Allbaugh leaving FEMA in March

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Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has announced he will leave FEMA March 1 -- after helping the agency make its transition to the new Homeland Security Department.

A FEMA news release Dec. 14 said that Allbaugh plans to pursue opportunities in the private sector. The Associated Press further noted that Allbaugh likely would become a key adviser in President Bush's re-election effort. He served as Bush's national campaign manager in 2000, and was chief of staff for then-Gov. Bush in Texas from 1995 to 2000.

"I have been a longtime advocate for the Department of Homeland Security and now that it is a reality and the president has a great team in place, I feel I can move on to my next challenge," Allbaugh said in a news release Dec. 14.

Under his watch, FEMA has responded to 89 major disasters, including last year's terrorist attacks. The agency received praise for its Web site, with its around-the-clock updates, in the tragedy's aftermath.

Other information technology milestones include launching a pilot version of DisasterHelp.gov, a one-stop portal for emergency preparedness and response information.

Allbaugh has called communications a top priority. As part of the Bush administration's funding request, FEMA would allocate $7 million for grants to states -- with at least 75 percent going to local governments -- for secure systems with video, voice and data capabilities, but the money hasn't come yet.

Allbaugh manages the agency's $3 billion budget and 2,500-plus federal employees.

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