FEMA director Brown resigns
President taps senior staff member as temporary replacement
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown resigned Monday after coming under fire over his qualifications and for what critics call a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina's destruction.
President Bush chose David Paulison, the director of FEMA's preparedness division, as interim director, the White House announced.
"As I told the president, it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA," Brown said in a news release.
"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this president and to work shoulder to shoulder with the hard working men and women of FEMA. They carry out an unusually difficult task under the harshest of circumstances. My respect for these dedicated professionals and this organization is unyielding.
"There is no other government agency that reaches people in a more direct way. It has been the best job in the world to help Americans in their darkest hours."
The resignation came three days after Brown was recalled to Washington by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and replaced as the point main for Katrina relief efforts.
Since Brown's reassignment, Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard's chief of staff, has been leading FEMA's mission along the Gulf Coast.
On Friday, a Time magazine article called into question whether Brown's resume was padded to overstate his experience in emergency management. A FEMA official quoted in the report said Brown believed the article was inaccurate. (Time article)
Chertoff said in a news release that Brown had done his job.
"Mike managed over 160 disasters during his tenure at FEMA, and his service in those disasters has been commended by many," Chertoff said. "He has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to the unprecedented challenge posed by Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans levee breach. He is a good man, and I personally appreciate his work and his commitment."
Chertoff said he expects to make other appointments to FEMA in coming days, "including a permanent deputy director to augment the resources available to assist with FEMA's vital mission."
Asked Monday about the resignation as he toured the devastated city of Gulfport, Mississippi, President Bush said he had not talked with Chertoff and could not comment.
Brown's fall came quickly. On September 2, five days after the storm hit, Bush told the 50-year-old lawyer, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." (Watch Brown's interview with CNN on September 2 -- 2:11)
Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts applauded the move. "I think it is clearly in the country's interest," he told CNN.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he was not surprised. Frist, a heart surgeon, visited the region soon after the hurricane hit and found the response wanting.
"Things didn't go as well as it should have," said the Tennessee Republican. But, Frist added, "Now, I am very pleased where we are."
Paulison, who is also administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration, was a former fire chief in Miami-Dade County in Florida.
According to the FEMA's Web site, one of Paulison's responsibilities is to conduct "a nationwide program of exercises."
CNN's John King and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this story.
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