Scope of the Position:

The Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Department of Homeland Security is tasked with ensuring that the nation is prepared in the event of a disaster, be it natural or man-made. The Administrator regularly initiates collaborative efforts with other organizations as well. The Administrator can report directly to the President in times of emergency and often presents solutions for the Administration to approve when a crisis occurs. As of FY 2016, FEMA has been allocated a discretionary budget of roughly $15.5 billion.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

As FEMA continues to act on its promise to be prepared in case of a crisis, there are some things that the Administrator will have to continue to address in the coming years. According to Homeland Security's Inspector General, FEMA needs to do more work when it comes to certifying the state of a given individual's insurance coverage when they are applying for disaster assistance funds. For example, FEMA paid out approximately $250 million in homeowners' assistance to more than 29,000 Hurricane Sandy applicants who may have had private insurance.1 Similarly, there is evidence that there are negligible oversights on some of its own insurance policies. The IG has found that "FEMA does not provide adequate oversight of the [Write Your Own] WYO program under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)."2 FEMA requires that sensitive information be handed over to them, so it would seem to make sense that it would be securely protected. Yet this too is an area that the IG has identified as severely lacking in some of FEMA's current disaster responses. During the 2015 California wildfire disaster, it was observed that FEMA personnel at disaster recovery centers did not properly safeguard personally identifiable information PII as federal guidelines require.3 Furthermore, it has been found that FEMA management and trainers lack an effective method to track employee compliance with privacy training or to promote privacy awareness at disaster sites.


      1FEMA Faces Challenges in Verifying Applicants' Insurance Policies for the Individuals and Households Program;; October, 6 2015.
      2FEMA Does Not Provide Adequate Oversight of Its National Flood Insurance Write Your Own Program;; March 8, 2016.
      3FEMA Continues to Experience Challenges in Protecting Personally Identifiably Information at Disaster Recovery Centers;; June 9, 2016.

Current Incumbent:

William Craig Fugate (2009-Present): Fugate served as the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) immediately prior to his appointment as Administrator of FEMA. In May 1997, Fugate became FDEM's Bureau Chief for Preparedness and Response and remained in that position until becoming FDEM's Director. He began his career as a firefighter, paramedic, and then a ranked officer with Florida's Alachua County Fire Rescue.

Previous Administrators:

Nancy Ward (2009): Prior to her appointment, Ward served as the FEMA regional director for Region IX, which serves Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and America Samoa. Before that, she served as the Division Director of FEMA's Response and Recovery Division in Region IX. Before joining FEMA, Ward was Chief of the Disaster Assistance Branch and Deputy State Coordinating Officer for the California Office of Emergency Services.

R. David Paulison (2005-2009): Paulison currently works as a Principal for Global Emergency Solutions. Beginning in 2001, he served as the Administrator of the United States Fire Administration. During this time, Paulison also served on the team that was responsible for the design of Department of Homeland Security. He began his career as a firefighter in Miami-Dade County of Florida and would stay in this position until becoming the Chief of the Department.

Michael D. Brown (2003-2005): Brown is currently a talk radio personality in the Denver area with the station 630 KHOW. Prior to his appointment as FEMA Director, Brown was appointed as Deputy Director after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and as General Counsel prior to that. Before joining FEMA, Brown was the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association. Brown's previous positions include CEO of InferX, CEO of Next of Kin Registry, and positions at Cold Creek Solutions.

Joe M. Allbaugh (2001-2003): Since leaving FEMA, Allbaugh has entered into the private sector to head environmentally-minded tech companies, including Green Energy Management Services Holdings, Ecosphere Technologies, and Emergent Biosolutions. He worked for the Bush Presidential campaign in 2000 and served on the board of advisors of Compressus before that. In 1995, Allbaugh began serving as the Chief of Staff for Texas Governor George Bush.

John Magaw (2001): Prior to his appointment as FEMA Director, Magaw held many prestigious positions in federal law enforcement, including Director of the United States Secret Service; Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and Under Secretary of Transportation Security. Magaw is a two-time recipient of the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive and a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive.

James L. Witt (1993-2001): Witt is currently part of the management team for the Global Options Group. After his appointment to FEMA ended Witt founded his own consulting business around the subject of emergency management. In 1988, he was appointed by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton to head the state's Office of Emergency Service. He served numerous terms as County Judge of Yell County, Arkansas. Witt began his career by founding a construction company in 1968, which he grew for 10 years.

Additional Resources: