I watched the former DHS-IG on the Lehrer Newshour last night talking about New Orleans, and was impressed with the content of his comments as well as his manner. Ervin deftly inserted the needle in Bush administration positions (his style reminded me a little of Robin McNeil). Here's what Ervin told Margaret Warner last night, about FEMA chief Michael Brown:
I question whether it makes sense to put Brown back in Washington to be in charge of overall FEMA efforts since obviously this kind of thing can and likely will happen again. I think the larger issue is whether there's leadership at the top of FEMA that has the competence that's necessary to do the planning and preparedness that is necessary to make sure this kind of response doesn't happen again.
Ervin was so impressive--Who is this guy? I thought--that I googled him.Here's another quote:
CLARK KENT ERVIN: Well, it seems to me at the Department level as a whole there has been a lack of attention to detail, a lack of focus on management. And I think we're seeing the consequences of that. It seems to me absolutely inexcusable that, frankly, both the secretary as well as the FEMA director said it wasn't until Thursday that they learned there were thousands of people stranded without food and water when all you had to do was turn on the television set to see that. So it seems to me a lack of attention to detail. And it is just inexcusable. It is inexplicable. I don't have an explanation for it. I don't know that there is one.Turns out that until he was canned, Ervin had been a loyal Bushie, from Texas. He was apparently purged, best as we can figure out, because he was competent and good at his job (which made some Bush cronies look bad). Here's the USATODAY story on his departure from government service. Title: "Ex-official tells of Homeland Security Failures."
While in office, Ervin made some scathing findings. He reported that:
• Undercover investigators were able to sneak explosives and weapons past security screeners at 15 airports during tests in 2003.
• Federal air marshals, hired to provide a last line of defense against terrorists on airlines, slept on the job, tested positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty, lost their weapons and falsified information in 2002.
• Department leaders should have taken a more aggressive role in efforts to combine the government's myriad terrorist watch lists since the department was created in 2003.
• The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave executive bonuses of $16,477 to 88 of its 116 senior managers in 2003, an amount one-third higher than the bonuses given to executives at any other federal agency.
• The TSA spent nearly $500,000 on an awards banquet for employees in November 2003. The cost included $1,500 for three cheese displays and $3.75 for each soft drink.
The department complained that many of Ervin's reports were based on outdated information. After the report on air marshals, border and transportation chief Asa Hutchinson said the problems had long since been fixed.
Ervin, a Harvard-trained lawyer who worked for Bush when he was governor of Texas and for Bush's father in the White House before that, couldn't explain why he didn't get the nod to continue his work. It "will be an enduring mystery to me," he said.
Ervin currenlty heads the Homeland Security program at the Aspen Institute.