- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

President Bush has tapped Virginia’s veteran emergency manager to head the Department of Homeland Security’s new preparedness directorate — leading the $4 billion federal effort to prepare the nation for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

George Foresman, assistant for commonwealth preparedness to Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, will be the first undersecretary for preparedness.

“I am pleased by President Bush’s nomination,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, calling Mr. Foresman “a highly respected, veteran emergency-management professional with more than 20 years of emergency-preparedness experience.”

Mr. Foresman faces a daunting challenge. The new preparedness directorate was proposed by Mr. Chertoff in his July plan for restructuring the department and was approved by Congress — along with its $16 million administration and management budget — as part of the 2006 appropriation bill signed last week by Mr. Bush.

The directorate will bring together several elements of the department that fund, execute or coordinate measures to prepare communities for disasters of all kind — whether natural or man-made.

It will contain a new assistant secretary post for cybersecurity and telecommunications security, a position for which some in Congress and the private sector long advocated in order to improve the nation’s computer defenses.

Other elements being brought into the new directorate include the Office of State and Local Government and Preparedness, which dispenses the multibillion dollar federal homeland-security grant programs; the troubled infrastructure-protection operation, which works with the private sector to map and tackle vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical infrastructure; and the preparedness function of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“He’s a perfect match for the job,” Robert Newman, Mr. Foresman’s deputy, said yesterday, adding, “George has been in training for this job since he was a volunteer paramedic back in college in Lexington.”

Mr. Foresman, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, has worked “at every level” of preparedness, Mr. Newman said, “from right down in the trenches, through state-level emergency management and up to national-level policy debates.”

“He has, quite by accident, done the jobs of everyone he’ll be dealing with in this post,” Mr. Newman concluded.

Mr. Foresman’s national-level policy experience comes from his role on the federal Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction — better known as the Gilmore Commission. He was running the Virginia state emergency-operations center in 1998, when Gov. James S. Gilmore III tapped him to be vice chairman of the commission.

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