency response agency."[34] News items in the paper credited Brown with a "key role" in the government's September 11, 2001 recovery efforts.[35]


  1. ^  "Enid Attorney Hopes to Unseat English", The Daily Oklahoman, October 16, 1988
  2. ^  How Reliable Is Brown's Résumé?, Time, September 8, 2005
  3. ^  "Enid Attorney Hopes to Unseat English", The Daily Oklahoman, October 16, 1988
  4. ^  "6th District Returns English to Congress", The Daily Oklahoman, November 9, 1988
  5. ^  Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be `asked to resign', Boston Herald, September 3, 2005
  6. ^  November 2000 newsletter from the NHAHA
  7. ^  "Investigation into Arabian Horse Magnate Surfaces More Than He Can Cover UP", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), March 23, 2000
  8. ^  Head of FEMA has an unlikely background, Knight Ridder, September 4, 2005
  9. ^  What in the World, Arabian Horse World, November 2000
  10. ^  Post by Goldy at Daily Kos, September 3, 2005.
  11. ^  Post by Goldy at Daily Kos, September 2, 2005.
  12. ^  FEMA director Brown singled out by critics of federal response, Washington Post, September 6, 2005
  13. ^  Flood took disaster agency's experts by surprise
  14. ^  Coast Guard's Chief of Staff To Assist FEMA Head Brown, Washington Post, September 7, 2005
  15. ^  FEMA Chief Relieved of Katrina Duties, Associated Press, September 9, 2005
  16. ^  FEMA's Disaster, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 8, 2005
  17. ^  Wexler Calls For FEMA Director's Resignation, January 24, 2005
  18. ^  Wexler Renews Call for FEMA Director's Removal, April 27, 2005
  19. ^  Memo from Michael Brown to Michael Chertoff, August 29, 2005
  20. ^  Daley 'shocked' at federal snub of offers to help, Chicago Tribune, September 2, 2005
  21. ^  "Red Cross", Washington Post, December 5, 2001
  22. ^  "Good pick for FEMA successor", Denver Post, January 14, 2003
  23. ^  "Security Ex-Aurora lawyer awaits FEMA role Homeland office's powers to determine Brown's job", Denver Post, September 10, 2002
  24. ^  "Investigation into Arabian Horse Magnate Surfaces More Than He Can Cover Up", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), March 23, 2000
  25. ^  " 'Can I quit now?' FEMA chief wrote as Katrina raged". CNN, November 3, 2005

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Preceded by:
Joe Allbaugh (FEMA director)
Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response
Succeeded by:
R. David Paulison
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