Former FEMA Director to Discuss Lessons Learned from Natural Disasters

Posted: November 21, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

In the wake of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters, former FEMA director James Lee Witt will sit down with George Mason professor and veteran journalist Frank Sesno in a candid public discussion of the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities in crisis situations.

As the U.S. government continues to fend off criticism for what many believe to be a failed relief effort on local, state and national levels, Witt and Sesno will examine lessons learned in the aftermath of the hurricanes and whether the government is now better prepared in the event of another natural disaster and/or a terrorist attack.

“A Conversation with James Lee Witt: After the Storms, Repairing the Damage” will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the ballroom of The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. A panel discussion will follow Witt and Sesno’s exchange. The panel will include Dennis Barbour, mayor, Town of Carolina Beach, N.C.; J. Michael Hickey, vice president of government affairs for national security policy, Verizon; and Catherine A. Allen, CEO, BITS/Financial Services Roundtable.

The event is sponsored by the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program (CIP Program) at the George Mason University School of Law.

Witt headed FEMA during the Clinton administration and is currently president of James Lee Witt Associates LLC, which provides consulting on emergency and disaster preparedness to local and state governments. He was hired by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to oversee reconstruction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. For more information on Witt, click here.

The newsmaker event is the sixth in a series of critical conversations on the nation’s post-9/11 preparedness and how to better protect America’s critical infrastructures. Past CIP Program panels have examined issues concerning America’s vulnerability to a major cyber terrorist attack, the balancing act between the free-flow of commerce against ever-tightening security of U.S. ports, the role of government and industry in the nation’s homeland security and the state of America’s power industry and homeland security.

Sesno is university professor of public policy and communication and senior fellow in the CIP Program. He is also a special correspondent with CNN. He was the host of the WETA/George Mason University series of public affairs programs called “Sesno Reports,” which examined the national capital region’s and the nation’s most pressing issues.

The CIP Program is directed by John A. McCarthy, a faculty member in the School of Law. The CIP Program works in conjunction with James Madison University and seeks to fully integrate the disciplines of law, policy and technology to enhance the security of cyber-networks, physical systems and economic processes supporting the nation’s critical infrastructures. The CIP Program is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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