Washington, DC – Joe M. Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has announced his decision to leave government service on March 1, 2003. Until March, Allbaugh will continue to lead FEMA’s transition into the Department of Homeland Security, but will leave the Bush administration to explore other opportunities in the private sector.
“I have been a long time advocate for the Department of Homeland Security and now that it is a reality and the President has a great team in place, I feel I can move on to my next challenge,” Allbaugh said. “For the last two years, my family has been extraordinarily patient and supportive as I responded to numerous disasters across the country. Now I am going to take the opportunity to spend some time with my wife and children.”
Since joining FEMA in February 2001, Allbaugh has overseen the federal response to 89 major disasters, beginning with an earthquake registering 6.8 on the Richter scale that rocked Nisqually, Washington, in late February 2001, just two weeks after his swearing in. In June, FEMA responded to the tragic consequences of Tropical Storm Allison, which resulted in 41 lives lost and more than $5 billion in damages. Throughout his tenure, Allbaugh has helped people recover from disasters as far away as Guam and Micronesia, and has obligated approximately $7.2 billion dollars in disaster assistance.
Most visibly, Allbaugh was President Bush’s personal representative following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Allbaugh immediately made federal resources available to New York City and Arlington County, offering them trained incident commanders, Urban Search and Rescue Teams, and the resources of 26 federal agencies under the Federal Response Plan. In addition to federal resources, Allbaugh offered comfort to Americans immediately following the attacks, keeping them informed throughout the immediate response. His numerous interviews earned him high praise as he conveyed to the American public the work of President Bush, FEMA, the federal government, first responders and countless volunteers from across the nation.
In addition to responding to the terrorist attacks, Allbaugh has overseen efforts to help New York City recover. He ensured FEMA’s existing assistance programs could be innovatively applied to the unique circumstances of New York City’s disaster, which was characterized by contained physical damage but widespread economic loss and consequences. Allbaugh approved the largest crisis counseling grant in FEMA’s history, totaling $154 million. He has also approved approximately $330 million for individual disaster victims and $4.9 billion for the city and state of New York, to reimburse the costs of emergency services, transportation projects and debris removal, and to help rebuild the public infrastructure. To date, Allbaugh has approved $5.5 billion in federal aid in response to the terrorist attacks and anticipates distributing nearly $9 billion, making the terrorist attacks the most costly disaster in FEMA’s history.
This year, Allbaugh directed the preparations for and response to Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili, the first hurricane to strike the U.S. in three years. He has also managed the federal response to numerous wildfires, floods and the November tornadoes that struck several states across the South and Midwest.
“I have seen both horrific and amazing things throughout my tenure at FEMA. I have seen human suffering and widespread devastation, but what has made the strongest impression on me is how the American people rally together to help each other in times of need,” Allbaugh said. “The resilience and generosity of the American spirit is something that will stay with me always.”
In addition to the nation’s disaster relief efforts, Allbaugh manages the agency’s approximate annual operating budget of $3 billion and its approximate 2,500 federal employees and 4,500 temporary Stafford Act employees.
Prior to his service as FEMA Director, Allbaugh served as President Bush’s national campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000. Prior to that position, Allbaugh was then-Governor Bush’s chief of staff in Texas from 1995 to 2000. By the time of his departure in March 2003, Allbaugh will have worked with President Bush for nine years.
“This is the right decision for me at the right time. I am confident FEMA is ready to transition to the new department and that FEMA employees will be successful helping Governor Ridge protect and prepare the nation,” Allbaugh said. “I am deeply honored to serve President Bush and am grateful to both him and Mrs. Bush for the many opportunities I’ve had. Knowing they are well represented by members of the White House staff, Governor Ridge and the homeland security team they are putting together, gives me great confidence as I leave.”