David Paulison, who rehabilitated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after its disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, quietly stepped down from his post as FEMA chief Wednesday, leaving a career emergency manager as the acting administrator of the agency.
Acting FEMA Administrator Nancy Ward sent a memo to all FEMA employees immediately to announce temporary changes in leadership until President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano nominate and appoint new FEMA officials.
"As we move into the next phase of the transition to a new administration, our responsibility to ensure consistency of our mission and continuity in our operations remains. We have spent many months preparing for the inevitable change and uncertainty that comes with any change in leadership and I am confident we will continue building upon our success of the last three years," Ward wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by HSToday.us.
Paulison, a former fire chief in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, did not immediately announce his plans, but he released a statement highlighting some of FEMA’s accomplishments during his tenure.
"Since 2006, I have had the great honor and fortune to work with dedicated people and oversee marked progress in this organization. We have embraced a culture of preparedness, dispersing billions of dollars in emergency preparedness grants, publishing the National Response Framework, the National Disaster Housing Strategy and conducting gap analysis activities working with state emergency managers to balance strengths and gaps before a disaster strikes," he said.
FEMA grew from 1,500 full-time employees to 3,700 since 2006, he added. In 2008, the agency responded to 90 disasters in 36 states and weathered the "fourth busiest hurricane season since 1944." The agency handed out more than $1 billion to assist individual victims of disasters and another $1.4 billion to help local communities recover from them in 2008.
"We have put in place a robust transition plan to assist the incoming Administration to build upon this foundation. Nancy Ward has been assigned as the senior career transition officer to ensure a smooth changeover. I have the utmost confidence in her and each career deputy among our directorates to steer the ship until the new senior leadership team is in place," Paulison wrote.
Retired US Coast Guard Admiral Harvey Johnson also stepped down from his post as the deputy administrator of FEMA.