Former director of U.S. emergency agency speaks in his support

The former director of the U.S. emergency management agency, Michael Brown aggressively defended his role in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday and put much of the blame for coordination failures on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together," he told a congressional panel. "I just couldn't pull that off."

Brown, who for many became a symbol of U.S. government failures in the natural disaster that killed more than 1,000 people, rejected accusations that he was too inexperienced for the job, according to the AP.

"I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," Brown was quoted as saying by the AP.

Brown testified before a special congressional committee set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the government's handling of one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the Gulf Coast.

Democrats, who want an independent investigation not under the control of majority Republicans, largely boycotted the hearing.

"At the end of the day, I suspect that we'll find that government at all levels failed the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and the Gulf Coast," said committee Chairman Tom Davis, a Republican.

Brown resigned as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency this month after being removed by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff from responsibility in the stricken areas.

"The people of FEMA are being tired of being beat up, and they don't deserve it," Brown said.

In part of his testimony, Brown pumped his hand up and down for emphasis.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," he said. The storm plowed into the United States' Gulf Coast on Monday morning.


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