FEMA Deputy During Katrina Now at NASA

The Associated Press
Friday, January 12, 2007; 5:40 PM

WASHINGTON -- The second-in-command for the Federal Emergency Management Agency during its much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina started a senior job at NASA this week.

Patrick Rhode, who was chief of staff and deputy director of FEMA under Michael Brown, was hired as a senior adviser to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on communications issues, NASA spokesman David Mould said.

The hiring of Rhode, a former television reporter who was an advance man for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, was made by the White House and Griffin together, Mould said.

Rhode's name emerged in an embarrassing e-mail exchange between him and Brown just hours after Katrina struck New Orleans. When asked if he was available for a phone call, Brown said he was "sitting in the chair, putting mousse in my hair," and Rhode chimed in, "Me too!" The communication occurred early on the morning of on Aug. 29, 2005.

Disaster management professionals faulted the way the two men ran FEMA during Katrina and wondered how that qualified Rhode for NASA.

Rhode, whose appointment was first reported on the Web site NASA Watch, could not be reached for comment by phone or e-mail.

Mould said Rhode is qualified for the NASA job, commenting, "he's done a lot of things." He said Rhode had been associate administrator of the Small Business Administration and communications director for technology administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

© 2007 The Associated Press