According to the Department of Homeland Security, as coordinator, Powell will serve as the administration’s primary contact with Congress, state and local governments, the private sector and community leaders on mid- and long-term recovery plans. He reportedly will report to President Bush through Chertoff.
Powell also will help direct the spending of federal aid money. Congress has appropriated around $62 billion in aid, $40 billion of which has not yet been spent.
“I am gratified that Don will be coordinating the federal government’s long-term effort to helping rebuild the devastated communities in the Gulf Coast region,” said Chertoff. “Don has the leadership, ideas and optimism that the residents of the Gulf Coast region deserve.”
DHS said Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen will continue to coordinate immediate and short-term operational issues in the region but will transition out of his role in the field by the end of the year.
Some lawmakers and officials from the region had requested that President Bush appoint one person to oversee the federal response.
“I’m really pleased that the president has named a single, focused federal coordinator for the hurricane recovery effort,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
But Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House’s Homeland Security Committee, criticized the administration for what he said was its inept earlier relief efforts and said the Powell appointment would only add “another layer of bureaucracy.”
As FDIC chairman, Powell traveled to the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of the hurricanes in order to assess the damage to banks and other financial institutions and systems.
A native of Texas, Powell served as the president and CEO of The First National Bank of Amarillo before being appointed to head the FDIC in 2001. Powell also has served in various community and public service positions, including chairman of the Board of Regents of Texas A&M University, chairman of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, member of the City of Amarillo Housing Board and member of the boards of High Plains Baptist Hospital and the Harrington Regional Medical Center.
Powell is a longtime friend and political supporter of President Bush.