Watchdog group questions FEMA appointment of contractor

A government watchdog group is raising concerns about a possible conflict of interest related to the appointment of a former contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to serve as FEMA’s chief of staff.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano named Jason R. McNamara as FEMA’s chief of staff March 4. He previously served as associate vice president and director of emergency management and homeland security at Dewberry LLC since 2005. The planning, engineering and management firm is based in Fairfax, Va.

According to the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Dewberry has received over $1.3 billion in Homeland Security Department contracts since 2000, many related to Hurricane Katrina recovery. For example, in August 2006 Dewberry announced it was participating in a joint venture to provide temporary housing services to disaster victims. The venture won a FEMA contract worth up to $250 million over two years.

POGO is concerned that McNamara's primary duties at FEMA are likely to affect current and future Dewberry contracts with FEMA, and the group claims that apparent conflicts of interest may hinder McNamara’s ability to serve effectively.

"Certainly Mr. McNamara appears qualified and Dewberry seems to have a clean record, but the potential conflicts that exist with Dewberry and its many affiliates are genuine," POGO General Counsel Scott Amey said in a statement today. “Is it wise to have a key senior manager who is conflicted from acting on major disaster decisions because of his prior contractor role?”

A FEMA official referred calls to the White House today on behalf of McNamara and FEMA.

At Dewberry, McNamara worked in the Emergency Management, Disaster and Mitigation Services Group with a focus on emergency management and homeland security preparedness, planning, interagency and intergovernmental relations, and congressional relations, according to a DHS news release dated March 4.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Reader Comments

Sat, Apr 4, 2009

When will people realize that very often the 'experts' on a given agency and it's mission are the contractors providing support to that agency. There is a revolving door between civil service and the contracting world of industry that works both ways and feed capability and experience to both.

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