By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Midwestern states are already experiencing widespread spring thunderstorms and tornadoes. The snow that created this winter’s outstanding ski conditions in Utah, Colorado and California will soon begin to melt. The ensuing floods will endanger residents, homes, crops and livestock.
The nation’s first responder, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will work as usual to ameliorate the destructive effects of these weather phenomena.
But FEMA is working without an agency head and a deputy administrator. Two of FEMA’s top three executives are in acting positions. The new Chief of Staff, Eric Heighberger, has been in his position since the beginning of March.
President Trump has not yet announced his choice to replace William Craig Fugate as FEMA Administrator. Fugate led the agency from May 2009 to January 2017, during the Obama administration.
Any announcement on Fugate’s successor and his deputy will likely come after Trump administration consultations with DHS Secretary John Kelly. Neither vacant position requires Senate confirmation, so the transitions will be quick.
Robert Fenton Currently Serving as Acting Administrator
In the meantime, Robert J. Fenton, Jr., serves as FEMA’s top executive. His current title is Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Administrator. Fenton was appointed Regional Administrator for FEMA Region IX in July 2015, according to his biography on FEMA.gov.
Region IX includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and more than 150 sovereign tribal entities. This region consists of more than 47 million people and covers 399,000 square miles.
Previously, Fenton served as the Deputy Associate Administrator in the Office of Response and Recovery, where he was responsible for coordinating federal assistance to states during major disasters. He coordinated and integrated federal interagency all-hazards disaster planning and response operations, managed emergency response teams, and oversaw disaster emergency communications programs.
Since joining FEMA in 1996, Fenton has been involved in numerous large-scale response and recovery operations. He has responded to more than 50 federal disasters, including 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the four Florida hurricanes of 2004, the Southern California wildfires of 2003 and 2007, the 2002 Super Typhoon Pongsona in Guam, and the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001.
David Grant Now Acting Deputy Administrator
Fenton’s acting deputy is Associate Administrator for Mission Support David Grant. He holds the title of Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Administrator.
Grant previously served as FEMA’s Chief Procurement Officer. Before that, Grant was Chief, Agency-Wide Shared Services (AWSS) for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). At the IRS, he oversaw a staff of approximately 3,000 employees and managed a budget exceeding $3 billion in support of more than 100,000 IRS employees.
Grant also worked as a contracting officer for the Department of the Army with the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM).
Eric Heighberger Serving as FEMA’s New Chief of Staff
Heighberger officially assumed his duties on March 3, 2017. He previously served as Advisor to the Administrator and Deputy Administrator, Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. Earlier in his career, he was a Senate staff member.
About the Author
David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. David’s 2015 book, “The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation’s Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever,” has just been published in paperback by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.