Jimmy Carter criticizes FEMA's role in Katrina relief

(Atlanta-AP) September 21, 2005 - Jimmy Carter, who as president created the Federal Emergency Management Agency, criticized the agency's response to Hurricane Katrina and what he called its diminished role under the Bush administration.

Monday night, Carter called FEMA's job "disgraceful" as he responded to a question at an annual discussion session he and wife, Rosalynn, hold every year at Atlanta's Carter Center.

In 1979, Carter was acting on a request from the National Governors Association when he merged several federal disaster organizations into one entity - FEMA.

Carter said he made three promises at the time: to always adequately fund the agency, to make sure its leaders were highly qualified and to ensure it would not become part of a larger agency.

Carter said all three of those promises were violated under the Bush administration.

Carter said that when President Bush made FEMA part of the new Department of Homeland Security in March 2003, it made the agency less efficient.

Carter also criticized Bush's appointment of former FEMA Director Michael Brown, whom he called a political appointee who only got the job "because he was the former director's roommate."

Brown was recalled from the Gulf Coast September 9 after FEMA was criticized for being slow and ineffective and his qualifications were questioned. He resigned three days later.

Carter said the nation should be dedicated to rebuilding flood-ravaged New Orleans, which he called one of his favorite cities and "a precious possession of our country." He also said federal, state and local officials share the blame for responding too slowly to the aftermath of the storm, saying all should have been better prepared.

Posted 10:46am by Bryce Mursch