Obama’s Pick For Ebola Czar Comes Under Fire

Dan Verton | FedScoop | October 17, 2014

When a major crisis occurs in government, presidents tend to appoint a high-profile expert with enough street credibility in management and innovation and enough force of personality to effectively quarterback a whole of government response. Notable examples include Bill Clinton’s appointment of Richard Clarke as the nation’s cybersecurity czar; George W. Bush’s appointment of Tom Ridge to help create the Department of Homeland Security; and Barack Obama’s reliance on Jeffrey Zients and Mikey Dickerson to lead the rescue effort for Healthcare.gov.

But Obama’s appointment Friday of Ebola czar Ron Klain, a career lawyer and political loyalist with limited federal project management skills and no experience managing a public health crisis, invokes images of the Bush-era response to Hurricane Katrina led by former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, another career lawyer whose only significant management experience up until Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast was as a commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association.

Almost immediately, Klain’s lack of experience came under intense scrutiny by several lawmakers, including the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and a t least one prominent homeland security expert.  Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, called on the president to rethink his choice of Klain, characterizing the appointment as political.  “While the president’s pick may have the ear of the White House and experience from the campaign trail, I am concerned he doesn’t have significant relationships in the medical community that are imperative during this current biological emergency,” McCaul said in a statement...