Saturday, February 11, 2006

Just Morbid Curiousity: Senate Hearing on Government's Response to Hurricane Katrina

Here's the end of Chair's statement:

 As this committee winds down its lengthy series of hearings and more than five months of investigations into the preparedness for and response to Hurricane Katrina, we increasingly reflect upon what can be learned from the thousands of facts we have gathered. One thing that I have found is a strong correlation between effective leadership and effective response. Unfortunately, I have also found the converse to be true.

The full statement of Sen. Collins (R-Maine) follows and the full transcript can be found at the bottom of this page.

The following is the transcript of the hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as provided by Federal News Service: from the New York Times.

WITNESSES: MICHAEL D. BROWN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND PREPAREDNESS, AND DIRECTOR, FEMA

PATRICK RHODE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND CHIEF OF STAFF, FEMA, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine): (Strikes gavel.) The committee will come to order.

Good morning. Today, in our 18th hearing on Hurricane Katrina, the committee will examine how the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA coordinated and led the federal preparations for and response to Hurricane Katrina. Our first panel this morning consists of Michael Brown and Patrick Rhode, who were FEMA's director and acting deputy director in the days leading up to and following the storm.

As Katrina neared the Gulf Coast, Mr. Brown dispatched to Louisiana, leaving Mr. Rhode as the top-ranking official at FEMA headquarters. Today we will discuss their leadership of the agency during this enormously challenging period. Our second panel consists of two senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security headquarters. Robert Stephan is the assistant secretary for Infrastructure Protection and one of the chief architects of the National Response Plan. Matthew Broderick runs the department's Homeland Security Operations Center, which serves as the eyes and ears of top DHS officials, particularly during times of crisis. Secretary Chertoff relied heavily on Mr. Stephan and Mr. Broderick during Katrina's aftermath. We will discuss their roles and their views of FEMA from the top of the organizational chart. Our panels today separate witnesses from a federal agency, FEMA, from those of its parent organization, DHS. The separation is deliberate. It reflects in part the differing perspectives on Katrina that we have heard consistently from officials of the two entities. It also reflects tensions between the two that predate the storm -- tensions over resources, roles and responsibilities within the department.

This tension is clear in Mr. Brown's response when committee investigators asked him why FEMA was not better prepared for Katrina. Mr. Brown responded, quote, "Its mission had been marginalized. Its response capability had been diminished. There's the whole clash of cultures between DHS mission to prevent terrorism and FEMA's mission to respond to and to prepare for responding to disasters of whatever nature," end quote. By almost any measure, FEMA's response to Katrina has to be judged a failure. I must say that I've come to this conclusion with a sense of remorse, because I have been struck throughout this investigation by the extraordinary efforts of many FEMA professionals in the field, as well as some FEMA and DHS officials at headquarters, who literally worked around the clock to try to help bring relief to the people in the Gulf states. But the response was riddled with missed opportunities, poor decision-making and failed leadership.

The responsibility for FEMA's and, for that matter, the department's failed response is shared. While DHS's playbook appears designed to distance the department's leaders and headquarters as much as possible from FEMA, the department's leaders must answer for decisions that they made or failed to make that contributed to the problems. One problem that manifested itself in a variety of ways was the department's lack of preparedness for the Katrina catastrophe. Instead of springing into action, or better yet, acting before the storm made landfall, the department appears to have moved haltingly, and as a result, key decisions were either delayed or made based on questionable and in some cases erroneous assumptions.

The day after the storm, for example, Secretary Chertoff named Michael Brown as the lead federal official for the response effort. At the same time, the secretary declared Hurricane Katrina an incident of national significance, which is the designation that triggers the National Response Plan. The National Response Plan, in turn, is the comprehensive national road map that guides the federal response to catastrophes.

The secretary's action led many to question why the incident of national significance declaration had not been made earlier, but in reality, the declaration itself was meaningless because, by the plain terms of the National Response Plan, Hurricane Katrina had become an incident of national significance three days earlier, when the president declared an emergency in Louisiana. The lack of awareness of this fundamental tenet of the National Response Plan raises questions about whether DHS leadership was truly ready for a catastrophe of this magnitude. And I think it helps explain the department's slow, sometimes hesitant, response to the storm.

Similarly, we will learn today that FEMA's leaders failed to take steps that they knew could improve FEMA's ability to respond more effectively and quickly to a catastrophe. In the year or so preceding Katrina, Mr. Brown was presented with two important and highly critical assessments of FEMA's structure and capabilities. Both included recommendations for improvement.

The first was a memorandum produced by a cadre of FEMA's top professional operatives, known as the federal coordinating officers. Among other things, the memo warns of unprepared emergency response teams that had no funding -- zero funding -- for training, exercises The study, commissioned by Mr. Brown, was designed to answer such questions as what's preventing FEMA from responding and recovering as quickly as possible. The MITRE study is eerily predictive of the major problems that would plague the response to Hurricane Katrina. The study points out a lack of adequate and consistent situational awareness across the enterprise -- a prediction that became reality when you look at all the missed opportunities to respond to the levee breaks; an inadequate ability to control inventory and track assets -- we saw that over and over again with essential commodities not reaching the destination in time; an undefined and misunderstood standard operating procedures.

Despite this study, key problems were simply not resolved, and as a result, opportunities to strengthen FEMA prior to Katrina were missed.

As this committee winds down its lengthy series of hearings and more than five months of investigations into the preparedness for and response to Hurricane Katrina, we increasingly reflect upon what can be learned from the thousands of facts we have gathered. One thing that I have found is a strong correlation between effective leadership and effective response. Unfortunately, I have also found the converse to be true.

Senator Lieberman.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-Conn.): Thanks very much, Madame Chairman. Thanks not only for your excellent opening statement, thanks for the leadership that you have given this investigation over five months and now almost 20 public hearings. In my -- this now my 18th year privileged to be a member of the United States Senate, I've not been in a more thorough, non-partisan, and I'd say important investigation. And I thank you for setting the tone, showing exactly the leadership that you just described in another sense. And I thank our joint staff for the extraordinary work that they have done interviewing more than 200 witnesses, compiling and obtaining hundreds of thousands of documents. Today and Tuesday we're going to hear directly from the top leadership of both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its parent, the Department of Homeland Security. Our hearings are now reaching the concluding phase. To date, I think the previous hearings have set the stage for the panels we're going to hear today and Tuesday we have some tough and important questions to ask.

In my opinion, our investigation has shown a gross lack of planning and preparation by both the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, and that guaranteed that the response to Hurricane Katrina -- or for that matter, any other catastrophe that might have happened -- was doomed to be uncoordinated, inadequate and, therefore, more damaging than it should have been.

We have heard from a large number of witnesses who have spoken of the full range of failures during Katrina. We have learned of one failure after another in evacuation, search and rescue, law and order, emergency medical treatment and deployment of assets. And we have learned that the federal government was simply not prepared to overcome these predictable challenges in this predictable and predicted hurricane. Even those responsible acknowledge that they did not meet the desperate needs of the people of the Gulf Coast. FEMA and DHS officials have told us that in interviews and testimony and in evidence gathered by our staff, and I want to read just a few of those that are on that chart.

From Michael Lowder, FEMA's deputy director of Response, who in an August 27th, 2005 e-mail, two days before Katrina hit landfall, said -- and I quote -- "If this is the New Orleans scenario" -- which was the way they described the big hurricane arriving -- "we are already way behind." From Scott Wells, a FEMA federal coordinating officer, quote, "This was a catastrophic disaster. We don't have the structure. We don't have the people for catastrophic disaster. It's that simple," end of quote. From FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Lokey, the top man for FEMA in Louisiana, quote, "Communications and coordination was lacking. Pre-planning was lacking. We were not prepared for this," end of quote. From former FEMA director, Michael Brown, who we'll be hearing today, when asked the question, before Katrina, was FEMA ready for this kind of catastrophe; Mr. Brown said simply and directly, "I don't think so." And finally, from Secretary Chertoff, who we will hear from Tuesday, quote, "But I also think Katrina tested our planning, and our planning fell short."

The fact is that when DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, was created in 2002 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, I said -- and I know that I spoke for most members of Congress -- that I hoped to see a coordinated, consolidated and accountable Department of Homeland Security. In this investigation, unfortunately, we have seen so little effective coordination and consolidation that we must hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ask urgently that it do a lot better. We hope that the department would quickly evolve into a world-class agency that had the planning, personnel and materials in place to respond swiftly and effectively in a disaster, natural or terrorist.

Katrina showed us that the Department of Homeland Security has a lot of work to do on itself. Despite ample warnings that New Orleans is a bowl covered by inadequate levees that would be overtopped or breached in a big hurricane; despite the specific warnings of the mock Hurricane Pam exercise, done a year before Katrina hit, that government at all levels was unprepared to protect New Orleans from the expected big hurricane; and despite the specific mentions of emergency preparedness and rescue responsibilities in the National Response Plan of January 2005, the fact is, when Katrina hit, America's government was largely unprepared to protect the people of the Gulf Coast.

Nature hit New Orleans hard, but also gave its people a break by hitting hardest 15 miles to the east. Because of the failure to effectively evacuate the poor and infirmed who could not evacuate themselves -- if Katrina had hit New Orleans head-on, the death toll probably would have been in the tens of thousands, as the Hurricane Pam exercise had predicted.

And here are a few of the things that came to pass. In the days before the storm, FEMA failed to prestage personnel to New Orleans other than a single public affairs employee or move adequate amounts of crucial supplies of food, water and medical supplies to the scene. The Department of Homeland Security failed to implement the catastrophic incident annex to the national response plan early enough, and that would have triggered a more aggressive, timely federal response.

The Department of Homeland Security failed to develop an effective plan to maintain accurate situation estimates at the Homeland Security Operations Center, which was set up to be the nation's nerve center during a disaster, and that failure led to the ignoring of reports that the levees were being breached and overtopped, and that the city had flooded with people already trapped in attics and on rooftops. FEMA was late in bringing in search and rescue teams, and that -- and then pulled them out for security reasons, even though other agencies continued to stay and do search and rescue.

DHS failed to stand up until the day after landfall -- the Interagency Incident Management Group -- that senior-level interagency group charged with help to coordinate the federal response to a catastrophe that was required once the president declared an emergency on Saturday morning. Yesterday we heard from General Bennett C. Landreneau of the Louisiana National Guard, who told us that the buses promised by FEMA before the storm for post-landfall evacuation and then at different points again on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the storm, did not arrive until Thursday, and that unfortunately contributed to the human suffering that the world saw at the Superdome and the convention center.

We're going to talk to Secretary Chertoff about that next Tuesday. Today we will ask some of his senior staff how the news media, including a New Orleans radio station early Monday morning, numerous federal agencies, the American Red Cross, could be aware of growing and catastrophic floods in New Orleans all day Monday, August 29th, the day of landfall, while the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for disaster responsel, somehow didn't know about it.

In our exhibit book we have Exhibit Q, that details more than 25 reports of flooding, levee breaches and desperate citizens seeking refuge from rising floodwaters that began coming in as early as 8:30 a.m. on Monday, August 29th. A selection of them are shown on the boards here to my left. They include: At 9:14 a.m., the National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning reporting, and I quote, "that a levee breach occurred along the Industrial Canal at Tennessee Street. Three to eight feet of water is expected due to the breach," end quote. Then two hours later, at 11:13, the White House Homeland Security Council issues a report that says in part, "Flooding is significant throughout the region, and a levee in New Orleans has reportedly been breached, sending six to eight feet of water throughout the Ninth Ward area of the city. The Homeland Security's Operation Center reports that due to rising water in the Ninth Ward, residents are in their attics and on their roofs." That's a quote from White House Homeland Security Council at 11:13. Then at 8:34 in the evening Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a situation report that, quote, "There is flooding in St. Barnard Parish, with reports of water up to the roofs of homes," end quote; and that, quote, "All Jefferson and Orleans Parish pumping stations are inoperable as of 29 August," end quote. Finally, Marty Bahamonde, I believe our first witness, certainly one of the first witnesses last fall before the committee, the FEMA employee who Director Brown, I believe, had dispatched to New Orleans, was there early, testified that he had taken a flight on a Coast Guard helicopter over New Orleans at approximately 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. A report from 10:30 p.m. Monday night that there is a quarter-mile breach in the levee near the 17th Street Canal about 200 yards from Lake Pontchartrain, allowing water to flow in the city. An estimated two-thirds to 75 percent of the city is under water. Hundreds of people were observed on the balconies and roofs of a major apartment complex in the city. A few bodies were seen floating in the water. And the Coast Guard pilots also reported seeing bodies, but there are no details on locations. That's the end of the report from Marty Bahamonde. He took this picture that afternoon, and it shows a great American city under water. And still somehow, the highest officials at the Department of Homeland Security, and perhaps at the White House, were under the impression as Monday, August 29th, ended that the city had dodged a bullet. Madame Chairman, we've got to ask some tough questions today because we've got to have answers if we're to make the changes that we all want to make at DHS. In the early aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina debacle, former FEMA Director Michael Brown was singularly blamed for the inadequate federal government response. Our investigation confirms, in my opinion, in fact that Mr. Brown did not do a lot of what he should have done, but he was not alone. In fact, there was a massive failure by government at all levels and by those who lead it to prepare and respond as they had a responsibility to do. And in the case of the federal government response to Katrina, with the exceptions, proud exceptions, of the National Weather Service and the U.S. Coast Guard, there was a shocking consequential and pervasive lack of preparation, response and leadership. Mr. Brown, I understand that you are prepared this morning to answer our questions fully and truthfully. I appreciate that very much. I thank you for it. In doing so, I believe you will be serving the public interest and this committee's nonpartisan interest in finding out exactly why the federal government failed so badly in its preparations and response to Hurricane Katrina, so that together we can make sure it never happens again.

Katrina has passed, but the clock is reset and ticking again. We know that we will have to respond to another disaster, natural or terrorist. We cannot and will not let the clock run out on us again.

Thank you very much.

SEN. COLLINS: Thank you, Senator, and thank you for your generous comments. Our first witness panel this morning includes the top two FEMA leaders at the time of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. Michael Brown was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, from March of 2003 until he resigned from that position in September of 2005. Patrick Rhode was chief of staff at FEMA from April 2003 until recently. At the time of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Rhode was also serving as the acting deputy director of FEMA. Soon after that, he returned to his former position as chief of staff. I would ask that the witnesses rise, so I can administer the oath. Mr. Brown, I understand that you have some brief remarks that you would like to make.

MR. BROWN: I do, Chairman Collins. Thank you. In 1989, a congressman wrote a letter to The Washington Times, and that letter said that there is a fatal flaw if we separate preparedness from response. That congressman's name was Tom Ridge. We reached that fatal flaw in 2003, when FEMA was folded into the Department of Homeland Security. I would encourage the committee to look at a 1978 study done by the National Governors Association, in which -- and I'll quote very briefly -- "As the tasks of the projects were pursued, it became evident that the major finding of this study is that many state emergency operations are fragmented. This is not only because uncoordinated federal programs encourage state fragmentation, but because the strong relationship of long-term recovery and mitigation of future disasters must be tied to preparedness and response for more immediate disasters, and that is not always adequately understood."

Madame Chairman, I tell you that what occurred after FEMA was folded into the Department of Homeland Security -- there was a culture clash which didn't recognize the absolute inherent science of preparing for a disaster, responding to it, mitigating against future disasters, and recovering from disasters.

And anytime that you break that cycle of preparing, responding, recovering and mitigating, you are doomed to failure. And the policies and the decisions that were implemented by DHS take FEMA on a path to failure, and I think the evidence that we'll have before you today will show the actions that were taken that caused that failure. And I beg this committee to take corrective action to fix that so these disasters don't occur in the future. Thank you.

SEN. COLLINS: Mr. Rhode.

MR. RHODE: Good morning, Madame Chairman, Senator Lieberman, senators. I would like to make just a very brief opening statement if I could. My name is Patrick Rhode. I served as chief of staff at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, from April 2003, until January of 2006. I served under both former Director Brown and the current acting director, David Paulison. I'm happy to be appearing before you today voluntarily as you continue your important work in reviewing the collective governmental response to Hurricane Katrina and assessing possible changes in emergency management.

At the outset, I would like to observe, if I could, that Hurricane Katrina was a truly catastrophic event. It was an American tragedy on numerous levels. The magnitude of the disaster was unlike anything we had previously faced as a nation. The storm compromised 90,000 square miles of the United States Gulf Coast, an area almost the size of Great Britain.

On the professional level of emergency management, it was unprecedented. On the personal level, my heart went out to those who were suffering. And indeed, my heart still goes out to those who continue to deal with the aftermath of Katrina.

Many people in the emergency management community, including myself, tried to do the very best they could under very difficult circumstances. The dedicated public servants working on this issue at the federal, state and local level were doing their very best to help as many people as they could under the existing framework for emergency management.

As in all things, there are lessons to be learned from this experience. I hope that these hearings will produce just such learning, and lead to the creation of new legislation that can improve on the current system of disaster management. If we can apply those lessons so as to make things better for the next emergency situation, I want to do all that I can to contribute appropriately to that effort. As you know, in addition to appearing here today voluntarily, I have fully cooperated with your staffs by participating willingly in several interviews with them. In addition, I would like respectfully to note that any statements I offer today in response to questions about how to improve the emergency management system are the opinions of one private citizen. As I sit before you today, I am no longer a government employee, but have returned to private life with my wife and six- month-old daughter. I do not and cannot speak for FEMA. Anything I have to offer is my own personal opinion, for whatever the committee may deem it to be worth. And I want to take care to be clear that it does not reflect the official views of the agency or the federal government. In short, I applaud the committee for taking on the challenges of assessing what kind of support is needed for, and what changes should be made to, the country's emergency management system. I am hopeful that together we can contribute to enhancements and improvements that does assist disaster victims in the future. With that, I welcome any questions or comments you may have.

SEN. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Rhode. Mr. Brown, in my opening statement I mentioned a study that you commissioned from the MITRE Corporation. It's under Exhibit 2 in the exhibit book. MITRE Corporation gave you its findings on March 2005, and I'd like to read the sum of the key findings of this consultant: "Unclear lines of responsibility lead to inconsistent accountability. There is no deputy to you with operational experience, and there are too many political appointees. Not enough senior management emergency experts. Lack of adequate and consistent situational awareness across the enterprise." I also mention that earlier, in 2004, that a group of senior FEMA operational professionals, the federal coordinating officers cadre, wrote to you a memo outlining their grave concerns. The memo cautions of unprepared teams and zero funding for training exercises and team equipment. It is -- suggested reestablishing a single response and recovery division at FEMA to facilitate the refocusing that is necessary to regain some of the efficiency that has been lost at FEMA. We've received testimony that in response to both of these warnings, which were very explicit in identifying serious problems within FEMA, that you did not take any action. My first question for you is, what action did you take in response to the warnings from the senior career people and the outside consultant?

MR. BROWN: Madame Chairman, the first thing I think the committee needs to understand is that I indeed did commission those studies. In fact, I asked for both of those documents from the FCOs and from the MITRE Corporation. We had to literally go scrape together the money just to get the initial work done by MITRE. But I had some to this conclusion. After three years of fighting -- the articles you've seen in The Washington Post about my attempts to try to get the FEMA mission put back on track, and how that was rebuffed consistently by the Department of Homeland Security -- that I'd reached this conclusion: that in order for FEMA to work effectively, I had to have something that would give a road map to either future FEMA directors -- because I was intending to leave -- and/or to the Department of Homeland Security, other than me saying it, that would point out these problems. As I said, we had to fight to get the money just to do the MITRE study. Once we received the MITRE study, we were in the process of trying to figure out how to complete that, get that into a document that would say, here's what we need to do, A, B, C, so I could present that to Secretary Ridge and then Secretary Chertoff to implement those. We were never given the money. We were never given the resources. We were never given the opportunity to implement any of those recommendations.

SEN. COLLINS: So you're testifying that you were rebuffed in your efforts to remedy these problems by the Department of Homeland Security. Did you ever discuss these concerns about budget authority, organization, personnel, with individuals at the White House?

MR. BROWN: Yes, ma'am, I did.

SEN. COLLINS: And with whom did you discuss those concerns?

MR. BROWN: I discussed these concerns with several members of the president's senior staff.

SEN. COLLINS: And would you identify with whom you discussed those concerns?

MR. BROWN: Before I do, Madame Chairman, may I just make a few comments and ask for the committee's recommendation?

SEN. COLLINS: Certainly.

MR. BROWN: On February 6th, 2006, my counsel, Andy Lester of Lester, Loving & Davies, sent to Harriet Miers, counsel to the president, a letter requesting direction for what I should do when or if this kind of question is posed to me by the committee. Like Patrick, I am a private citizen. The president has the right to invoke executive privilege, in which confidential communications between his senior advisers are met subject to pending scrutiny or discussion. It's my belief, Madame Chairman, that I don't have the right of executive privilege, that I cannot invoke that. Yet I understand that the president -- the White House, the executive -- is a co-equal branch of government, and that right of executive privilege resides with the president. I also recognize that as a private citizen I am here to truthfully and honestly answer any questions you may ask. So in response to the letter, which did not -- and I want to make sure that I understand the letter did not request that I be granted executive privilege. The letter requested guidance on what the other equal branch of government wanted me to say or not say when these kinds of questions were posed. So despite reports in the press to the contrary, the letter speaks for itself. It did not request executive privilege, but guidance. I received that guidance by letter again to counsel, to Mr. Lester, from White House counsel Harriet Miers in a letter dated February 9, 2006. And I'll just read you the last paragraph: "The president's views regarding these executive branch interests have not changed. I appreciate that your client is sensitive to the interests implicated by potential disclosure of confidential communications to which he was a party as a senior official in the administration, as reflected in his recent responses to congressional committees and their staffs, and request that he observe his past practices with respect to those communications." In my opinion, Chairman Collins, the letter does not answer our request for direction on what is to be done. So I am here as a private citizen stuck between two equal branches of government, one which is requesting that they're not going to invoke executive privilege, but that I respect the confidentiality of the concept of executive privilege; and on the other hand appearing before you, again as a coequal branch of government, under oath, sworn to tell the truth, without guidance from either one. So Madame Chairman, I would ask you for guidance in what you would like Michael Brown, private citizen of the United States, to do in this regard.

SEN. COLLINS: Does the letter that you have from the White House counsel direct you to assert executive privilege with respect to your conversations with senior administration officials?

MR. BROWN: It does not, and nor do I believe that I have the right to assert that right on behalf of the president. I am a private citizen.

SEN. COLLINS: Does -- has the White House counsel orally directed you to assert executive privilege with respect to those conversations you've had with senior administration officials?

MR. BROWN: They have not to me, and to the best of my knowledge they have not directed that to my counsel, either. That's correct.

SEN. COLLINS: These conversations clearly could be subject to an assertion of executive privilege. In fact, if such a privilege were to be asserted by the White House, I would in all likelihood rule that the privilege applied to those conversations, and I would instruct you not to answer the questions so that we could further explore the privilege issue with the White House. However, in the case of conversations between the presidential advisers, the privilege is for the executive branch to assert, not the legislative branch. And because you have testified that the White House Counsel's Office has chosen not to assert this privilege, there is no basis for you to decline to answer the question about your conversations with presidential advisers. So I would direct you to respond to the question.

SEN. TED STEVENS (R-Alaska): Madame Chairman?

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Stevens.

SEN. STEVENS: Has anyone contacted this -- the staff or yourself -- from the White House, requesting that executive privilege be recognized in this hearing?

SEN. COLLINS: Yes. I had a lengthy discussion last night with the White House counsel, in which I advised her to either send Mr. Brown a clear letter asserting executive privilege or to send it to this committee, or to have a member of the White House Counsel's Office present today to object to questions. And Ms. Miers declined to do either.

SEN. STEVENS: Well, I just want to say for the record, as a former general counsel of an executive department, I believe executive privilege is to the best interests of the country. And in a situation like this, if this witness testifies and there is a difference of opinion, then we're faced with a question of whether the White House wants to send someone down to challenge the statements that have been made. I think it's very, very difficult ground we're on. I don't know where Mr. Brown is going. But it does worry me that there is -- there is a legitimate basis for executive privilege. If they've not asserted it to you, then that's their problem. (Laughter.)

SEN. COLLINS: The senator is correct. And I invited the White House to provide me with that assertion last night. They declined to do so. I invited the White House to have an attorney present to make the assertion. I have reviewed the letter, and we will put both the letter from Mr. Brown's lawyer and the Ms. Miers' response into the record. And the letter does not assert the executive privilege.

SEN. STEVENS: Is there White House counsel present?

SEN. COLLINS: There is not a White House counsel present that I am aware of. I suspect there are White House staffers here, however. (Laughter.)

SEN. : Madame Chairman, can --

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Lieberman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Madame Chairman, if I may, first of all I want to tell you I both appreciate and support your ruling. In the context of -- even if executive privilege had been asserted, we are a co-equal branch of government, and in this case we are doing an investigation on a totally nonpartisan basis that goes to the heart of the public safety of the American people. So we have an interest in obtaining the truth. We're not out to get anybody. We're out to get the truth. But in this -- that would be my opinion even if executive privilege had been asserted, but executive privilege has not been asserted, and therefore, I think the privilege and responsibility, let alone the right of Congress to -- as representatives of the American people to get the whole to the truth about Katrina, really, is the priority value that we have to honor. And I thank you, Madame Chairman, for doing exactly that in your ruling.

SEN. COLLINS: Mr. Brown, I would direct you to answer the question, and I am going to reclaim the time that I had before we had to resolve this issue.

MR. BROWN: And Chairman Collins, I'm happy to answer those questions. Could you restate the question? (Laughs.)

SEN. COLLINS: (Laughs, laughter.) I asked you with whom you talked at the White House about the budget authority and personnel problems that you perceived were hindering your ability to carryout your mission.

MR. BROWN: At various times, I had conversations with the deputy White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, before he moved over to OMB, and I had numerous conversations with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin and occasionally conversations with Chief of Staff Andy Card. I've also had conversations with both former White House Homeland Security adviser General John Gordon and with current Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend.

SEN. COLLINS: Thank you. Mr. Brown, exhibit six is a series of e-mails about conditions in New Orleans on Monday morning. We know from testimony before this committee that Marty Bahamonde of FEMA saw -- first received a report of the levees breaching on Monday morning at about 11:00. He later in the day overflew the area and saw it firsthand. The e-mails also talk about all of the other problems in the city. By 10:00 on that Monday morning, August 29th, you had received a report from Mr. Bahamonde that the -- that there was already severe flooding in the area, that the water level was -- quote -- "up to the second floor of the two- story houses, that people were trapped in attics, and that the pumps for the levees were starting to fail." What action did you take in response to that information and to pass that information along to the secretary of Homeland Security?

MR. BROWN: Two things, Chairman Collins. First and foremost, I alerted headquarters as to those reports and asked them to get into contact with Marty to confirm those reports. And I also put a call in and spoke to, I believe it was Chief of -- Deputy Chief of Staff Hagin on at least two occasions on that day to inform him of what was going on.

SEN. COLLINS: Was there anyone else that you called at the White House to inform them of these developments?

MR. BROWN: It would have been either Andy Card or Joe Hagin.

SEN. COLLINS: DHS officials tell us that they did not know of the severity of the situation in New Orleans until Tuesday morning. That's almost 24 hours after you received the information that I referred to about the severe flooding in New Orleans. They also assert that they believe you failed to make sure that they were getting this very critical information. I'd like you to respond to that criticism.

MR. BROWN: First and foremost, I find it a little disingenuous that DHS would claim that they were not getting that information, because FEMA held continuous video telephone conferences -- I'll refer to them as VTCs -- in which at least once a day, if not several times a day, we would be on conference calls and video calls to make certain that everyone had situational awareness. Now, I'm sitting in Baton Rouge, so I'm not sure at all times who is on the video conference, on the VTC, but the record indicates that on numerous occasions, at least Deputy Secretary Jackson and at least Matthew Broderick or Bob Stephens, someone from the HSOC -- the Homeland Security Operations Center -- is in on those conversations on those VTCs. So for them to now claim that we didn't have awareness of it, I think, is just bologna. They should have had awareness of it because they were receiving the same information that we were. It's also my understanding that Mr. Rhode or someone else on his behalf sent an e-mail, either directly to the DHS chief of staff or perhaps to the HSOC, about that information. But in terms of my responsibility, much like I had operated successfully in Florida, my obligation was to the White House and to make certain that the president understood what was going on and what the situation was, and I did that. And the VTCs were the operational construct by which DHS would get that situational awareness. They would get that through those VTCs.

SEN. COLLINS: Mr. Rhode, were you aware of when the levees had broken on Monday morning, and what did you do with the information? First, when you were you aware of the problems with the flooding as a result of the levees breaching?

MR. RHODE: Madame Chairman, I believe that I first heard about the issues with the levee -- at least partial information -- during the early hours of Monday morning, or mid-morning, I want to say; somewhere between 9:00, 10:00 or so. I believe that I came across an e-mail that was sent to me that suggested that perhaps there was a levee breach. I don't think there was a whole lot more information than that. And I endeavored to -- as was always my practice whenever someone was sending me operational information, I tried to make sure that that information made it directly to the operators. Our protocol within FEMA was to make sure that the operations team had any sort of situational information. Again, my role was in Washington, D.C. I was not in Louisiana. But as that information became available and as I became aware of it, I wanted to make sure that the operations team had it within Washington so that it could then be transmitted to the Homeland Security Operations Center, as there were many situation reports, obviously, throughout the day.

SEN. COLLINS: But that's exactly why I'm asking you. You were in Washington.

MR. RHODE: Yes, ma'am.

SEN. COLLINS: You were now the top FEMA official. Did you take any steps to ensure that Secretary Chertoff was aware of this information?

MR. RHODE: As the information became more and more apparent, Marty Bahamonde, Monday, later that day helped orchestrate a conference call that I participated in. And at the conclusion of that conference call, I sent a letter to the department -- or I sent an e- mail to the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to what I thought was operational people that were also on that call that were making sure the Homeland Security Operations Center had that information.

SEN. COLLINS: Mr. Brown, it isn't only DHS officials who say that they were unaware until Tuesday that the levees had collapsed, I've also been told that exact same thing by Admiral Timothy Keating, the head of Northern Command, who is responsible for homeland defenseor DOD. He, in an interview, told me that he was not aware until Tuesday morning that the levees had breached and that the city had flooded. Was there any communication from you, or did you take any steps to ensure that Northern Command was informed of this catastrophic development?

MR. BROWN: I would have not at that point have called Admiral Keating directly. But through the FEMA Operations Center there is a military liaison there, so they would have had that same operational, situational awareness to pass back up their chain of command so that Admiral Keating or Secretary Rumsfeld or any of those could have had that same situational awareness.

SEN. COLLINS: What is so troubling is we have heard over and over again from top DHS officials, from top DOD officials, from the leadership throughout the administration that they were simply unaware of how catastrophic the hurricane's impact had been because of the breaching of the levee. Can you help us understand this enormous disconnect between what was happening on the ground -- a city 80 percent flooded, uncontrolled levees, people dying, people waiting to be rescued -- and the official reaction among many of the key leaders in Washington and in Northern Command that somehow New Orleans had dodged the bullet?

MR. BROWN: Chairman Collins, there is a -- let me frame an answer a little different way. It's my belief that had there been a report come out from Marty Bahamonde that said, yes, we've confirmed that a terrorist has blown up the 17th Street Canal Levee, then everybody would have jumped all over that and been trying to do everything they could; but because this was a natural disaster, that has become the stepchild within the Department of Homeland Security, and so you now have these two systems operating -- one which cares about terrorism, and FEMA and our state and local partners, who are trying to approach everything from all hazards. And so there's this disconnect that exists within the system that we've created because of DHS. All they had to do was to listen to those VTCs and pay attention to these VTCs, and they would have known what was going on. And in fact, I e-mailed a White House official that evening about how bad it was, making sure that they knew, again, how bad that it was, identifying that we were going to have environmental problems and housing problems and all of those kinds of problems. So it doesn't surprise me that DHS officials would say, well, we weren't aware, you know, they're off doing other things, it's a natural disaster, so we're just going to allow FEMA to do all of that. That had become the mentality within the department.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Lieberman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Madame Chairman. Thanks for your cooperation, Mr. Brown. We're going to get back to those comments. Obviously, our hope was that the department would be ready to deal with natural disasters AND terrorist attacks. And the impact of a terrorist bomb on the levees would have been exactly the same as the flood -- as the hurricane was, to flooding the city. Let me go back to that day because this is very important, and your comments just now highlight it, and this is about Marty Bahamonde. He takes the two helicopter flights, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. Central Time. He sees the devastation. And he told us that immediately after those helicopter rides, he called you and reported his findings to you. Is it correct that Mr. Bahamonde told you that during the helicopter rides on that Monday evening, he could see New Orleans flooding?

MR. BROWN: That's correct.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Is it also correct that Mr. Bahamonde told you that during the helicopter ride, he could see that the levees had broken? Is that right?

MR. BROWN: That's correct.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Mr. Bahamonde told us that after he finished giving you that devastating information, you said you were going to call the White House. In your staff interview, you said that you did have a conversation with a White House official on Monday evening, August 29th, regarding Bahamonde's fly-over. Who was that White House official?

MR. BROWN: Two responses, Senator Lieberman. There is an e- mail, and I don't remember who the e-mail was to, but it's in response to the information that Marty has given me, and my e-mail -- because I recall this quite vividly -- I'm calling the White House now. And indeed --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: In other words, you were e-mailing somebody at the White House?

MR. BROWN: No, I was actually e-mailing somebody in response to Marty's information back to FEMA --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Got it. Okay,

MR. BROWN: -- in which I said, yes, I'm calling the White House now. And I don't recall specifically who I called, but because of the pattern of how I usually interacted with the White House, my assumption is that I was probably calling and talking to Joe Hagen.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Joe Hagen, who's the deputy chief of staff --

MR. BROWN: Who's the deputy chief of staff, who was at Crawford with the president on that day.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: He was at Crawford. And you called him -- it's surprising you wouldn't remember exactly, but to the best of your recollection, you called Joe Hagen. And is it right that you called him because he had some special responsibility for oversight of emergency management?

MR. BROWN: No, it's because I had a personal relationship with Joe and Joe understands emergency management, number one. Number two, he's at Crawford with the president, and --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Got it. And you, quite appropriately and admirably, wanted to get the word to the president --

MR. BROWN: That's correct.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- as quickly as you could. Did you tell Mr. Hagen in that phone call that New Orleans was flooding?

MR. BROWN: I think I told him that we were realizing our worst nightmare, that everything that we had planned about, worried about, that FEMA, frankly, had worried about for 10 years was coming true.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Do you remember if you told them that the levees had broken?

MR. BROWN: You know -- you know, being on a witness stand, I feel obligated to say that I don't recall specifically saying those words. But it was that -- you know, New Orleans is flooding. It's the worst-case scenario.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right. And maybe that's the bottom line, that you said, "This was the worst-case scenario. The city of New Orleans is flooding." Did you ask Mr. Hagin for any particular action by the White House, the president, the administration, in that phone call?

MR. BROWN: They always asked me, "What do you need?"

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.

MR. BROWN: Joe was very, very good about that. The difference is in 2004 -- the best way to describe it, Senator, if you'll bear with me for a minute, is in 2004, during the hurricanes that struck Florida, I was asked that same question, "What do you need?" And I specifically asked both Secretary Card and Joe Hagin that on my way from Andrews down to Punta Gorda, Florida, that the best thing they could do for me was to keep DHS out of my hair. (Soft laughter.)

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Huh. So --

MR. BROWN: And -- if I could just finish.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah.

MR. BROWN: So what had changed between 2004 and 2005 was --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Katrina, right?

MR. BROWN: -- yeah -- between the hurricanes of '04 and now Katrina was that there was now this mentality or this thinking that, "No, now this time we were going to follow the chain of command."

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Which was --

MR. BROWN: Well, which was, in essence --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- put you in charge.

MR. BROWN: -- well, was put me in charge, but now I have to feed everything up through Chertoff or somehow through DHS --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I gotcha. So --

MR. BROWN: -- which just bogged things down.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- so you don't have any recollection of specifically asking Mr. Hagin for the White House to take any action at that time?

MR. BROWN: Nothing specific. I just thought they needed to be aware of the situation.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Understood. Mr. Brown, on the evening of landfall, you appeared on the 9 p.m. edition -- that is, that same evening -- of MSNBC's "Rita Cosby Live & Direct." You said then very explicitly that you were deeply concerned about what was happening in New Orleans, and I quote, "It could be weeks and months before people were able to get back into some of these neighborhoods," end of quote, because of the flooding. You also said, and I quote, "that you had already told the president tonight that we can anticipate a housing need here of at least in the tens of thousands," end of quote. You were correct. Did you, in fact, speak to President Bush that night, August 29th?

MR. BROWN: I really don't recall if the president got -- I mean, he -- normally during my conversations with -- with Deputy Chief of Staff Hagin, sometimes the president would get on the phone for a few minutes, sometimes he wouldn't, and I don't recall specifically that night whether he did or not. But I never worried about whether I talked directly to the president because I knew that in speaking to Joe, I was talking directly to the president.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, it's surprising again to me that you wouldn't remember whether the president was on your call to Joe Hagen.

MR. BROWN: I don't want to appear arrogant, but I talk to the president a lot. And so sometimes when he's on the phone or not on the phone, I just wouldn't recall.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: All right. So that maybe you were inflating a little bit or being loose with your language when you told MSNBC that you had already told the president that night about --

MR. BROWN: Well no, because -- because when I say that I've told the president, if I've told Joe Hagen --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I got it.

MR. BROWN: -- or told Andy Card, I've told the president.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, I have this problem here in the Capitol, too, when somebody says, "Senator Warner told me to tell you --" and then I found out it was a staff member -- or I told Senator Warner. Okay --

MR. BROWN: Well, you need to get as good as staffers as Hagen and Card, because trust me, they tell the president! (Chuckles.)

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. Let me now go to Secretary Chertoff, because you talked about the line -- the chain of command that you were asked to follow. Did you speak to Secretary Chertoff after your call with Marty Bahamonde and tell him about the severity of the situation in New Orleans on Monday evening?

MR. BROWN: I don't recall specifically if I talked to Chertoff on that day or not.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Why would you not have, if that was the chain of command?

MR. BROWN: Because I'm still operating that I need to get things done, and the way I get things done is I request them from the White House and they happen.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, then did you tell anyone else at the Department of Homeland Security in a high position -- Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, for instance?

MR. BROWN: I think that Michael and I may have had a conversation --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Monday evening?

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Which would have been along the same lines?

MR. BROWN: Exactly.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Am I right that at some point on Monday evening there was either a phone conference call or a video conference call that you were on reporting on the situation from New Orleans?

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And do you know whether anybody from the Department of Homeland Security was on that call?

MR. BROWN: They were on all the calls.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. Was Secretary Chertoff on that call? (Pause.) Don't remember?

MR. BROWN: No, I don't recall.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Do you know where he was that evening?

MR. BROWN: As I went back through my e-mails, I discovered that he was either gone or going to Atlanta to visit the FEMA Region 4 offices and to visit CDC.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. And we're going to ask him about that, because obviously, the number one man in terms of the responsibility for the federal government response to this disaster for some reason did not appreciate that it was such a disaster that he got on a plane and went to Atlanta for a conference on avian flu. I want to go back to Sunday, the day before. Am I right that there was a video teleconference on that Sunday in which President Bush and Secretary Chertoff were on the conference?

MR. BROWN: I recall -- I specifically recall the president being on the conference because he was in the skiff at Crawford.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.

MR. BROWN: But I don't specifically recall seeing Secretary Chertoff on the screen.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. And on that Sunday video conference call, am I right you were still in Washington then?

MR. BROWN: That's correct. I left that afternoon.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: But you described the catastrophic implications of the kind of hurricane that Dr. Max Mayfield and all the other forecasters were predicting that day.

MR. BROWN: I told the staff -- and if you don't have the transcripts of that VTC, then we need to get them for you --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: No, I want to give you a phrase. You described it as a catastrophe within a catastrophe.

MR. BROWN: That's correct. This was why I was screaming and hollering about getting money to do catastrophic disaster planning. This is why I specifically wanted to do New Orleans as the first place to do that. This is why I was so furious that once we were able to do Hurricane Pam, that I was rebuffed on getting the money to do the follow-up, the follow-on. This is why I told the staff during that video conference call --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: The day before the hurricane --

MR. BROWN: -- the day before the hurricane struck, that I expected them to cut every piece of red tape, do everything they could; that it was balls to the wall; that I didn't want to hear anybody say that couldn't do anything, to do everything they humanely could to respond to this, because I knew in my gut, Senator, this was the bad one.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Mr. Brown. Time's up for me.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Coleman.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-Minn): Thank you, Madame Chair. And again, like, I think, all the other colleagues, my thanks to you for your leadership. This has been extraordinary. I have to make a couple of observations as I listen to testimony, Madame Chair, that we hear a lot and we've seen in this committee a lot of discussion about structural problems. We've had hearings where local folks and federal folks and state folks all pointed at each other and saying, "Well, they were in charge," or "They were in charge." We -- any time you get a disaster like this, and disaster not just of Katrina but the disaster of the response, you get analysis that we're getting here of literally hundreds of thousands of pages of review of information. But I'm going to be very, very blunt here. What we had -- and having been a mayor and been involved -- situations that could have been terrible, that weren't so terrible, in the end, when things go bad, we do the analysis, and we see all the structural inadequacies. But when you have good leadership, oftentimes, even with structural inadequacies, things don't go bad. And my sense, as I listen to this, is, we had almost the perfect storm of poor leadership. We had a governor who was indecisive, met with the president, met with the mayor and didn't make a decision, wanted more time. We had a mayor, though well-intentioned -- is holed up in a hotel room without communications -- again, good intentions -- wants to know what's going on, on the ground, but nobody's in charge. And Mr. Brown, the concern that I have is from your perspective, I'm hearing "balls to the walls," but I'm looking at e-mails and lack of responsiveness. Marty Bahamonde on the -- sending an e-mail about situation past critical -- this is on Wednesday of this time -- hotels kicking people out, dying patients, and your response is, "Thanks for the update. Anything I need to do to tweak?" We have questions on --

MR. BROWN: Senator, with all due respect, you take that out of context, because you do that on the fly, saying, "Yes, is there anything else I need to tweak," and what you ignore is what's done beyond that, which is calling the White House, talking to the operations people and making certain that things are getting done. And I'm frankly feeling sick and tired of these e-mails being taken out of context with words like "What do I need to tweak," because I need to know: Is there something else that I need to tweak? And that doesn't even include all of the other stuff that's going on, Senator. So with all due respect, don't draw conclusions from an e-mail.

SEN. COLEMAN: And Mr. Brown, I would maintain that in fact the context of the e-mails are very clear, that they show a lack of responsiveness, that they show a disconnect. That's the context. I've -- in fact, I'm not going to take individual ones, but if you look at the entire context of the e-mail discussion, you're getting information -- you're getting information on Monday, 11:57, a message saying New Orleans reported 25-foot-wide breach -- it's 11:57 -- e- mail, not out of context, coming back saying, I'm told here, water not over the bridge. At that point, obviously, it hasn't hit the fan for you. And so I don't think it's out of context. I think the context of the e-mails -- and not just the e-mails, by the way, but the things that we as Americans saw -- to me it's absolutely still stunning that on Thursday you've got people at a convention center that are suffering, all of America knows that, all you've got to do is watch TV, it doesn't matter what channel you watch, and what we have you saying at that time is we've just learned that -- this is a CNN interview September 1st, not out of context. "And so this -- this catastrophic disaster continues to grow. I will tell you this, though, every person in that convention center, we've just learned that today, and so I've directed we have all available resources" -- I knew a couple of days ago. So did America know.

MR. BROWN: Senator --

SEN. COLEMAN: And so let me finish the comment. What I hear here is you saying, well, the structural problem (involved with ?) the MITRE report, in which it was laid out very clearly the structural inadequacies. And your testimony today is that you had conversations, you pushed that forward. Can you show me where, either in the e-mails or in the record, your very clear directives to go, quote, "balls to the walls" to clean this situation, to fix it? Do you have anything that I can look at, as a former prosecutor, in writing that gives substance to what you've testified to today?

MR. BROWN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I've testified in front of the house that I misspoke on that day regarding that e-mail. We learned about the convention center on Wednesday, and we started -- because the convention center was not planned for. It was not planned for. It was not in anyone's plans, including the city and the state's. And when we learned about it on Wednesday night, we immediately started demanding the Army and resources to take care of that. And there are e-mails in the packages that you have where I'm screaming, "Where's the Army? I need the Army now. Why hasn't it shown up?" And because I misspoke about when I learned about the convention center, after being up for 24 hours, you want to take that out of context. And Senator, I'm not going to allow you to do that.

SEN. COLEMAN: Let me ask you about a conversation that Mayor Nagin came before us, this committee, and he talked about going over to Zephyr Stadium. And Mayor Nagin's comments to this committee is, and I quote, "I was so flabbergasted. I mean, we're in New Orleans. We're struggling. The city was touch and go as it relates to security. And when I flew out to Zephyr Stadium to the Saints facility, I got off the helicopter and just started walking around, and I was awestruck. We had been requesting portable lights for the Superdome because we were standing at night and all over. To make a long story short, there were rows of portable lights. We had been -- we all knew sanitary conditions were so poor. We wanted porta- toilets. They had them all over the place." Were you with Mayor Nagin at that time?

MR. BROWN: I don't know whether I was with him on that particular date or not, but I know the area he's talking about.

SEN. COLEMAN: And can you explain to this committee why, if there had been obvious deep concerns about sanitary facilities, about lighting, why those facilities, those concerns had not been met?

MR. BROWN: Because they were having -- the United States Army, the National Guard was having difficulty getting those supplies into the Superdome. You need to understand that there are media reports of shooting, there are media reports of looting and everything else going on, and if the Army moves in there, the Army kills people. And so they had to be very careful about moving those things in there. By the same token, you had civilians who began to move things in there and couldn't get them there. So, yes, there were things stockpiled. And as that supply chain continued to fill up, Zephyr Field was full of a lot of stuff. And those things were continuing to go on at the other end to get into the city. And so for you to take a snapshot of Mayor Nagin going there and being there for a few minutes and seeing all of that, and him screaming, in his typical way, about "I want all this stuff in the city," again is taking it out of context, Senator.

SEN. COLEMAN: When did you order that food and water be delivered into the convention center?

MR. BROWN: The day that we learned about it, that Wednesday. We immediately ordered that stuff to be moved. Whether it was or not, whether it was actually done or not is the question you should be asking. And if it wasn't, you need to be asking why, because we didn't have the capacity within FEMA ourselves to do that and we needed the 5th Army or the 1st Army to move that stuff in there. Plus, I'll also remind you that there's no --

SEN. COLEMAN: Mr. Brown, just on that -- on that point alone -- that's what my notes indicate, and I just wanted to check the records. The records that have been produced to the committee by DHS indicate that FEMA did not order -- did not order food and water for the convention center until 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 2nd.

MR. BROWN: I can tell you unequivocally, Senator, under oath that the minute I learned that there were people in the convention center, I turned to Bill Lokey, my individual -- my operations person on the ground, and said, "Get MREs, get stuff moving in there."

SEN. COLEMAN: Did you ever do any follow-up to find out whether that happened?

MR. BROWN: Senator, I continued to do operations as best I could all along throughout that time, and I would continually ask questions: Are things happening, are things happening, are things happening?

SEN. COLEMAN: The record is very clear as to when the order was given, it was given on Friday. And my concern is --

MR. BROWN: No, but --

SEN. COLEMAN: My concern is this, Mr. Brown -- again, I understand there are structural problems. I understand some of the concerns that have been raised about the function DHS and the integration of FEMA. But as I listen to your testimony, it's -- you're not prepared to kind of put a mirror in front of your face and recognize your own inadequacies and say, "You know something, I made some big mistakes. I wasn't focused. I didn't get things done." And instead, what you got is, "I was -- I was -- you know, the problems are structural, I knew it upfront. I really tried to change it." The record, the entirety of the record doesn't reflect that. And perhaps you may get a more sympathetic hearing if you had a willingness to kind of confess your own sins in this. And, you know - you know, your testimony here is that you're going to communicate to the president as to what he understood. I'm not sure what you understood. I'm not sure you got it. And I got to tell you, the record -- not FEMA's, but the record reflects that you didn't get it or you didn't in writing or in some way make commands that would move people to do what has to be done until way after it should have been done.

MR. BROWN: Senator, with all due respect, what do you want me to say? I have admitted to mistakes publicly. I've admitted to mistakes in hearings. What more, Senator Coleman, do you want from me?

SEN. COLEMAN: Well, I think --

MR. BROWN: What do you want from me? I'm asking you, what do you want from me?

SEN. COLEMAN: Well, what I'm hearing today, and what I heard from your testimony is coming in and talking about all these structural -- that the die was cast. That was your testimony today, that by the integration -- and by the way, I have my own questions about the integration of FEMA/DHS. But what I heard today from you that the die was cast --

MR. BROWN: It was.

SEN. COLEMAN: And what I'm saying, Mr. Brown, I'm saying that in fact no leadership makes a difference. You didn't provide the leadership. Even with structural infirmities, strong leadership can overcome that, and clearly that wasn't the case here.

MR. BROWN: Well, Senator, that's very easy for you to say sitting behind that dais and not being there in the middle of that disaster watching that human suffering and watching those people dying and trying to deal with those structural dysfunctionalities even within the federal government. And I absolutely resent you sitting here saying that I lack the leadership to do that because I was down there pushing everything that I could. I've admitted to those mistakes. And if you want something else from me, put it on the table and you tell me what you want me to admit to.

SEN. COLEMAN: A little more candor would suffice. Thank you, Madame Chair.

MR. BROWN: How much more candor -- what more candor -- ask me the question, Senator. Ask me the question.

SEN. COLEMAN: Thank you. I think my time is up. Thank you, Madame Chair.

MR. BROWN: Well --

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Akaka.

SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D-HI): Thank you very much, Madame Chairman. I want you to know that I admire your leadership and commend you and our ranking member for your leadership on pursuing these hearings for the sake of the security and safety of our country. I agree with you, Madame Chairman, and with the ranking member that it is unfair to lay blame on the gross mismanagement of the disaster on one or two people. And I do not believe that Mr. Brown should be the scapegoat for all that went wrong.

MR. BROWN: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. AKAKA: However, you and Mr. Rhode -- let me put it, you and Mr. Rhode were in charge of FEMA. And I can recall Harry Truman's statement that "the buck stops here." And so you're it. And the hearing is on you. What happened to the people in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast reinforces the need for qualified, experienced leaders in senior positions throughout the Department of Homeland Security. That is why I introduced legislation last fall to require minimum professional qualifications for most Senate-confirmed positions at DHS. Nor should we forget that until 2003, FEMA was an independent Cabinet-level agency. One of my reasons for voting against creating DHS was that FEMA would no longer operate independently. FEMA's activities and budget are controlled by the secretary of the department. We cannot forget the problems of FEMA that they are the problems of DHS and the ultimate responsibility of the commander in chief. Mr. Brown, my question relates to a statement you made during your interview with the committee. When asked about whether you were keeping Secretary Chertoff apprised of the situation in New Orleans on Monday, the day the storm hit, you stated that you -- and I quote -- "did not believe that the department had any operational mandate at that point, and that if the secretary wants information about something, he can either call me directly or reach out to HSOC to get that information," unquote. My question to you is, wasn't it your responsibility as undersecretary to keep Secretary Chertoff informed on the developments of an ongoing crisis that involved multiple components of his agency? What's your comment on your responsibility on that?

MR. BROWN: Yes, Senator, is -- it is my responsibility to keep him informed, and we have structures in place by which to do that. The HSOC and his representatives are involved on the DTCs, and he and I exchanged phone calls and talked at times to do that. But when you're running operations, the primary responsibility has to be to run operations, and then you feed information, as you should, through the channels, through the VTCs, through the e-mails, through the situational reports that get to him. And then, if he has questions about any of those Sit reports that come to him, he can call me, or if there's something on the Sit reports that I think is of particular interest to him, then I would call and tell him.

SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Brown, in your interview, you referred to the so-called tax -- so-called tax that FEMA was forced to pay -- when the department was first stood up and you were the deputy director of FEMA -- you said that the tax funded the shared components of DHS, such as the secretary's office and the IT system. You told committee investigators that FEMA's mitigation funding suffered a disproportionate reduction, because you were trying to avoid taking money out of other areas such as the National Flood Insurance Fund.

You may recall that the administration tried to reduce FEMA's mitigation funding prior to the creation of DHS. The president's FY `02 budget proposed eliminating the pre-disaster mitigation program, which later was saved by Congress. The administration responded by seeking to eliminate all post-disaster mitigation funding in FY `03. My question to you is, is it possible that the reason mitigation funding took such a hard hit when DHS collected its tax is that mitigation programs aren't valued by the administration?

MR. BROWN: It's nice to appear before a committee as a private citizen and not be constrained by talking points or (SAPs ?) that say what you can and cannot say. But, yes, I think that is part of the problem -- is that there is a belief within OMB that mitigation programs don't have a good enough cost-benefit ratio, so therefore, we need to eliminate them. When indeed I do believe that there's a good side to it, that the administration believes that pre-disaster mitigation funds could be used, so there was a balance to be struck -- tried to do both pre- and post-disaster. But I do think the mitigation, to a certain extent, was given the backseat.

SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Brown, in a response to pre-hearing questions for your confirmation hearing before this committee in June 2002 to be deputy director of FEMA, you stated -- and I quote -- "mitigation will continue to be a primary focus for the agency," unquote. As undersecretary, did you consider informing Congress that mitigation programs were not being prioritized and were, in fact, receiving less funding than you thought they should have under DHS?

MR. BROWN: I think the American public needs to know how it works in D.C., that a(n) agency administrator can have his priorities and OMB can have their priorities and never shall the two meet. And despite my personal belief that mitigation is good and that we need more mitigation funding in this country, OMB takes a different tact, that mitigation doesn't have a great cost-benefit analysis, which you could argue all day long. I believe that it does. And so consequently, mitigation gets cut. I don't believe that it should. But by the same token, Senator, I think you would not respect me if I came to you in your office and sat down and said, "You know, I know the president has proposed this, but, you know, here's my personal belief." Now, yes, sometimes I would try to make certain that people understood what my real belief was in hopes that they can maybe do something about it, but I would never -- I would never be that -- I would not want be that disloyal.

SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Brown, Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA public affairs officer and one that has been mentioned by other senators, was sent to New Orleans prior to the storm to be your eyes and ears on the ground because you personally trusted him, according to his testimony before the committee in October 2005, in his description of why he was sent -- as his description as to why he was sent to New Orleans. Is it correct?

MR. BROWN: I actually tried to send two people to New Orleans. I sent Marty to New Orleans and tried to send Phil Parr, one of our FCOs, to New Orleans, too. Marty was able to make it in. Phil couldn't. I think Phil got stuck in Beaumont or Houston or somewhere and couldn't actually get there. But I trusted both of those men, and I wanted both of them there because I did trust their capabilities.

SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Brown, in your interview with the committee, you stated that you didn't completely rely on Marty's Monday morning report that the levees had broken because -- and I'm quoting, "He tends at times towards hyperbole." Why did you send Mr. Bahamonde to be your eyes and ears if you did not implicitly trust his ability to relay information back to you accurately?

MR. BROWN: Look, I trust Marty, and I think Marty has good judgment, but Marty does tend to hyperbole. I mean, that doesn't mean you don't trust him. The real problem that was going on while Marty was down there is that I'm sitting in Baton Rouge, Marty's giving us these reports, and yet the governor's staff is getting conflicting reports, and I'm trying to balance those two reports. Marty's down there, a guy that I know -- the governor's telling -- and she has people down there and that she trusts, and there are two conflicting reports. So I'm trying to synthesize those two reports. But I trusted him, and I still trust him. That's why -- based on what he told me, I made my calls.

SEN. AKAKA: I -- Madame Chairman, my time has expired. But I'll make concluding remarks by saying that I tend to agree with you that if a terrorist had blown up the levee, as you had stated, there would have been a reaction. We need an all-hazards approach to our -- defending our homeland, not a call 911 only if it is a terrorist. And as I mentioned in my opening remarks that what we're doing in these hearings is to try to find solutions that can help the security and safety of our country, and this committee is doing that very well under our leadership. Thank you very much, Madame Chair.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Bennett.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R-Utah): Thank you very much, Madame Chairman. Mr. Brown, you may recall, during your confirmation hearing, I made a comment -- don't have it in front of me, but I remember it well enough, because I made it a number of times -- I think I'm the only member of this committee who's served in the executive branch. And I served at the Department of Transportation 18 months after it was put together. And so the comment that I made repeatedly was, A, we needed to create the Department of Homeland Security, and B, we needed to be under no illusion that it would work for at least five years. The Department of Transportation was put together much like the Department of Homeland Security -- taking highways from Commerce; taking FAA as an independent agency, as FEMA was; taking the Coast Guard from Treasury, et cetera, mass transit from HUD; putting them together in a department that looked wonderful on paper. It was created -- looked as if it was created by the geniuses at the Harvard Business School. It had magnificent lines, well drawn. And as I got there, 18 months after it had been created, and the Nixon administration took over from the Johnson administration, it was obvious I was walking into chaos, cultural clashes, turf battles and all of the kinds of things you're describing here. So I am not surprised, and I am not prepared to be pejorative in attacking who was responsible. The creation of such a department in the world in which we live made great academic sense. The president was attacked by his political enemies for not doing it sooner. And yet there's great concern now that all of the problems connected with the creation of such a department surfaced. So I'm sympathetic to what you're saying. At the same time, having been in that kind of a situation and having seen a department struggling with those kinds of problems, I know that there are some things that can be done. I'm struck by your testimony this morning where you say, "I don't remember who I called at the White House. I think it was Joe, but I don't remember." And then you're quite specific in what was said. There's a little bit of a disconnect that if you have a conversation, and you can't remember who it's with, but you're very specific that "yes, I said this and I said that," so on --

MR. BROWN: Can I tell you --

SEN. BENNETT: Yes, I'd appreciate your clarifying that.

MR. BROWN: -- because generally I say the same things to everybody. If I've got a message that I need X, I'm saying it to everybody I can get on the phone.

SEN. BENNETT: All right. But going back to the context of a department that has problems by virtue of its structural difficulties, problems that I'm not prepared to say specifically it's this ones or that -- this person's or that person's -- the way you deal with that, at least from my point of view, in an emergency, is, you ignore the departmental lines. And it's easy for me to say after the fact; I recognize that. But trying to put myself in your position, I think I would have gotten on the phone and said, "I have to talk to Secretary Chertoff directly. I don't want to talk to his staff, I don't want to send an e-mail, and I don't care where he is." And I would think even in a department that is heavily bureaucratic, that kind of statement from you saying, "I'm in the midst of the greatest natural catastrophe that we have seen, I've got a governor that's giving me information that is different, I've got a mayor that seems to be paralyzed. I've got to talk to the secretary and I want to talk to him right now." Did it ever occur to you to say that within the department? Or was the department culture so stultifying that you felt you couldn't do that?

MR. BROWN: The culture was such that I didn't think that would have been effective and would have exacerbated the problem, quite frankly, Senator.

SEN. BENNETT: Why would that --

MR. BROWN: That's why -- that's why my conversations were predominantly with the White House, because through the White House I could cut through any interagency bureaucracy to get what I needed done.

SEN. BENNETT: You're telling us that a face -- well, not face to face -- but wire-to-wire conversation directly with Secretary Chertoff would not have produced any kind of worthwhile results?

MR. BROWN: No, it would have wasted my time. Not because -- and I say that not because of any disparagement of Secretary Chertoff, but because if I needed the Army to do something, rather than waste the time to call Secretary Chertoff and then have him call somebody else, and then have -- maybe he calls Rumsfeld and then Rumsfeld calls somebody, I'd rather just call Andy Card or Joe Hagen and say, "This is what I need," and it gets done. That's exactly what we did in Florida.

SEN. BENNETT: That is a -- that is a staggering statement. It demonstrates a dysfunctional department to a degree far greater than any we've seen.

MR. BROWN: Senator, you have copies of documents that I have brought today, that I pray for the country that you will read, where I have, since '03, been pointing out this dysfunctionality and these clashes within the department, and that if they are not fixed, this department is doomed to fail, and that will fail the country.

SEN. BENNETT: I appreciate your opinion. If I may express an opinion, if I were Secretary Chertoff and I had a deputy secretary who would prefer to call the White House rather than talk to me, I would find that very disturbing. Have you ever sat down with Secretary Chertoff, particularly a fresh start, a new secretary coming in, available now, and said to him, "Mr. Secretary, there's an issue I've got to discuss with you here. And I know you have plenty on your plate, but can I have 15 minutes, can I have half an hour to discuss this with you."

When Secretary Chertoff came here for his confirmation appointment -- admittedly, he was probably the most available at that point because we controlled whether or not he got appointed -- he was open to all kinds of suggestions about how the department should be structured based on the information we had developed in our hearings. And I do not find him a man who would refuse to talk to you or refuse to hear your point of view.

Did you ever make any attempt to discuss this with him when he first came onboard before he got overwhelmed by all the bureaucracy?

MR. BROWN: Two attempts. The first one occurred very shortly after he arrived, and in March of 2005, I drafted a memo, which is in your materials dated March 2005, from me to the secretary entitled -- the subject matter is "Component Head Meeting." Secretary Chertoff had announced that he wanted the undersecretaries to prepare for him a briefing -- a very honest briefing about where we were in terms of our budget, personnel -- personnel issues, and most importantly, he wanted to know what our most serious challenges were, so that he could address those challenges. So I drafted it -- you can read it at your leisure -- where I discussed preparedness, the National Response Plan, what needed to be done with it, the organizational structure, the turf battles, the cultural clash between, say, ODP and FEMA, and how that needed to be done. And he was to have those component head meetings with everybody. He never had one with me. The second time

SEN. BENNETT: So you --

MR. BROWN: -- the second time --

SEN. BENNETT: All right.

MR. BROWN: -- was when the whole issue -- when they began to do their 2SR Review of where are things at, the issue then became whether or not to pull preparedness out of FEMA, and again I requested a meeting. And Deputy Secretary Jackson was able to get that meeting for me, and I went in and made my case about why preparedness belonged in FEMA, and why the way the statute was created had not been implemented the way the way the statute read, but it should be and made that case to him -- the same case I made to Secretary Ridge on September 15th, 2003, which is, again, in your materials. And on that day, when I made that case to the secretary, the people at FEMA will tell you that in the car on the way back to headquarters I was ecstatic, because I thought I had won; that I had ound someone who understood that issue, had agreed with me, and indeed he had agreed that we needed to do what I had outlined in the memo. Forty-eight hours later, that decision is reversed, and we're going a different direction.

SEN. BENNETT: Well, my time is up. I think I now understand why Secretary Chertoff says he didn't know, because you didn't feel it necessary -- you didn't feel it necessary is the wrong term -- you didn't feel it was efficient or proper -- that's the wrong term. Let me phrase it as correctly as I can. He didn't know because you didn't think it would do any good for you to tell him.

MR. BROWN: I succeeded in Florida in 2004. I succeeded in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, the fires in California, the fires in the mountainous West. I succeeded in the tornado outbreak. And why I didn't succeed -- one of the reasons why I didn't succeed, other than the mistakes I've said that I made, is that DHS was an additional bureaucracy that was going to slow me down even more, and the way I got around that was dealing directly with the White House.

SEN. BENNETT: Regardless of where you may or may not have succeeded, once again, you did not -- the reason he didn't know is because you didn't think it important to tell him. Thank you. want to set my view clear and straight as possible. I'm not here, Mr. Brown, to defend you. I'm not here to defend anybody who's made mistakes. And now we can distribute the mistake array and see who really made some of the worst ones. The fact is that if I have a fire in my house, I don't insist on talking to the fire chief before I'm satisfied that I've sounded the alarm. And if you want to convey something to the president and you can't trust his deputy secretary or the other people who the president appointed to do things, then we're in bad shape. And the fact that we're parsing words here and trying to figure out whether you should have spoken A, B or C, or retroactively trying to fit this thing, this puzzle, all together. It doesn't surprise anybody that perhaps there was some panic, as people were drowning and carrying not only their luggage on their heads but their children on their heads, trying to escape the ravages of this incredible inferno -- I'll use the term -- that was enveloping us. So whether or not you called A, B or C, no, or B or C had to get to A and you had to believe that there was a mechanism, I would tell you this: That when the terrorists struck the World Trade Center, people didn't wait to get to the president to send the alarm to him that something terrible had happened and was happening.

You have been selected as the designated scapegoat. That's what I see. Because I think that we're clear on President Bush's message to you on Friday after the storm struck on Monday. And while I don't have -- yeah, I do have the precise words: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Now, I can't imagine the president would trivialize this situation just to be a good guy with you. Somebody must have said to him you were doing things right and you were doing your best -- whether it was good enough or not. It may have not been good enough. I served in World War II. I know sometimes no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't protect everybody that we wanted. So keep your chin up and fight back, as you did. You're not here to be the -- I said designated scapegoat before -- designated target. You can call it whatever you want.

MR. BROWN: Senator, thank you.

SEN. LAUTENBERG: I did it out of my conscience, not to be a good guy. I mean, I see this all in front of me. And I've been in situations where panic struck, and people react in different ways. You try to do your best. But we are, after all, human beings, and human beings make mistakes. What I see here are mistakes on a CURRENT basis that infuriate me. In The New York Times yesterday or today, the piece about the fact there are -- I've got so much paper here, trying to get it all organized because I'm, as you can see, I'm in a state of anxiety here. Storm victims. Reported February 9th in The New York Times, on the 10th, this day, in the Los Angeles Times. Nearly six months after two hurricanes ripped apart communities across the Gulf Coast, tens of thousands of residents remain without trailers promised by the federal government for use as temporary shelters while they rebuild. Of 135,000 requests for trailers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had received from families, slightly more than half have been filled. Yesterday we were greeted by hundreds of people who worked their way up here from New Orleans pleading for help. I spoke to the people, and what I got was, "Please, give use a place to cover our heads with, a place that we can lie down and go to sleep." They're not looking for jewels or trappings, they're looking for an ability to exist. So, Mr. Brown isn't on the payroll. Mr. Rhode's not on the payroll now. Who's responsible for not catching up with our responsibilities? Somebody -- and the fingers, no matter which way they try to point them, to me they point at the White House. That's where the responsibility belongs. Get those trailers there. Get those homes built. We sent down lots of money that wasn't efficiently used. And that was after your departure, need I remind you. And so when we look at this, I think the blame game is an easy one to play, but it's a hard game to win. And it -- I find that the response now indicates where we were before. I listened to you carefully. I ran a fairly big company before I came to the United States Senate, and I know that there was a lot of buck-passing, and people would make mistakes. But on the other hand, if people earnestly tried to do the right thing, then that's what we can ask. And if the system breaks down because it's poorly designed, that's too bad. And I hope we learn from this. But it's hard to understand why when wires going at 9:30 in the morning, wires or e-mails -- shows my dating, "wires," right? -- that they're saying pumps are starting to fall (sic). You suggested, Mr. Brown, that Marty Bahamonde might be a little hyperbolic. But the fact of the matter is, this is as he gave it to us, and when he gave it to us he was under oath, like you are. And he said, "Severe flooding on St. Bernard Orleans parish line. Please report water level up to second floor of two-story houses. People are trapped in attics. Pumps starting to fall (sic), cities now confirm." This is a report from Michael Heath. Do you know who Michael Heath --

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LAUTENBERG: He was your assistant, right?

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LAUTENBERG: So he's reporting to you that he had gotten a report from Marty Bahamonde that these things were happening, and this was at 10:12 in the morning when the most severe point of the storm's attack was about 8:00. So information was flowing. And for the White House to deny that they had a clear -- that they had clear reports is, I think disingenuous at best. White House officials confirmed -- this is now February 10th -- that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy -- p.s., Marty Bahamonde sent his out -- his report out at 9-something in the morning -- arrived there at midnight. And Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, saying it was surrounded with conflicting reports. When did you have an awareness that the -- sent to the White House?

MR. BROWN: Senator, I want to give you two answers, if I may, to what you just said. I want to -- can -- may I first address your question about the White House notification? And then you touched on housing, and I really want to give you some information about housing, if I could do that, because I think it's pertinent to your concern. On Monday, August 29th, at 10:00, I had written Andy Card and told Andy Card that this is the bad one and that housing, transportation, environment were going to be long-term issues, and if he wanted any additional details, you know, to be sure and call me or continue to BlackBerry, because he had written me earlier that indeed Joe Hagin had been keeping him informed of what I had been telling him. So I had been telling them about that situation throughout the day. So they knew about that.

SEN. LAUTENBERG: So at midnight they're saying conflicting reports, so --

MR. BROWN: Well, all I can tell you is that during the day on Monday they were being told.

SEN. LAUTENBERG: Okay.

MR. BROWN: They were aware of that. But you also mentioned something about housing and the concern about housing. I think it's important for this committee to know that in -- for the '05 budget, I specifically requested $10 million to redesign our recovery for catastrophic events, including catastrophic housing. I requested $80 million for the emergency response teams, to do things such as catastrophic planning, and the e-mail says, for example, like New Orleans. And this whole e-mail chain which is dated December 30th, 2003, which I want the committee to have in the record, is that we were asking for all of those things to address housing issues, to address those response teams. And every one of those was never even presented to -- it was never even presented to OMB, because DHS took them out of our over-target request.

SEN. LAUTENBERG: Thank you. Thank you, Madame Chairman.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Warner.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-Va.): Madame Chairman and Senator Lieberman, I congratulate you once again on helping to prepare a record which I really am confident is going to be complete with regard to this tragic episode. And I think we owe no less to the many victims who suffered and are still suffering, and also to prepare our great nation for the future. Mr. Brown, despite my good friend on the left saying about the executive branch, I did spend five years in the Pentagon as the secretary of the Navy during the -- (laughter) -- during the Vietnam War. And my friend over here, Mr. Stevens, had he heard that comment, he'd have come out of his chair --

MR. BROWN: (Chuckles.) Exactly.

SEN. WARNER: -- because he has a couple of years in the Department of Interior as their counsel.

MR. BROWN: (Chuckles.)

SEN. WARNER: But anyway, all of us have a little humor here on a Friday morning. But I come to this responsibility with no prejudice and no fixed views. I simply think that -- I want to support my chairman and chair -- ranking member in getting the best record possible.

MR. BROWN: That's right.

SEN. WARNER: Now I've been informed -- and I'd appreciate if you'd verify the accuracy of this statement -- that in the course of interrogation by a very able committee staff -- and they've done a commendable job --

MR. BROWN: They're very good.

SEN. WARNER: -- that you felt that you had to rely on counsel of FEMA and decline to give a full response to perhaps as many as 12 questions. Is that correct?

MR. BROWN: That's correct. Counsel for FEMA was present, and when the types of questions about who and what was said to certain White House officials -- they would -- and I think counsel for FEMA is quality counsel, but they never wanted to use word "executive privilege." It was high-level communications. And so there was this legal dance going on. And I just felt caught in the middle, because -- look, Senator Warner, you know -- I respect this president, and I respect the presidency. I respect this branch of government, too. And now, as a private citizen, I'm caught between these two --

SEN. WARNER: Right. I listened --

MR. BROWN: -- in terms of executive privilege.

SEN. WARNER: I listened very carefully. But I believe now, given the very clear guidance by the chair, these impediments are now removed. Would I be correct in that assumption?

SEN. COLLINS: That's correct.

SEN. WARNER: Well, then, Madame Chairman, I would think we would ask this witness to go back over each of those questions and provide for the committee and the staff the full answer that he's capable of giving. May I make that in a form of a request?

SEN. COLLINS: You may.

SEN. WARNER: And you will be quite willing to do that --

MR. BROWN: I'd be happy to do that --

SEN. WARNER: Well, that's extremely --

MR. BROWN: -- as long as we can work out schedules properly, Mr. -- (laughs) --

SEN. WARNER: Well, I think it's very important that we have a full and complete record, and your willingness to do that, I think, is very, very helpful.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Warner, if I could just clarify -- it is possible that the White House might decide to assert the privilege which it has a right to do at some future time. But -- so I just want to clarify that.

SEN. WARNER: Well, I understand that. But I just -- I'm trying to move through this to be of some assistance --

SEN. COLLINS: Right.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Madame Chairman, if I can say -- I want to thank Senator Warner. I think you make a very important point. Now that Mr. Brown has taken a different position -- for all the reasons we talked about at the beginning, just to complete the record, if those questions are not all asked today -- which they probably won't -- I think it's a very important idea to schedule a time to come back and talk to our joint staff again.

MR. BROWN: If I could just say, Senator, though, I'm not really taking a different position. I always wanted to answer the questions.

SEN. WARNER: That's --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Understood.

MR. BROWN: Okay. Thank you.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I accept your amendment.

MR. BROWN: Thank you.

SEN. WARNER: I think it's important. Now my responsibilities around here -- and coincidentally, my two distinguished leaders here, all on the military committee -- and I'm quite interested in your assessment of the performance of the uniformed individuals, both Guard and Reserve, and the active forces that were brought to bear. I think we have to keep going over this because a lot of people following don't understand the Guard and Reserve, under a certain framework of federal statutes, as you well know, and the regular forces under others. My understanding is that one of the series of questions in which you felt that you couldn't give a full answer related to the following issues. You spoke to a number of White House personnel while on an airplane, probably on Friday, September 2nd, about the proposal to establish a dual-hatted commander of the National Guard in Title 10 forces in Louisiana. Can you now tell us about what your views were and the situation, in your judgment, dictated -- I think quite appropriately -- a clarity of the chain of command to the military personnel, be they Guard or Reserve or active?

MR. BROWN: Correct. General Honore had decided to deploy and come to Baton Rouge, and I had a conversation with him on his way down there that said -- because we not federalized anything yet. I think General Honore's testified before this committee.

SEN. WARNER: Yes.

MR. BROWN: And if you watch television, you know he's a very commanding presence.

SEN. WARNER: Yes, I've gotten to know him, and I've known many officers in my --

MR. BROWN: That's right. And --

SEN. WARNER: -- years here. He's very impressive.

MR. BROWN: Very impressive. And so when General Honore and I first got on the telephone together he already had a litany of things he wanted to do, and I had to back him down and say, "I may want all of those things done, but until we get federalized or how we work this out, I'm still in control, and you need to let me know what you want to do. And we can play this game, but I may want you to do all those 10 things on your list, but come and tell me before you do them." And he understood that and respected that.

SEN. WARNER: Well, also, if I may say, it wasn't a game. He's a serious --

MR. BROWN: He was very serious. He was very serious.

SEN. WARNER: And he has handled in his capacity as a military commander a number of situations. He recounted some half dozen disasters in which he actively participated --

MR. BROWN: That's correct.

SEN. WARNER: -- on behalf of the --

MR. BROWN: And so I was ecstatic to have him there, because I could now use my mil aides that were there with me at the command center to interface with them and whatever troops might show up. There is an e-mail -- again, I assume that this e-mail's been produced -- where I'm -- on I believe it is Friday, September 2nd -- screaming in the e-mails about where's the Army. I've been asking for the Army. Where are they? I need the Army now.

SEN. WARNER: Now, let's be more explicit. Part of the Army is the National Guard.

MR. BROWN: Right, but I was --

SEN. WARNER: You wanted active --

MR. BROWN: -- I wanted active-duty forces.

SEN. WARNER: -- duty forces.

MR. BROWN: Right. Because what I needed was I needed the active-duty military to take over logistics. I needed them to handle logistics, because the civilian side had fallen and completely failed, and I needed logistical support from the Army. We were still also having the problems about control of the areas, and we had a lot of discussions, both General Honore and I did, about the whole law enforcement issue. We both, I think, and I think Secretary Rumsfeld -- I'm not going to try to put words in any of their words -- but we all had concern about once you federalized and bringing those active-duty forces, if they're doing law enforcement, I mean, these guys are trained to kill, and if some punk decides he wants to take a pot-shot, that punk's going to probably be -- end up being dead. And that raises a whole plethora of issues. But I was pushing for federalization of National Guard troops. Let's go to National Guard.

SEN. WARNER: That would be the National Guard of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi --

MR. BROWN: Mississippi. I had -- I have to parse that a little bit. Particularly Louisiana. Because I really felt that we needed to federalize that Guard troop -- those Guard troops, but understood that if we did it Louisiana, we probably needed to do it in Mississippi also. And I really began advocating for that about mid-week, and there is some --

SEN. WARNER: Well, I think at this point you'd better clearly state to whom did you advocate that, because you've made the case that you were -- and I'm not faulting you --

MR. BROWN: Right.

SEN. WARNER: -- circumventing DHS and going directly to the White House.

MR. BROWN: Right.

SEN. WARNER: So were those requests placed directly to the White House?

MR. BROWN: Yes. Those were being discussed with -- again, with Mr. Hagin and Mr. Card.

SEN. WARNER: Right.

MR. BROWN: And then the discussions on Air Force One centered around how could we do this, was there a way to do this -- by doing this, I mean federalizing -- was there a way to federalize without invoking the Insurrection Act, is there some way that we could figure out a way to somehow have a dual-hatted command system. You know, that was really beyond -- I mean, the generals needed to decide if they thought they could have a dual command system. I've been in dual command systems, and they don't work very well. But if General Honore thought that he could do that or General Blum thought he could somehow make that work --

SEN. WARNER: Now, let's identify. General Blum is the head of the National Guard.

MR. BROWN: National Guard. Correct. So if they could figure out a way to make that work, the dual- hatted command, without actually invoking the Insurrection Act, that was fine with me, because the end that I was trying to get to was I just wanted active duty in there to start doing things that I needed to get done.

SEN. WARNER: Would that include law enforcement, because it's the doctrine of Posse Comitatus --

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. WARNER: -- as you know, which explicitly prohibits that?

MR. BROWN: And that's why we were trying to do this dual-hat, so that perhaps we could have the National Guard doing law enforcement while active duty was doing something else.

SEN. WARNER: All right.

MR. BROWN: That's a messy situation, because when you're -- for example, if the National Guard's doing law enforcement on behalf of the Army who's doing logistics, the Army's not going to put down their weapons just because they're handing out MREs. And so if they're doing that while National Guard is doing law enforcement and a firefight starts, the Army's going to defend themselves, as rightfully they should. So it presented all sorts of legal and just practical considerations.

SEN. WARNER: And I might add that they're all wearing basically the same uniform, so those observing or participating in crime can't distinguish between the two.

MR. BROWN: That's correct. That's correct. So it was my opinion that however politically they needed to work it out with the governor, we needed to federalize this operation.

SEN. WARNER: Now, in the course of the questioning on that issue by the staff, at what juncture did you feel you had to withhold certain information on the advice of FEMA counsel?

MR. BROWN: Discussions about what the president said in the conference room, conversations that I had with National Security Adviser Hadley.

SEN. WARNER: Are you now prepared to inform this committee what those conversations were?

MR. BROWN: I believe -- if I can get a clarification on the instructions, the instructions go to discussions with, say, Hadley and Hagin and Card, but they don't yet go to the president. Is that correct?

SEN. COLLINS: That is correct.

MR. BROWN: Okay. Secretary Chertoff, myself, National Security Adviser Hadley, General Blum, occasionally Karl Rove was in and out of that particular room. And I think on the telephone -- I don't want to speculate who was on the telephone. We were on a conference call, and I believe it was back to maybe Fran Townsend and perhaps Andy Card, because Andy wasn't on that particular trip. We were discussing how we could make a proposal to Governor Blanco to do this joint command without actually federalizing. And we were having discussions about, you know, let's just federalize, let's not federalize -- the pros and cons of, you know, how's it going to look if we invoke the posse comitatus act -- I mean the Insurrection Act. How is posse comitatus going to fit in to all of this. We were having some very heavy discussions about how we could do that. And National Security Adviser Steve Hadley was taking notes and trying to formulate a construct by which we could have federalization without invoking the Insurrection Act.

SEN. WARNER: And what was the result of all of those comments?

MR. BROWN: The result was a draft that was sent to Governor Blanco that evening, I think sometime late at night, about how we could do that, which is the proposal that she ultimately rejected.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator, we will have a second round. I know that some of the senators have planes to catch. So forgive me for --

SEN. WARNER: Fine. No, no. I think I was only one minute over. I was allowing him to finish his answer.

SEN. COLLINS: You were only two. Senator Dayton.

SEN. MARK DAYTON (D-Minn): Thank you, Madame Chairman. I want to thank you and also the ranking member, Senator Lieberman, for your extensive inquiries into this catastrophe; for the codel that you led, which I was proud to accompany with you to Mississippi and Louisiana. I appreciate both of you appearing as private citizens before this committee. Mr. Brown, you stated in your testimony previously to the House committee that you had communications with the White House, quote, "30 times" during the weekend before Katrina made landfall on Monday, August 29th, and that included several calls to President Bush regarding that matter. Could you -- since you're not under executive privilege, comment on with whom you had those conversations in the White House and what the substance of those conversations were, please?

MR. BROWN: Yes. I had -- the conversations prior to me leaving D.C. and going to Baton Rouge -- there were at least one or two conversations directly with the president, just about -- I'll just say generally about the situation and what was going on. Specific --

SEN. DAYTON: Prior to the actual landfall?

MR. BROWN: Prior to landfall, yes.

SEN. DAYTON: And what were the general -- what was the general nature of those conversations? You were apprising him of the --

MR. BROWN: Apprising him of the situation. The one that's been reported in the news that I guess falls outside the privilege at this point is that I literally called the president and asked him to call Governor Blanco and to call the mayor and do everything he could within his persuasive powers to convince them to do a mandatory evacuation.

SEN. DAYTON: The other 30 calls, then, to -- were to whom, please?

MR. BROWN: To -- generally to either Andy Card or Joe Hagin. Just -- "Here's what's going on. Here's what we've mobilized. Here's what -- you know, we're moving -- you know, we're moving supplies into Texas, into Tennessee, moving supplies into Atlanta and other places so we can move in once we know where it makes landfall."

SEN. DAYTON: I need to respectfully disagree with my colleague. I'm sorry, Senator Bennett, because at least according to this report in The New York Times today, at 11:05 p.m. on Monday, August 29th, it states here there was an e-mail message from FEMA's deputy director to Michael Jackson, deputy secretary of Homeland Secretary, who says we have just spoke with our first representative on the ground in New Orleans who did a helicopter tour and describes a 200-yard collapse of the levee on the south side of the lake. Wouldn't you reasonably be able to expect, then, if your deputy is communicating directly with the deputy of Homeland Security that the secretary would be informed, if necessary, of that communication?

MR. BROWN: Oh, absolutely. And that's my point about -- those systems are in place, the VTCs, the communications from headquarters because I'm running around in Baton Rouge trying to run operations. So absolutely, Senator.

SEN. DAYTON: So again going to The New York Times article today -- can you explain this apparent discrepancy? It says, "But the alert" -- referring to the prior alerts -- "did not seem to register. Even the next morning" -- which would be Tuesday -- "President Bush," on vacation in Texas, "was feeling relieved that New Orleans had," quote, "'dodged the bullet,'" closed quote, "he later recalled. Mr. Chertoff, similarly confident, flew Tuesday to Atlanta for a briefing on avian flu." It would seem that both of these individuals had been informed, at least in your judgment, directly about the situation, which contradicts what they've stated here.

MR. BROWN: Correct.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. You stated in your testimony earlier today, sir, that -- I believe I'm paraphrasing but trying to quote -- I asked the White House -- and they happen as a way of getting things to occur?

MR. BROWN: Right.

SEN. DAYTON: Can you state what in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane landfall -- what did you request to the White House, and did they, in fact, happen?

MR. BROWN: Great question because I'm coming from the perspective of all the other disasters that I've described, particularly Florida in '04, where that direct chain of command interface took place. And for the first time in this disaster, Andy Card replied to me at one point, and I -- and, Senator, I don't remember what the specific request was, but I told Andy on the telephone I needed something, whatever it was. And his reply back to me was, "Well, Mike, you need to feed that back up through the chain of command," and that became --

SEN. DAYTON: What is the chain of command, sir, at this point?

MR. BROWN: Well, at that point, that said to me, the way we've been doing business is not how I'm always -- I'm going to have to kind of do this on the fly now -- was I needed to go get Chertoff to agree to do that, which bothered --

SEN. DAYTON: Did you do so --

MR. BROWN: Pardon?

SEN. DAYTON: Did you do so, sir?

MR. BROWN: Yes, because Chertoff and I had -- I mean, again, in the record -- there's a record of my phone calls back and forth to DHS constantly.

SEN. DAYTON: So you went through the chain of command, and then, presumably, he went to the White House, whatever. Did what was necessary to happen happen?

MR. BROWN: Well, not always, because we would -- you know, I was frustrated because the Army wasn't getting there quickly enough, and things weren't -- I mean, I was as frustrated as you were. I was as frustrated as the American public was. I'm sure I was frustrated as everybody in this room about the slowness of the response. I mean, people will tell you that I'm a fairly calm individual, and I was certainly screaming and cussing at people while I was down in Baton Rouge.

SEN. DAYTON: What specifically, sir, were you were requesting? And when did you request it that did not occur as expeditiously as you expected?

MR. BROWN: I think the best way to answer that in the hearings is to refer you, in particular, to the e-mails between my mil aides, General -- or Colonel Jordan -- and I forget the name of the other colonel. I apologize to him -- that would -- I would tell them what my priorities of the day were. And they would come back and say, "Well, we haven't been able to get this moving. We haven't been able to get that moving." That will show you what I was frustrated about.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. Thank you. In your testimony before the House committee previously, you were asked by Congressman Thornberry, quote, "And how -- and so how many total FEMA people were pre-positioned approximately at the Superdome?" -- pre-positioned meaning before the hurricane's landfall.

MR. BROWN: Correct.

SEN. DAYTON: And you stated here, "Counting the team, which I will count as FEMA people, you know, a dozen." Subsequently, before this committee, Mr. Bahamonde testified that, "I was the only FEMA employee deployed to New Orleans prior to the storm." Can you reconcile that discrepancy?

MR. BROWN: Yeah. And in fact, I've learned he's right because I had -- we had deployed a National Disaster Medical Team or I had specifically authorized an NDMS team, Marty Bahamonde and Phil Parr, to go directly to the Superdome. And Marty was the only one who made it prior to landfall, and the others made it after landfall.

SEN. DAYTON: So how is it that you were misinformed even months later when you made this testimony as to the number of FEMA people who were actually in New Orleans prior to the landfall?

MR. BROWN: All I can tell you is, Senator, is I tried to review every document I could get my hand on at the time of that hearing. I just didn't recall.

SEN. DAYTON: You stated again in an article today, sir, that the real story is the change in the structure in the -- FEMA being put in as part of Department of Homeland Security, which, you say, is the -- a factor in this difficulty in response. And I -- you elaborated on some of those points today. I guess I must respectfully disagree, from my perspective. In Minnesota, where -- in 1997 there was a serious flood, major fire in Grand Forks adjacent to Minnesota; East Grand Forks was flooded -- the response there, and my recollection, is -- and I was there just two weeks after the testimony of the mayor of Grand Forks and others -- was that the FEMA response was quite exceptional. Subsequently, in June of 2002, Roseau, Minnesota, the northern part of the state flooded. I was there as well -- and this is prior to your becoming the director -- but the response of those who witnessed and were -- participated in the -- both situations was very definitely that FEMA's response in 2002, which is prior to this reorganization, was not nearly as effective as the one in 1997. So I guess I, you know, would question whether the real problem here was this restructuring or whether it was whatever breakdowns that occurred in the executive agency.

MR. BROWN: Right. And I think it's important for the committee to realize that it is not just the folding of FEMA into DHS, but it has been the -- and I -- we should probably go back through some of my old testimony as deputy director/general counsel -- that FEMA always was really good at making do with what they had, and FEMA always suffered from this brain drain of people continuing to leave, and the aging workforce, of people who were retiring all the time. It was reaching -- I mean, it was having its problems before it went into DHS, no question about it.

SEN. DAYTON: Why was there a brain drain, sir?

MR. BROWN: It was just a function of the aging of the workforce. And they can make more money -- I mean, some of the most skilled people that I found when I first came to FEMA as general counsel had all gone within a couple of years because they can make so much more money, after they put in their 20 years or so, by moving into the private sector. It was awful.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. Mr. Rhode, you have been at FEMA until just two weeks previous to the --

MR. RHODE: Let me say it will be about -- almost three weeks today or tomorrow.

SEN. DAYTON: Having been in New Orleans recently, again, reading recent reports about the situation there -- the fact that, according to one report yesterday, there were -- of the 50 million metric tons of debris, that only 6 million have been replaced -- been removed; the fact that utilities have not been replaced -- and an article today in The Washington Post states that FEMA will not have the -- make the decisions until August about what can be rehabilitated, what cannot -- that's going to hold -- that's holding up, at least according to this article, the people's ability to rebuild their houses and the like -- can you explain what's happened during this period of time or the last couple of months, and help us -- illuminate us as to what the barriers are that prevents an effective response by FEMA?

MR. RHODE: Well, I can certainly talk to some of my experiences over the last couple of months. I'm not certain that I'm familiar with the August deadline. I'm not sure if that happened. And after my departure from FEMA, I'm not sure I can speak to that very well. But certainly the recovery of a 90,000-square-mile area -- you know, we often concentrate on Louisiana and New Orleans, but clearly into Mississippi and even some parts of Alabama -- has been incredibly challenging. The debris alone is something that was on an absolute historic scale that we've never seen before. I can't really speak to all of the challenges, although I can say that, you know, a lot of it has to do with local ordinances and local desires. I know FEMA tries to work very closely with the state and the locals as it relates to where they would like debris to be deposited, some of the local ordinances as to whether or not you go on private property or you do not. There are certainly an awful lot of challenges that collectively we have to overcome together on the table, and that's what the current recovery is all about in those states. EN. DAYTON: Thank you, Madame Chairman.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Pryor.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-Ark.): Thank you, Madame Chair. Let me start, if I may, with you, Mr. Brown. It sounds like you have taken responsibility for the things that went wrong under your watch.

MR. BROWN: Thank you, sir.

SEN. PRYOR: And do you feel like the designated scapegoat? That was Senator Lautenberg's term.

MR. BROWN: Why don't you issue a subpoena to my wife and have her come up and answer that question, sir. (Laugh.)

SEN. PRYOR: (Laughs.) I can relate to that. But do you feel that way? Do you feel like you've been sort of set up to be the scapegoat, to be --

MR. BROWN: Yes, sir.

SEN. PRYOR: -- the fall guy?

MR. BROWN: Yes, sir. I can't lie to you. But yeah, I feel that way.

SEN. PRYOR: You feel like the administration's done that to you?

MR. BROWN: I certainly feel somewhat abandoned.

SEN. PRYOR: Okay. Let me ask this question about FEMA, given your role there, your experience there. In your opinion, just your opinion as a private citizen, should FEMA be in DHS?

MR. BROWN: I don't want this to sound like a lawyer answer. How's that for a caveat? There was a time when I was still idealistic and was really fighting internally to make it work the way the statute intended, for EP&R to be EP&R. I have since come to the conclusion that the cultural differences are so wide and so great that it cannot function within DHS. And the things that have been done to it now, the stripping of preparedness out into a separate directorate, whatever's going to be announced next week, response going somewhere else, is going to drive the final stake in the heart of FEMA. The country, particularly governors, particularly mayors, will then be faced with a situation of, in a disaster, looking around and saying, "Who do I go to?" FEMA suffers from this direct accountability to the president. All disasters are local, and you know, if something happens in Arkansas or something happens in Minnesota or wherever it happens, that you want to know that that FEMA guy and the president are on top of it and they're in charge.

SEN. PRYOR: Yeah, I appreciate your answer there. And I know that the previous administration had FEMA, as I understand it, as an independent Cabinet-level agency. Do you think it should be restored to that?

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. PRYOR: And it sounds like, from your previous answer, it's the direct accountability that FEMA would have with the president that makes that important.

MR. BROWN: What has happened -- I've described it this way to both James Lee Witt and Joe Allbaugh, both friends of mine. That the job they had no longer exists. When they were the FEMA directors, they were in charge of their budget; they made their argument directly to the president and to OMB. Now I make my case to another undersecretary and hope to work through that bureaucracy, or directly to the secretary, before it even gets to OMB. And so without that kind of direct accountability and that direct kind of way to get things done, I think you marginalize FEMA to where it becomes ineffective.

SEN. PRYOR: I appreciate your candor on that. Let me also ask -- you mentioned in previous testimony today that you had had a number of phone calls throughout your time at FEMA with President Bush, and that was in the context of -- you couldn't remember exactly when you talked to him and exactly what was said. How involved -- I'm trying to get a sense of how involved President Bush was with FEMA when you were there. I mean, was this a frequent occurrence where you talked to the president? I mean, are we talking about once a month or just every time a disaster happened? Or tell me how involved was President Bush.

MR. BROWN: I would say he was involved. We developed, I think, a very good relationship. Unfortunately, he called me "Brownie" at the wrong time. Thanks a lot, sir. But we had a very good relationship where I could -- whether we were on Air Force One or we were in the car together alone, that I could explain to him or express concerns or issues that I thought were important. And I always felt like I had a very good relationship, particularly with Andy Card because Andy had gone through Hurricane Andrew; with Joe Hagin, who used to be a first responder and understands those issues -- I had a very good relationship with those people. General Gordon, the White House homeland security adviser. All of those people I had great relationships with. But there came a point where I recognized that I could no longer complain and, you know, argue about what needed to be done without starting to appear to be a whiner, and so I needed to pull back. There was a new secretary there. And I think the White House had the attitude of, you know, we've got a new secretary now, Mike, go deal with the new secretary.

SEN. PRYOR: Yeah, that was actually my next question, and that is you served there under two different secretaries -- Secretary Ridge and Secretary Chertoff. And not to put words in your mouth, but basically, as I understand your previous testimony today, there were critical times when instead of talking to Secretary Chertoff you, in effect, went around him and went to other people in the administration to try to get things done. Is that a fair assessment?

MR. BROWN: Yes. And in fact, you're going to hear from witnesses today that I think are going to say, you know, Brown didn't think he worked for Chertoff, and that Brown didn't think he was part of the team. And the reason they say that is, is because I had a mission, and my mission was to help disaster victims. And I wasn't going to -- I mean, I was going to do everything I could to prevent bureaucracy or to prevent new layers of bureaucracy or people who didn't understand the relationship between state and local governments and FEMA to get in the way of doing what we needed to get done. So yeah, I was an infighter.

SEN. PRYOR: This may be a little bit of an unfair question. But had Secretary Ridge been in control during Katrina, would you have gone through Secretary Ridge or would you still have gone around the secretary?

MR. BROWN: I don't know how to answer that because my experience with Secretary Ridge was in Florida he left me totally alone.

SEN. PRYOR: Meaning --

MR. BROWN: He did not --

SEN. PRYOR: -- he left you alone to do your job, or he abandoned you?

MR. BROWN: No. No, exactly, he left me alone to do my job. Secretary Ridge, during Florida, and the entire Department of Homeland Security apparatus stayed out of my way.

SEN. PRYOR: And that changed with Secretary Chertoff?

MR. BROWN: What happened was, I think, with Secretary Chertoff, the DHS apparatus now saw an opportunity to insert itself, as they had always tried to do into FEMA operations, which necessarily slows things down. The HSOC for example, does not exercise command and control. They don't have the ESF structure. They can't do those things. Yet during Katrina they were trying to do that. There is a -- there's, again, in the packet of materials I've supplied the committee today, a January 26, 2004 concept paper, the DHS Headquarters Integrated Operations Staff Capability, again in which they're trying to now move those kinds of operational controls out of FEMA into DHS. And attached to that are a couple of e-mails and talking points about why we think that's a bad deal and is going to cause us even further problems. I'd encourage you to look at that, Senator.

SEN. PRYOR: Okay, thank you. And I also have a question, there's a document that I have -- I don't think it's in the record; I'll be glad to submit it, if the chair would like me to. But it apparently is in connection with Hurricane Pam and that scenario there. And the document is entitled, "Combined Catastrophic Plan for Southeast Louisiana and the New Madrid Seismic Zone: Scope of Work FY 2004." And it's interesting because I assume -- it says FY 2004 -- I assume it was drafted in '03 or '04. But if I can quote from it, it says: "The most dangerous hurricane would be a slow-moving Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane that makes landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River, moves northwest of and parallel to the river, and then crosses New Orleans and Lake Ponchatrain." I'll skip down a little bit: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event." And I'll skip down a little bit more: "The geographic situation of Southern Louisiana and the densely populated New Orleans area would complicate response problems and quickly overwhelm state resources." So here -- in my view, here's a FEMA document that's screaming out that we've got to be prepared for this. And it sounds like FEMA just could not get anyone's attention on -- I guess at DHS to do the proper level of preparedness. Is that fair?

MR. BROWN: I -- I -- Senator -- (chuckles) -- yes, yes, yes.

SEN. PRYOR: Okay.

MR. BROWN: I go back to the $80 million that's being cut, and I specifically -- FEMA had never done catastrophic planning. I wanted to do cat planning. We got the $80 million to do that. New Orleans was my first place I wanted to go. The scenario that played out in Katrina was exactly the scenario we wanted to plan against. And I was rebuffed in getting the money to do that planning.

SEN. PRYOR: Thank you. And Mr. Rhode, I just have a few seconds left. And since you're from Hot Springs, Arkansas, I feel like I need to ask you at least one question. (Laughter.)

MR. RHODE: Thank you very much, Senator.

SEN. PRYOR: And that is -- and this is an impression I have that I'd just like to get your thoughts on, because I know you've just recently left the agency. But it appears to me -- and I went down on the codel with pretty much all of us that are here right now -- and it appears to me that there's a difference in how FEMA has dealt with Mississippi as opposed to Louisiana, and specifically New Orleans. And it appears to me -- my impression is that it may be because FEMA -- and maybe the federal government -- just does not have a trust level with the city of New Orleans government and also the state of Louisiana's government. Is that fair?

MR. RHODE: Senator, I'm not sure that I've heard it explained that way at all. I am aware that there have been some challenges, certainly --perhaps unique in some regards -- and historic challenges, particularly within Louisiana and Mississippi. I know that there is a very, very aggressive recovery effort that's going on there and it can get somewhat complicated, because you're often dealing with many different opinions, many different voices from the public. You're talking about a housing situation which you're trying to determine where best to repopulate areas, where best to provide housing. It's a very, very difficult situation. I'd like to believe that the FEMA approach is very consistent across all states that we deal with. You know, throughout the course of any one year, FEMA will administer some 50 to 60 presidential disaster declarations or emergency declarations. And I would hate to think that the approach globally is different from one state to another, but I'm certain there are unique challenges within Louisiana.

SEN. PRYOR: Well, Madame Chair, I know that in the last few days on the front page of our statewide newspaper there have been several stories about 8,000 or 9,000 trailers that are FEMA trailers that are sitting at the Hope, Arkansas, airport, that apparently Mississippi has received many, many trailers -- many more than Louisiana has. And I think that is one reason you have the -- I have that perception is because it seems there's unequal treatment. And let me say this -- I know I'm over my time, Madame Chair, but I think this committee has heard -- or at least I can speak for myself: I've heard enough about the problems at FEMA and I'm ready to fix it, and I hope that this committee will get very serious over the next few weeks and few months to fix it. o thank you, Madame Chair.

SEN. COLLINS: Mr. Brown, over the course of our investigation, numerous officials have expressed concern that you were selected as the principal federal officer for Hurricane Katrina. And indeed, your own e-mails also expressed displeasure at your selection for this duty. A Department of Homeland Security official told us that you do not agree with much of the National Response Plan, and in particular, that you oppose the concept of a principal federal official, a PFO. A key author of that plan who will be testifying before us next, Assistant Secretary Robert Stephan, told our investigators that you opposed the concept of a principal federal official and that you did not agree with the concept, thought it was unnecessary and didn't fully understand a lot of the responsibilities in the National Response Plan. And this is a quote: "as evidenced by what Mr. Brown failed to setup." In your own interview with the committee staff, you called the concept of a PFO silly. Now this is an important issue, because that is a major concept in the National Response Plan. DHS officials have told us that you were replaced as the PFO on September 9th, after it became clear that you were not carrying out your responsibilities satisfactorily. And some -- since some of these same officials will be testifying very shortly before us, what is your answer to those criticisms of how you performed as PFO?

MR. BROWN: The PFO function -- we've done a great job as Republicans of establishing more and more bureaucracy. It absolutely flabbergasts me that as Republicans we've come in and established on top of the Federal Response Plan -- a plan that worked, that states understood -- that we've taken that plan and we've created it in a vacuum. We've put it together -- I mean, EP&R were supposed to put the NRP together, and instead, it was given to TSA. Now explain that one to me, Senator. And then it shifted over from TSA to some military guys that have never worked in a consensus way with state and local governments who have prime responsibility in a disaster. And I refer you to a memo dated April 6, 2004, regarding -- it's a legal memo in which they're discussing the legal issues surrounding the regional -- proposed regional structure for DHS. And it very accurately reflects the conflicts that are created by the creation of a PFO cell versus the FCL under the Stafford Act and a FEMA director and what their roles are supposed to be.

I can tell you from experience that the PFOs who have been appointed to date -- and since we're not in a courtroom, no one can object about hearsay, so I'm just going to tell you generally what they've told me -- is that they believe that the PFOs -- that their role is simply to give the secretary information about what is going on. Yet, in the document itself, it gives the PFO operational responsibilities to actually do things in a disaster. That conflicts directly with the role of the FCO and directly with the role of the director of FEMA or the undersecretary for EP&R. And those are outlined in that memo. So what happens is I get designated as the PFO, which means that I need -- and I am instructed by Secretary Chertoff to plop my rear end down in Baton Rouge and to not leave Baton Rouge. You can't run a disaster that way. You can't run a disaster unless -- I've done and I did it in all the other disasters going into the field, going out and seeing what's going on -- getting into New Orleans, getting into Jackson. I was told to not go back to Mississippi. Well, how can the FEMA director, because he is now the PFO -- how can I know what's going on in Mississippi if I can't go there and sit down with Haley Barbour and find out what's going on?

SEN. COLLINS: But you see no value to having a single person designated as the principal federal official, as Admiral Allen was after you were replaced? And he is generally credited with improving the coordination of the response.

MR. BROWN: Because Admiral Allen was then given the wherewithal to leave, to go do things, to go -- if he needed to be in New Orleans, to go to New Orleans, to be able to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to be able to go wherever he needed to go. I was literally constrained by Secretary Chertoff and told to stay in Baton Rouge after my first trip to Jackson, Mississippi. My hands were tied by him.

SEN. COLLINS: One final question in my remaining time. You've stated earlier that in retrospect you should have called in the Department of Defense earlier to take over the logistics, because you knew that FEMA would be overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina. If you knew that FEMA's logistics system would be overwhelmed, why didn't you recommend to Secretary Chertoff that he exercise his authority to call in DOD sooner?

MR. BROWN: And I take blame for this, but on August 30th, we issued a mission assignment to DOD for airlift and for other capabilities. I don't know whether that mission assignment was ever implemented or ever done, but as early as August 30th, I made that request back to headquarters for that to be done. I still stand by my earlier testimony that what I wish I had done was even prior to landfall, which then -- and I'm not trying to be flippant here, Senator -- but had I requested active duty military to move in there and Katrina had made a slight move to the left or to the right and gone somewhere else and we didn't have this -- and I mean this with all due respect -- you would have been having me up here testifying about why I wasted money having the military come in and pre-position itself. So I'm trying to balance those two things off. Do I really step out on a limb prior to landfall and demand active duty military for something I may not need, or do I do it after it's made landfall? And that's just a judgment I made. In hindsight, I wish I had just rolled the dice and said do it now.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Lieberman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Madame Chairman. Thanks again, Mr. Brown.

I want to come back to Monday night after the day of the hurricane hitting. Marty Bahamonde calls you; you called Joe Hagin, who's with the president at Crawford. You're not sure if the president was on the conversation. You inform them that New Orleans is under water. Does Joe Hagin at that point ask you, do you have everything you need? Do you ask for anything from them?

MR. BROWN: I don't recall on that particular conversation asking for anything in particular. I know he asked me. He always asked me do I have everything I need. I don't recall specifically saying that night I need x, y, z, because literally, the storm had just made landfall, the levees were just breaking and we were trying to get a handle on what we needed.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay, let --

MR. BROWN: And as I testified in front of the House, I was still -- naively so -- thinking that I could get this unified command structure established within Louisiana and that we could get things done. I was still in that mindset at that point.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Let me -- and that Monday night -- again, after you spoke to Bahamonde -- excuse me, after you spoke to Bahamonde and then Hagin. Did you have any other conversations with the White House?

MR. BROWN: Oh, every day. Every single --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: No, no, but I mean Monday night, on August 29th, the day of landfall, after you called Hagin when the president may or may not have been on the phone -- did you --

MR. BROWN: Yes, I had a late-evening phone call, I think, with Hagin, and I had an e-mail exchange with Andy Card.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And can you describe the tenor of those exchanges?

MR. BROWN: I can tell you the e-mail with Andy Card basically said this is what we expected and we're going to have to --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, actually, I've seen that one. This is the big one, you said.

MR. BROWN: Right, yes. Right.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And pretty much the same exchange with Hagin.

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I want to go back, because a part of what we're looking at here is whether the federal government could have done -- obviously, we reached some conclusions that it should have been more in preparation. Senator Dayton referenced a comment that you made to the House select committee in the fall that you thought you might have talked to the White House before landfall on Monday maybe as many as 30 times. By your recollection, when did those calls start? Was it Thursday, Friday?

So what happens is I get designated as the PFO, which means that I need -- and I am instructed by Secretary Chertoff to plop my rear end down in Baton Rouge and to not leave Baton Rouge. You can't run a disaster that way. You can't run a disaster unless -- I've done and I did it in all the other disasters going into the field, going out and seeing what's going on -- getting into New Orleans, getting into Jackson. I was told to not go back to Mississippi. Well, how can the FEMA director, because he is now the PFO -- how can I know what's going on in Mississippi if I can't go there and sit down with Haley Barbour and find out what's going on?

SEN. COLLINS: But you see no value to having a single person designated as the principal federal official, as Admiral Allen was after you were replaced? And he is generally credited with improving the coordination of the response.

MR. BROWN: Because Admiral Allen was then given the wherewithal to leave, to go do things, to go -- if he needed to be in New Orleans, to go to New Orleans, to be able to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to be able to go wherever he needed to go. I was literally constrained by Secretary Chertoff and told to stay in Baton Rouge after my first trip to Jackson, Mississippi. My hands were tied by him.

SEN. COLLINS: One final question in my remaining time. You've stated earlier that in retrospect you should have called in the Department of Defense earlier to take over the logistics, because you knew that FEMA would be overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina. If you knew that FEMA's logistics system would be overwhelmed, why didn't you recommend to Secretary Chertoff that he exercise his authority to call in DOD sooner?

MR. BROWN: And I take blame for this, but on August 30th, we issued a mission assignment to DOD for airlift and for other capabilities. I don't know whether that mission assignment was ever implemented or ever done, but as early as August 30th, I made that request back to headquarters for that to be done. I still stand by my earlier testimony that what I wish I had done was even prior to landfall, which then -- and I'm not trying to be flippant here, Senator -- but had I requested active duty military to move in there and Katrina had made a slight move to the left or to the right and gone somewhere else and we didn't have this -- and I mean this with all due respect -- you would have been having me up here testifying about why I wasted money having the military come in and pre-position itself. So I'm trying to balance those two things off. Do I really step out on a limb prior to landfall and demand active duty military for something I may not need, or do I do it after it's made landfall? And that's just a judgment I made. In hindsight, I wish I had just rolled the dice and said do it now.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Lieberman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Madame Chairman. Thanks again, Mr. Brown. I want to come back to Monday night after the day of the hurricane hitting. Marty Bahamonde calls you; you called Joe Hagin, who's with the president at Crawford. You're not sure if the president was on the conversation. You inform them that New Orleans is under water. Does Joe Hagin at that point ask you, do you have everything you need? Do you ask for anything from them?

MR. BROWN: I don't recall on that particular conversation asking for anything in particular. I know he asked me. He always asked me do I have everything I need. I don't recall specifically saying that night I need x, y, z, because literally, the storm had just made landfall, the levees were just breaking and we were trying to get a handle on what we needed.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay, let --

MR. BROWN: And as I testified in front of the House, I was still -- naively so -- thinking that I could get this unified command structure established within Louisiana and that we could get things done. I was still in that mindset at that point.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Let me -- and that Monday night -- again, after you spoke to Bahamonde -- excuse me, after you spoke to Bahamonde and then Hagin. Did you have any other conversations with the White House?

MR. BROWN: Oh, every day. Every single --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: No, no, but I mean Monday night, on August 29th, the day of landfall, after you called Hagin when the president may or may not have been on the phone -- did you --

MR. BROWN: Yes, I had a late-evening phone call, I think, with Hagin, and I had an e-mail exchange with Andy Card.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And can you describe the tenor of those exchanges?

MR. BROWN: I can tell you the e-mail with Andy Card basically said this is what we expected and we're going to have to --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, actually, I've seen that one. This is the big one, you said.

MR. BROWN: Right, yes. Right.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And pretty much the same exchange with Hagin.

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I want to go back, because a part of what we're looking at here is whether the federal government could have done -- obviously, we reached some conclusions that it should have been more in preparation. Senator Dayton referenced a comment that you made to the House select committee in the fall that you thought you might have talked to the White House before landfall on Monday maybe as many as 30 times. By your recollection, when did those calls start? Was it Thursday, Friday?

MR. BROWN: Probably -- you know, speculating; if the records prove me wrong, they'll prove me wrong -- but probably on Thursday, because we had literally started doing -- FEMA had already started ramping up Monday or Tuesday of that week.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Based on weather forecasting, obviously.

MR. BROWN: Right.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And do you recall -- there is in the transcript, incidentally, of the video teleconference that occurred on Sunday -- incidentally, you begin it, for the record, by welcoming Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Jackson to the conference call. So there was at least there a direct -- and one would hope -- and we'll ask -- that the deputy secretary told the secretary. In that call, Dr. Mayfield was very alarmed and you said this is a catastrophe within a catastrophe. But when the president is on the call from Crawford, he thanks you and he says to you, "I appreciate your" -- "I appreciate your briefing that you gave me early this morning about what the federal government is prepared to do to help the state and local folks deal with this really serious storm" -- end of quote from the president. Does that -- that was a private call or personal call I assume you had Sunday morning with the president of the United States.

MR. BROWN: Correct.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And again, in that call you were telling him how serious the situation was based on the weather forecasting and reporting, as he says, in the transcript we have, that you think you're ready to handle it.

MR. BROWN: Senator, the best that I can explain to this committee -- I don't know how to put it into words. I said in those VTCs Thursday, Friday, Saturday -- and I think I was there for the one Sunday before I left.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And these are all -- and it's very important. These video teleconferences are happening Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the Monday after the hurricane hit.

MR. BROWN: That's correct.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And on those video teleconferences, you probably got the Homeland Security Department, the weather service, the White House.

MR. BROWN: They're all tied in. You don't always necessarily see them on the screen, but they're all tied in.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah.

MR. BROWN: And they all have the opportunity to tie in.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Let me go on and just ask you: Do you remember any other personal calls with the president that weekend except for the one on Sunday morning?

MR. BROWN: I don't think I talked to him personally once I landed in Baton Rouge. I was only talking to Hagin.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: How about before, during that weekend?

MR. BROWN: Oh, yes, on Sunday. I left on Sunday, as I recall.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I know about the call you had with the president on Sunday. Was there anything on Friday and Saturday?

MR. BROWN: I don't think so Friday, but I do believe there were on Saturday.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: One direct with the president -- and just to best of your recollection, would you say?

MR. BROWN: Just -- I was expressing my concern, as I was on the VTCs, all along that, you know, this is a big storm; this is the one we've all worried about, and depending on where it goes, it could be catastrophic. I mean, that's --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And again, were you asked by the president or Mr. Card or Mr. Hagin, do you have everything you need?

MR. BROWN: I'll say it again: I can't ever think of a conversation where -- I never ended a phone call, with particularly Joe or Andy, where they didn't say, you know, do you have everything you need.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I want to ask you one more question, but I'll ask rhetorically whether looking back at it you may have misled them. Because as it happened, FEMA, DHS -- not to mention state and local governments -- didn't have everything they needed to respond to Hurricane Katrina.

MR. BROWN: And that gets back to Senator Collins' point about me asking for the Army earlier. In hindsight, which of course is perfect, knowing my fears and the planning we had done for New Orleans, I do wish that I had called for and talked to either Rumsfeld or England prior to even making landfall in requesting those DOD assets at that time.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. Madame Chairman, since Senator Lautenberg has left, I'm going to ask one more quick question; it's my last. One of the more perplexing allegations made about FEMA's failure to deliver in the aftermath of Katrina came from General Bennett Landreneau, the head of the Louisiana National Guard. And it also came from Governor Blanco last week but very strongly yesterday from General Landreneau. But they -- seeing what was happening on Monday -- day of landfall, during the day -- they said, we desperately need a means to get people out of New Orleans who have not been able to evacuate on their own. And you told them, "I'm going to get you 500 buses." And General Landreneau said: "Monday night they didn't come. We spoke again Tuesday. FEMA said they're on their way. Wednesday, they're still not there." And we find in our investigation that it wasn't until 1:47 a.m. on Wednesday that FEMA actually asked the Department of Transportation to provide the buses, which last week the DOT person told us they were ready to do. So they begin to arrive late Wednesday night, mostly on Thursday morning. Meantime, as I said before, we're seeing these horrific human conditions -- embarrassing to our country, not what we're all about -- in the Superdome and the convention center. So why didn't FEMA deliver those buses on Monday when you said you were going to do it?

MR. BROWN: Because -- I wish I knew the answer to that, Senator. I think it goes back to what we saw on the MITRE study -- again, that I asked for -- because I knew that the logistics system in FEMA was broken and that we couldn't do some of those things. I knew that and was desperately trying to fix it. All I can tell you and all I can tell the country is that those nights, I would sit in my room crying sometimes, screaming, arguing, because I was as frustrated as the country.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: So let me just get --

MR. BROWN: Because I'm asking for this stuff and I can't make it happen.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I got you and I hear -- and that's what you're saying, that, in fact, when you told General Landreneau, "I'm going to get you 500 busses" --

MR. BROWN: I was going to get him 500 buses.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: You, in fact, asked somebody --

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- on Monday, to the best of your recollection?

MR. BROWN: Well, later on when you come back to the staff, we're going to ask you why you think it took until Wednesday morning for that e-mail to go to DOT. Thanks, Mr. Brown.

Thanks, Madame Chairman.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Warner.

SEN. WARNER : Thank you, Madame Chairman. What's your overall assessment of the professionalism that the military was able to bring to bear on this situation? And you wish to separate Guard from active -- but generally speaking?

MR. BROWN: Senator Warner, I'm so dad-gum jealous of their planning capabilities I could scream.

SEN. WARNER: Yeah.

MR. BROWN: Their ability to -- one of the fallacies in FEMA pre- DHS, and I believe one of the fallacies currently within DHS, is a robust planning cell that can do the kind of planning that I'd been screaming about for three years. And they can do it. And by having mil aids -- just two planners, two colonels -- come in and sit down with me so I could turn to them and say, "I need x, y, z," they could start planning how to make that happen, and we didn't have that. My interfacing with Honore was absolutely the most professional at all times. I consider the man to be a friend now. He was a lifesaver to me. My relationship with Secretary Rumsfeld to a certain extent, but even more so with Deputy Secretary England -- a personal relationship there. I admire those guys. They've got the kind of things that we need. Having said that, I'm one of these that -- I don't think the military needs to be involved in disasters like maybe some do, but we need to replicate and duplicate and perhaps adopt some of their methods of doing things within Homeland Security.

SEN. WARNER: Well, let's talk specifically about what occurred in this instance. You say you don't think they should be involved, yet you were requesting them, and you recognize they have assets from helicopters to trucks and heavy-lift capacity and they've got a turn- around time often within hours -- they can produce. So I think you want to go back and revisit -- they should be involved in these things.

MR. BROWN: We have to be very careful because they have a mission. And if I were Rumsfeld or England, I would be very concerned about diluting that mission by giving them these additional responsibilities.

SEN. WARNER: Well, I'd have to differ a little bit with you there. When we consider the amount of suffering and destruction here -- and the military has a very vital role in homeland defense. Admiral Keating was before this committee the other day. I work with Rumsfeld and England on a daily basis --

MR. BROWN: Right.

SEN. WARNER: -- and Keating. And they're there and trained. And the president of the United States -- the people want them involved.

MR. BROWN: Right; in a catastrophic even, no question.

SEN. WARNER: Right.

MR. BROWN: But there's a slippery slope that we go down where suddenly state and locals will become more and more dependent upon active-duty military --

SEN. WARNER: All right. Let's go back to this particular incident. What grades do you wish to give them?

MR. BROWN: Oh, I give them an A.

SEN. WARNER: An A. All right, well, that's consistent with what others have stated here. Did you, from time to time, make the decision to bypass Chertoff and go directly to the White House on request for the military?

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. WARNER: And do you feel that those requests were responded to, to your satisfaction?

MR. BROWN: Yes.

SEN. WARNER: So that chain of communication was effective and results were delivered.

MR. BROWN: Right. And I think the other thing that -- again, as in almost any disaster -- which is why you need to train as you fight and fight as you train and you need to have preparedness tied to response, which is my mantra -- is because you need to know those people when you actually get into the battle. You need to know who you're dealing with. And that's one of the fatal flaws within DHS right now is separating this preparedness from response. Go back to the '78 -- I don't think you were in the room when I mentioned it, but there was a 1978 NGA report which talks about that very issue. Tom Ridge wrote a letter to the Washington Times in 1989 saying if you separate response from preparedness, it's a fatal flaw. We need to keep those together, and I think if we can learn from military and tie those together; we can make it work.

SEN. WARNER: I was listening to the hearings elsewhere and I did follow that comment that you had. Do you feel that the inability of -- the president, as I understand, tried to work with the governor of Louisiana to do a certain degree of maybe bifurcated federalism -- i.e., the dual hat. As a consequence of that not occurring, did that contribute to some of the problems?

MR. BROWN: Absolutely. No question. I think it contributed to two things: the continued delay in response and my demise.

SEN. WARNER: I understand the delay in the response and now your demise -- you mean in terms of --

MR. BROWN: Because as long as I was not able to get that done, I still couldn't get a unified command structured established within New Orleans, because I didn't have the capability to do that. James Lee Witt comes down and actually says to the president -- once he's hired by Governor Blanco -- James Lee stands behind me and says, "Mr. President, now that I'm here, Mike and I are going to establish a unified command," but by that time it was too late.

SEN. WARNER: It was too late.

MR. BROWN: Too late.

SEN. WARNER: And had it been done, you feel that much of the suffering could have been spared in the devastation?

MR. BROWN: The suffering could have been alleviated. I may or may not have still been the undersecretary, but --

SEN. WARNER: Well, that's -- whatever. Facts are facts.

MR. BROWN: Right.

SEN. WARNER: General Honore, working with you and the TAG from Louisiana more or less worked this out, even though there wasn't a formalization of a dual hat. They did it by sheer force of their own personality and their understanding of what a military person must do when they face extreme situations. Whether they have orders or not, they're trained to act.

MR. BROWN: That's the best description I've heard of how it came about. We did it without -- I mean, they just did it.

SEN. WARNER: But it would have been better if it'd been formalized and earlier on.

MR. BROWN: Clearly.

SEN. WARNER: That's clear. Now again, I return to the record. The chair has indicated that you'll be given an opportunity to go back over several questions. But this is a unique moment you're here -- and the eyes of many are upon it. Do you wish to at this time go back and reflect on some of those dozen different questions where you followed the advice of FEMA counsel and did not give a full response and give your responses at this time?

MR. BROWN: If they have questions that they would like to pose, I would be willing to do that, sir.

SEN. WARNER: All right, but I do not have the full litany of questions before me. I understand you will have the opportunity. But at this time there's nothing further in the context of what you withheld that you'd like to proffer at this time?

MR. BROWN: No, sir.

SEN. WARNER: To you, Mr. Rhode. ou've been very quiet here, but I'd like to direct just sort of a general question to you, (followed ?) very carefully the responses given by Mr. Brown to the series of questions propounded by the Senators here. Do you feel that there's any additional information on any of those colloquies that you'd like to provide?

MR. RHODE: Yes, it's hard for me to say, Senator. I appreciate the question very much.

SEN. WARNER: We're trying to build a record and it's important that we get in as much as we can.

MR. RHODE: Absolutely, sir. I appreciate that, and I've -- I've appreciated the opportunity to work with staff over the last couple of months, too, when I was employed with FEMA. I do believe that this was an absolutely incredible challenge that faced our country -- one perhaps unprecedented, it goes without saying. I would like to see, in addition to potential FEMA efficiencies that need to be improved -- and I think we all agree that there are certainly some that need to be improved; it was true before I arrived and certainly true after I left -- in the way of logistical tracking, in the way of improving situational awareness -- some of these items that I know have been talked about before this committee. I would also like to see greater accountability as well, too, within the national emergency management system. And in my opinion, that means perhaps greater protocols, greater understandings of roles and responsibilities between the local, the state, the federal system. Greater accountability within all levels of government and government agencies. I think when you take a hard look at them -- emergency support functions as they currently exist, as when FEMA calls them together, and how they perform and what they're expected to do, and perhaps building a greater matrix and goals and deliverables together with that. And I think that the system is one that has worked very well and served the country very well, but I think it's one we need to take a very serious look at as it relates, obviously, to a catastrophic event.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much.

MR. RHODE: Yes, sir.

SEN. WARNER: My time's expired, Madame Chairman.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Akaka.

SEN. DANIEL K. AKAKA (D-Hawaii): Thank you, Madame Chairman. Mr. Rhode?

MR. RHODE: Yes, sir?

SEN. AKAKA: When Mr. Brown was named PFO the day after Katrina made landfall, he relinquished his role as director of FEMA, according to the National Response Plan, NRP, which made you temporary FEMA director. Were you aware of this provision in the NRP when Mr. Brown was named PFO? And if not, when were you made aware of your new role?

MR. RHODE: Senator, I'm not certain, as I sit here, that I was made aware that Mr. Brown's title as director had been removed, even temporarily. I honestly can't say that I remember hearing that.

SEN. AKAKA: Was there ever a time when you knew that that was your responsibility?

MR. RHODE: Senator, I'm not certain that I've -- that I've heard that, to be completely honest and candid. My role was one as the chief of staff from the time that I joined FEMA until the time that I left FEMA. Now, I joined FEMA in April of 2003 and I left just recently, in January of 2006 -- with the exception of roughly an eight-week period where I was also given the title as well, too, as acting deputy director. I'm not aware during the time, the early days of Katrina -- as Mr. Brown was initially named principal federal officer, I'm not aware of any additional impacts to me or how I was conducting myself in the office.

SEN. AKAKA: But Mr. Brown may have chosen to ignore the NRP, but according to that plan, he was no longer the FEMA director for that disaster, and this may be contributing to the problems that we're talking about. Mr. Rhode, when you asked, during your committee interview with the committee, about the resources FEMA could have made available to New Orleans once the city began to flood, you discussed search and rescue capabilities. Is it your understanding that search and rescue is the only resource FEMA could have provided to New Orleans once the city flooded?

MR. RHODE: Now, Senator, my understanding is that there were many resources that were applied to the city of New Orleans and the entire 90,000 square-mile area that FEMA had within its command, whether they were assets that FEMA perhaps could federalize or assets that other agencies were contributing through the FEMA federal system.

SEN. AKAKA: Now when you discussed the rescue and search capabilities, you were aware that you were acting as the director, were you not?

MR. RHODE: I was not aware that I was acting as the director of FEMA, no, sir, but I was aware that while Mr. Brown was away that I was acting as best I could to lead FEMA, yes -- in Washington, D.C.

SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Brown, I noticed an e-mail in the documents you released only this morning dated September 1st. The e-mail was from Brooks Altshuler. Who is he?

MR. BROWN: Brooks was my policy director at FEMA, and I think he may have held dual title as deputy chief of staff also.

SEN. AKAKA: In the letter, you are told to -- and I'm quoting, "Please talk up to the secretary," unquote, in your press conferences. You were also told to say that there was a, quote, "solid team with solid support from the secretary," unquote. My question here is, what was the reason for this e-mail?

MR. BROWN: I don't know. In fact, I asked Brooks about that. I wanted to know what was going on. I was getting very frustrated. There's also an e-mail in there where I tell them that I've told Mr. Chertoff that the number of phone calls and the -- I call them "pings" -- the pings that we were getting for things was literally driving us nuts; that we had operations to run and that there were channels by which you could get information, but we needed to be doing things. And I was particularly upset one time when there had been a request for a briefing of the secretary one morning. He had -- he had called me late in the evening for numerous things to be briefed about the next day. I pulled the team together, they spent the night getting their briefings together, and then they twiddled their thumbs for about an hour and a half, two hours, that morning waiting for him to get off some phone calls or something. And I finally dismissed the briefers and just told them to go back to work because you can't have two people in control. Either somebody's going to run the disaster or somebody's not going to run the disaster. And I think that just stemmed from the inability to understand that there was this catastrophic disaster going on; people had things to do that they needed to be doing. But again, drawing the difference between, say, Florida and Katrina, I never had -- I never had a decision second-guessed in Florida. Yet in Katrina, there were times when I would make a decision and find out that that decision hadn't been carried out because somebody above me, either in the secretary's staff or the secretary himself, had made a contrary decision. Or that there had been conferences, conversations with people in the field, that would contradict either FEMA policy or what we should be doing. And it became an absolutely unmanageable situation. And I'm not very good at hiding my feelings. I don't play poker for that very purpose. And so I imagine at one point Brooks was frustrated that maybe it appeared that I was a little ticked off about some stuff.

SEN. AKAKA: I want to thank you so much for being as responsive as you have, both of you, and I --

MR. BROWN: Senator, I'm here to get the truth out.

SEN. AKAKA: -- I really appreciate that. Did you perceive that this e-mail -- do you interpret that e-mail as being more perception than substance?

MR. BROWN: Oh, clearly, clearly. But perception is reality sometimes, too.

SEN. AKAKA: Well, I -- again, I want to thank you. As I mentioned earlier in my first statement, that you should not be held as scapegoat, and that we cannot look only at you and Mr. Rhode, but at the whole system, and look forward to --

MR. BROWN: Can I say something -- may I say something, Senator?

SEN. COLLINS: (Off mike) -- very late -- (off mike) --

MR. BROWN: Okay. I just appreciate the fact that this has been bipartisan. And to have that come from you, Senator, I greatly appreciate that.

SEN. AKAKA: Well, thank you.

SEN. COLLINS: Thank you.

SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Madame Chairman.

SEN. COLLINS: Senator Dayton.

SEN. DAYTON: Thank you, Madame Chairman. Mr. Brown, just to try to make sure that this chronology as described today in The New York Times is accurate, Monday, August 29th, it states here, 9:27 p.m., an e-mail message from -- with the subject FYI from FEMA, was sent to the Homeland Security. Secretary Michael Chertoff's chief of staff says the first unconfirmed -- the first reports they are getting from aerial surveys of New Orleans are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Ten p.m., in a conference call, Mr. Bahamonde describes the levee breach and flooding to FEMA operational staff. Ten-thirty, a Homeland Security situation report states, quote, "There is a quarter-mile breach in the levee near the 17th Street Canal." The report reaches the White House later that night. Eleven-oh-five, an e-mail message from FEMA's deputy director to Michael Jackson, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, says that the breach has occurred. Do you know, when it says here the report reaches the White house later that night, to whom that report reached?

 

MR. BROWN: Only based on what I've read in the papers. And I would disagree with you; based on my personal experience, just because it's in the New York Times doesn't mean I believe it. And I will apply that to any newspaper or --

SEN. DAYTON: That's why I'm asking you. That's why I'm asking you.

MR. BROWN: (Chuckles.)

SEN. DAYTON: Do you know whether the White House, or anyone in the White House, was informed on that Monday night in any -- by any of the communications that --

MR. BROWN: What I understand that report is about is about a sit report; a situation report that went to the White House situation room. I can tell you, and my testimony is, is my conversations directly with Hagan and Card and others, that they were aware of what was going on.

SEN. DAYTON: They were aware as of when?

MR. BROWN: When I first -- and I'd have to go back and look at my cell phone --

SEN. DAYTON: When were they aware of the breach, to your knowledge?

MR. BROWN: Sometime that day.

SEN. DAYTON: Monday.

MR. BROWN: Monday.

SEN. DAYTON: Monday some time -- afternoon, evening --

MR. BROWN: Right. My guess is afternoon because I was still -- we were still debating at the EOC center between the state and the feds, has it -- is it a breach or is it a top? And not until later that afternoon would I have expressed that it was actually a breach to Hagen or Card.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. But Monday afternoon?

MR. BROWN: Yeah.

SEN. DAYTON: According -- if this chronology in the New York Times, which is not always perfect --

MR. BROWN: (Chuckles.)

SEN. DAYTON: -- is correct, the Homeland Security chief of staff was informed Monday evening as well as the deputy secretary Monday evening about the reality of this breach of the levee. Again, the same article quotes Mr. Russ Knocke, if that's the right pronunciation -- "A Homeland Security spokesman said that although Mr. Chertoff had been, quote, 'Intensively involved' in monitoring the storm, he had not actually been told about the report of the levee breach until Tuesday after he arrived in Atlanta." Was he intensively involved in monitoring the storm?

MR. BROWN: I don't know because I wasn't with him. I was in Baton Rouge.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. And he was where?

MR. BROWN: I don't know where he was.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. Is this typical that in this kind of serious emergency that the deputy secretary and the chief of staff of the department would not inform the secretary immediately or very soon thereafter of receiving that kind of information?

MR. BROWN: They would have had the same information because they would have been on the VTCs and they would have had the same sit reports. So they would have, or should have been, just as informed.

SEN. DAYTON: And then subsequently, you stated in your testimony previously that the secretary, quote, unquote, "tied your hands" by not allowing you to go back to Mississippi or New Orleans. When did that occur, and how were you prevented from --

MR. BROWN: I want to say it was Wednesday, when I made a quick trip to Jackson, but I'm not certain of the particular day. And on the flight back, he reached me on the -- on MilAir and we had a discussion. And he was quite irate that I had been in Mississippi, and I was explicitly told to go to Baton Rouge and not leave Baton Rouge.

SEN. DAYTON: And why -- why did he -- what reason was given for that?

MR. BROWN: Apparently because cell phones were down and he had a hard time making contact sometimes. I don't know what the rationale was.

SEN. DAYTON: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledgement.) Okay. And similarly, you can't reconcile the fact that you informed the president's chief of staff Monday afternoon about the breach of the levee and the president then subsequently stated that he was not aware on Tuesday morning.

MR. BROWN: I don't know.

SEN. DAYTON: Okay. Yesterday in our hearing, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale stated that it was on Thursday, September 1st that FEMA made a request for DOD to accept the responsibility to provide, quote, "full logistic support," close quote, throughout the entire area affected by Hurricane Katrina. Again, according to published reports, you toured by helicopter the New Orleans area on Tuesday. Who was -- who would have provided that full logistic support, if not DOD, prior to that request? And then why was it 48 hours later before that request was made?

MR. BROWN: It would have been the Louisiana National Guard who would have done it, plus FEMA's teams, such as urban search-and-rescue teams or any other rapid needs assessment teams that we might have had on site would have been doing it. And that fits in pretty well. I'd not heard that comment from Paul McHale, but that fits in pretty well with my recollection that on the 30th, indeed there was a mission assignment, and my understanding is by the 30th I was requesting active duty military.

SEN. DAYTON: The 30th, which was two days prior to when he's testifying here that that request was received?

MR. BROWN: Right. And based on what I've seen so far, the timeline of these things, that wouldn't surprise me.

SEN. DAYTON: It wouldn't surprise you that it takes two days for your request from FEMA to reach DOD?

MR. BROWN: I guess.

SEN. DAYTON: Hmm. Well, I would suggest, Madame Chairman, that's something we should inquire -- I would ask -- my time is almost up here. For the record, I appreciate again both your appearances. If you could help us with -- you know, the critical thing here is we need to -- we need to look ahead. We need to understand, you know, why FEMA was unable to respond, and I just want to put into the record here this quote again today in the paper, just to clarify it. It says, "Everybody is waiting" -- this is as of today -- "for the FEMA maps like they were the Oracles at Delphi. The maps will tell residents and businesses where and how they can rebuild. Those maps will tell people whether or not they can get flood insurance, and if they can't get flood insurance, they may want to sell. But there may not be a market for the house, so the government may swoop in, raze the house and build a park. Preliminary FEMA maps are scheduled to come out in the spring, but final federal guidelines for rebuilding may not be released until August," et cetera. I mean, these -- not just in the immediate aftermath, but these alleged bureaucratic delays seem to be, you know, at the crux of why more progress has not been made in clearing away and rebuilding New Orleans. And to the extent that there's anything that we can do legislatively, whatever, that empowers FEMA to be more efficient in its response, I would appreciate it if you'd direct us to that in writing. Thank you, Madame Chairman.

SEN. COLLINS: Thank you. I want to thank the two witnesses for their testimony. We will have additional questions for the record. We appreciate your voluntarily being here today. And I'd now like to call the second panel to come forward.

MR. RHODE: Thank you very much. (End of Panel I.)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/environmental_law/2006/02/senate_hearing_.html

Climate Change, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Legislation, US, Water Resources | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bfae553ef00d83526aa0d53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Just Morbid Curiousity: Senate Hearing on Government's Response to Hurricane Katrina:

Comments

Post a comment