Heads Yet to Roll at FEMA Press Office

(CBS/The Early Show)

By Michael Rey and Laura Strickler

On Saturday the Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff was pretty clear how he felt about the Potemkin press conference held last Tuesday at FEMA:

"I have made it unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not to ever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment."

To clarify, that disciplinary action has not yet taken place despite reports that Pat Philbin, the Director of External Affairs at FEMA, has suddenly accepted a job at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Both Philbin and Press Secretary Aaron Walker were among the key players at the press event. Far from a head-rolling, CBS News has learned that Philbin's departure was long-planned. Dan Shulman, the director of legislative affairs is stepping into the position at FEMA temporarily.

And as this post was being written, the Associated Press reported that Philbin's new boss over at ODNI, Director Mike McConnell has put a hold on the hire so that the office can review Philbin's record more closely.

It remains to be seen if Aaron Walker the agency's national spokesman who appeared on the podium at the press conference will be affected by Chertoff's Anglo-Saxon declaration.

But the fake press conference wasn't the only evidence of the priority that the political leadership of the agency places on PR in this post-Katrina world.

On Tuesday, the same day as the pretend presser, and as the California wild fires burned...FEMA employees tell CBS News that during the morning conference call to field staff, Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson, FEMA's number two, had a single directive for the troops: the FEMA logo must be displayed prominently on all agency vehicles and all field staff must be sure to wear their FEMA hats and FEMA shirts.
  • Michael Rey

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