By Ken Silverstein, Times Staff Writer
October 1, 2005
Latimes.com : Politics
WASHINGTON — Less than a month after the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency stepped down amid accusations of cronyism and incompetence, the Bush administration is being assailed for nominating another political ally to head a key agency for responding to foreign disasters.
One leading international relief group is publicly opposing the appointment of Ellen Sauerbrey to the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, and others have expressed private concerns over her lack of experience in emergency response work.
Sauerbrey, a former member of the Republican National Committee who was Bush's Maryland state campaign chairwoman in 2000, is the U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
If confirmed by the Senate, which has not set a date for a hearing, Sauerbrey would head an agency with a $700-million annual budget that has responsibility for coordinating the U.S. government's response to refugee crises during natural disasters and wars.
The bureau coordinates with private and international organizations, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, to help set up refugee camps and to ensure sufficient food and other aid. It has helped confront refugee crises around the globe, including in war-torn Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in southern Asia after the December tsunami.
Although appointing political allies to government jobs is a tradition in Washington, the refugee bureau is a complex agency with a broad portfolio. Past administrations, Republican and Democratic, have generally turned to someone with technical expertise to head it.