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Critics question FEMA director's qualifications

Michael Brown's biggest job before becoming director of  FEMA was supervising judges at Arabian horse shows. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.
/ Source: NBC News

Michael Brown's biggest job before landing at FEMA was supervising judges at Arabian horse shows.

The embattled FEMA director does not mention in his official online biography that he was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association for nine years. Association officials tell NBC News that Brown resigned under pressure from that job, before joining FEMA.

"People wondered how he got to FEMA as we all did, and certainly what he did with the Arabian Horse Association was nothing what he does with FEMA," Arabian Horse Association Regional Director Chuck Mangan.

Brown was brought into FEMA by his college roommate, Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's first campaign manager and FEMA director. At the time, Brown's only prior experience in emergency services was in a suburb of Oklahoma City in the mid-1970s. He became FEMA director when Allbaugh left in 2003.

A former FEMA manager questions Brown’s qualifications.

"Director Brown’s lack of experience may have played a role in some of the difficulties in executing decisions," former FEMA official John Copenhaver said.

Critics also say Brown doesn’t seem on top of the situation.

"I don’t want to alarm anyone that New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That isn’t happening," he said.

The day following television reports of thousands stranded at the Convention Center, Brown said "the federal government just learned about those people today."

However, on Sept. 2, the president expressed confidence in Brown.

"Brownie, you’re doin’ a heck of a job," he told him during a tour of the disaster region.

Homeland Security officials defend Brown, saying he was a senior FEMA manager during 9/11 and is now working "day and night" to save lives, in the largest relief effort in American history.