By Rob Margetta and Daniel Fowler, CQ Staff

Apr 22, 2009

Fugate rose from being a volunteer firefighter and paramedic to running the Florida Division of Emergency Management, where he has coordinated recovery and response efforts in 23 state emergencies and overseen the dispersal of $4.5 billion in federal assistance, a White House release said. His tenure included hurricanes Charley and Ivan, as well as 2005’s Katrina, which prompted the state’s largest mutual-aid response in providing assistance to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Rich Cooper, a principal at the homeland security consulting firm Catalyst Partners, predicted smooth sailing for Fugate at the hearing.

“I think it’s going to be very collegial, very cooperative,” Cooper said. “And, again, I think it’s going to sort of reemphasize the confidence that people have in Craig.”

FEMA’s Status

Cooper said at least one hot-button question awaits Fugate, however: whether he thinks FEMA should remain within DHS.

“That question’s going to come right out of the box,” Cooper said, adding that he doesn’t expect a simple “yes” or “no” answer, especially because DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has not weighed in publicly on the issue. Obama also has not issued a firm opinion.

How, then, might Fugate answer?

“Craig may decide to punt the question and wait for the quadrennial review to be completed,” Cooper said, referring to DHS’s periodic examination of department programs that begins in 2009. “He may say, ‘You need to talk to my boss on that,’ and he may take a page from [Napolitano’s] playbook and say, ‘Right now this organization is part of the Department of Homeland Security, and as such it’s my job to make it run and make it run better.’ ”

The Senate panel will also probably ask the public-private relationships Fugate helped cultivate in Florida, Cooper said.

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