Local News

FEMA Short Of Hiring Goals, Chertoff Says At N.C. Meeting

Posted June 7, 2006 2:51 a.m. EDT

— The Federal Emergency Management Agency may not meet its hiring goals until the end of the year and still lacks a regional director for the disaster-prone Southeast, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.

"We are much better than we were," Chertoff said during a joint news conference with Gov. Mike Easley. "We're close to 90 percent. We're looking at getting to 90 to 95 percent by the end of the year."

WRAL Hurricane Coverage

FEMA officials said in April that they would have 95 percent of openings filled by mid-May. That date was later pushed to June 1 -- the beginning of the hurricane season.

The embattled agency, which was widely criticized after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Southeast last year, has taken steps to shore up some of its leadership positions. Chertoff called his new leadership team a "very spirited group of people with hands-on backgrounds."

But amid a tour of the vulnerable Southeast region, Chertoff said the agency is still working to confirm a regional director to oversee Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee.

"We're anticipating getting that up and running very soon," he said.

Florida and North Carolina rank as the most common victims of devastating hurricanes.

Chertoff, in Raleigh meeting with Gov. Mike Easley, also praised the state's hurricane preparation plans.

"What we've learned is preparation doesn't begin three days before a hurricane hits," Chertoff said. "It involves planning and preparation -- the kind of things that have been done in North Carolina -- that stands everybody on good stead when a storm actually hits."