The top US emergency aid chief has resigned in the wake of criticism over the rescue effort that followed Hurricane Katrina.
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tendered his resignation, after President Bush's latest visit to New Orleans.
Mr Bush had already taken the crisis out of his hands, putting a US Coast Guard admiral in charge.
Was the Fema boss doing a good job? Was he right to resign? How well has Fema handled the situation?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Mr Brown's departure is welcome news. He was simply unqualified to do the job he was appointed to do. Having said that I do believe that he was not the reason that FEMA failed in its efforts to respond to the New Orleans disaster. That blame belongs to the Bush administration. In this case, Mr Brown is a scapegoat for George Bush's preoccupation with his war in Iraq.
George Dunn, Denver, CO USA
I couldn't care less what some Brits and Canadians think. They don't live here and have no say in who should or shouldn't run our government agencies. Mike Brown managed four hurricanes in Florida last year because the state and local governments knew what they were doing, unlike New Orleans and Louisiana officials. If you don't have competent local officials it's very hard to manage an emergency.
Jim, Juno Beach, Florida
Michael Brown is nothing but a scapegoat for the Mayor of New Orleans and President Bush, both who are more responsible for the state of New Orleans than any one or any thing else.
Tom, Chicago, IL USA
The lack of commitment and lack of concern over the massive destruction in the region is just another example of how isolated from reality this administration is. FEMA has been under funded and given a secondary position within Homeland Security. The Coast Guard and National Guard are the best first responders to an event like this.
Ron Newman, Columbia, MO USA
I think that given the dire nature of the hurricane emergency FEMA did a remarkable service along with all the other crisis teams. Maybe the head of Homeland Security should bear some responsibility here since Brown reported to him.
Noble B, Belmont, USA
It always takes days for the federal government to respond in force. When a hurrican ravages an area the size of Britain, who really is qualified to respond effectively and immediately in all areas of need? Especially when the place of greatest need seemed spared the worst of it until the levees broke a day or two later?
Nate, Wichita USA
This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. When the government fails in its duty, it is really the people that failed. It is easy to blame one person for failures of many, but like 9/11 many people had to do a poor job for this to happen. The local government corruption, the state government lack of response plan and the federal government not able to make sense of the mess they inherited. The people are making up for it now by volunteering and donating in record numbers. After the waters recede and dead are mourned, the people will look to its government at all levels and demand action. Or the people will elect new leadership to ensure their safety
Brian, Washington, DC USA
He's stepping down in hopes all the blame goes with him. Bush needs to take the heat on this. Remember the words of President Truman: "the buck stops here."
Adam, WV, USA
Fema has become highly politicized by the Bush administration. Its important role as a Federal emergency responder became compromised and has been tacitly decimated by the Bush administration's philosophy of less government by design: private individuals, businesses and charities should, in their view of government, do the job. This begs the question that Americans are asking: why then do we pay taxes? Is government a private club for special interests groups to run their pet agenda? Last I heard, government was of the people, for the people, and by the people.
Disaster management has to be taken seriously. "Not prepared enough" can never be an excuse. It is quite apparent that the Fema chief underestimated the magnitude of the disaster that befell the region. Above all, it's critical to provide as much relief as fast as possible to the people who have been affected. And if the Fema chief was sleeping at the wheel, it's only right to have someone more capable in charge.
Mahesh, Gaithersburg, USA
He has been thrown to the liberal attack dogs. Considering that New Orleans was a democrat controlled social welfare state for the past 60 years, this will reinforce the capitalist ideology over the socialist dragnet.
I do not recall any complaints about Michael Brown's efforts last year during the four major hurricane events in Florida. The only difference I can see between the situation in Florida last year and this catastrophe in New Orleans is the response of the local leadership.
Mike, Boston, MA
Can we please just get it straight that the local government could not possibly have been expected to build or strengthen the levees themselves? It was a huge project that local officials have been unable to secure funding for - from who? - from the Bush administration, of course. The southern states did what they could, the Bush administration did nothing.
Kelley Lubovich, Washington, DC
Fema are there for this sort of event and it appears they weren't prepared. Brown is in charge of Fema therefore he must accept responsibility, and the penalty, for any failings. However, amidst all the criticism, I wonder how many other countries would have been any better able to respond to what is effectively the destruction of a major city and the displacement of its entire population. Very few, or perhaps none, I suspect.
Kram Ertus, London, England
Fema is now doing what it was always designed to do. It was never intended to be a first responder; that task, by law, is allocated to local and state authorities. The public needs to be better informed and I think the lesson learned is many in the news media do not even know the laws in this country. I hope we can all learn from this.
One word: Scapegoat. It seems like a classic case of one man being forced to take the fall to protect incompetence further up the ranks.
Paul Hartley, Nottingham, UK
The failure was with the local and state government of Louisiana, not the federal government. Mr Brown is a side issue brought to the spotlight and swung in front of the masses to find yet another way to drag George W into the mud. The more people try to find and create ways to blame him for issues that he is not responsible for the more the divide will grow.
Ed, Houston, Texas, USA
Brown is one of the few officials that can be removed. The other guilty parties are elected and cannot be easily removed at this time.
Chris Hardin, Las Vegas, USA
Leave him and there is criticism, remove him and it is not being decisive - you can't win. My view - if there is clearly a problem and it will help the ongoing work - then it is right for him to be moved. This is not a time for sentiment as lives are at stake. Action is needed now and the new man looks clearly qualified for it. Tough on Brown, but he surely cannot be surprised. Will more follow? I hope so - there seems to be a need for a full clear out!
George, Chelmsford UK
Mr. Brown was not qualified to run FEMA. He should never have been appointed. We will never know how many lives could have been saved if George Bush had acted responsibly to select a qualified person to head the Emergency Management Agency, instead of selected on the basis of political cronyism.
Doug Edmunds, Salem, Oregon USA
Mr. Brown was woefully unqualified for his post and was rightfully sidelined. This country needs to rethink how it fills these types of politically appointed positions. Only people with extensive emergency management should be considered for the position of director of FEMA.
Richard Melville, Bronx, NY, USA
Too little too late. Mr. Brown should never have been appointed to this position as he clearly lacked the experience. This is another example of our bloated government staffed by political appointees and buddies of GWB. Mr. Bush has always declared he would be a uniter - not a divider. And that will happen when exactly?
D. Stewart, North Carolina, USA
A good start - but the process of eliminating the incompetents should continue. The local government does have some responsibility too. The levees, the corruption, the poverty have all been problems of New Orleans for over a hundred years. The slogan of New Orleans "let the good times roll" and its nickname Big Easy both indicate that this is not a city that prepared for disaster or thought much about the future.
The entire purpose of Fema's existence is for scenarios following a massive catastrophe such as Katrina. When the Bush administration folded FEMA into Homeland Security it was done so because of the recognition of the limitations of local and state infrastructures. FEMA failed spectacularly in this function. I make no excuses for the local and state authorities, but they clearly were overwhelmed. FEMA had all the power necessary to perform its job when a federal disaster was declared prior to the storm. One need only look at Fema's performance during Hurricane Charley in Florida. Crews and relief efforts were scrambled and ready before the storm even hit and moved into action when the storm was clear. FEMA and Brown did none of this prior to Katrina.
Larry, Houston, TX
Mr Brown is something of a scapegoat here. It's easier to remove him than it is to admit the total failure of city and state authorities to follow existing disaster plans. Thousands of public transit buses sat idle in the days before the storm, there was no effort made to help the disabled, elderly or poor flee the city. People were told to seek shelter in the Superdome, but no transport was provided. There is a great deal of blame to go around.
Scott McCue, Manchester, NH, USA
Of course it's political! In a Republican democracy, people look to their government for accountability when things go wrong. Accountability does mean blame and President Bush's poor approval ratings reflect that Americans agree. Mr Brown can go back to working with Arabian horses - although he was fired so they wouldn't take him back either.
Anon, Washington DC, US
In a democracy we get the government we deserve, incompetence, cronyism and all. The people of America chose low taxation and leaders who decry public expenditure. Why would you expect these zealots to choose excellent technocrat managers when many of them don't believe in government for the public good and basic science?
John YW, La Jolla, USA
By all means sideline Michael Brown, as long as George Bush is also sent packing for deciding that giving tax cuts to the super rich was more important than investing in infrastructure. And now Bush himself is going to head the inquiry to find out what went wrong.
Stuart, Vancouver, Canada
Brown should be sacked and so should his boss at Homeland Security. He may not be the big problem but he should never have had the job. Why didn't Bush take time from his vacation, make some calls, ask about preparations -offer assistance before Katrina struck - do a little of that "leadership thing"?
Dorothy, Makawao, Hawaii, US
If anything he's to be blamed for letting the roof-dwellers lie starving for a couple of days. Helicopters could have been used to feed them. However, the local and state officials of New Orleans and Louisiana are clearly to be blamed. The ill-preparedness had to do with a city and state that never took any measures to ensure their people's livelihoods. It is not a secret that New Orleans is below sea level and it lies in hurricanes paths. Why haven't they ever studied how to deal with a catastrophe like this? Shocking.
Henock Assefa, Atlanta, GA, US
I wouldn't even call this a significant first step. The man should be fired immediately. He simply does not have the proper experience, period.
Mark Bonney, Seattle, USA
Removing Brown is just step of what is needed to turn Fema into an effective organization again. There are still many other top officials in Fema who have their position due to political favours rather than experience and aptitude.
Mr Brown should be sacked for incompetence. Mr Bush should be held responsible for negligent hiring and for handing out jobs like lollipops to incompetent college and campaign chums and for taking what would be at least five years' worth of vacation time for most Americans during a war, and during the hurricane crisis. On second thought, give the man a permanent vacation.
KC McCole, Pittsburgh USA
President Truman had a sign on his desk saying "The buck stops here". Apparently the current president would rather it stop elsewhere.
Richard, Cincinnati, USA
I am shocked and dismayed at such mismanagement. Unfortunately, Mr Brown is not the only official responsible, but he is definitely the sacrificial lamb.
Shekera, Brooklyn, USA
It's absolutely wrong to remove Mr Brown. The ones to be removed are Mayor Nagin, Gov Blanco and Landrieu. Their local incompetence has caused the disaster to exponentially expand because they have not been doing their job. And now they expect the federal government to fix everything and the rest of the country pays and pays. Keep Mr Brown!
Living near New Orleans all my life, and having visited several times and known long-term and life-time residents of the city, I was certainly aware of ongoing issues with the levy system and the sinking of the city prior to this storm. Additionally, I've had ample opportunity to observe the outcome of local and Fema efforts following hurricanes. The response for Katrina was completely inept. There should be scapegoats and Brown is as good a person to start with as any. I for one, have supported President Bush in many areas of his administration, but his initial interviews following this disaster showed, whether intentionally or not, a frightening disconnect with what was actually occurring and what was being mismanaged during his various media photo ops.
Lynn, Birmingham USA
Mr Brown should be fired. Had he been out there "in the trenches" he would have known the real situation in New Orleans early that week. The director of FEMA needs to be on site and willing to get his hands dirty. He's simply not qualified for the job.
Henry Roth, Wallingford, CT
He must be fired not only removed.
Ana Maraceto, Santo Domingo, DR
Had to be done if even just to temporarily shield the White House while they try to recover from their total lack of performance on this. Time people focused on the fact that FEMA has been strip-mined for talent and budget for the last five years, that is why they cannot perform and that is a Bush/Cheney direct action. FEMA is not voter sexy when there is no disaster, thus they killed it now they are still trying to blame it. Politics as usual in DC; glory in - blame out.
David, Washington DC
It is about time that the administration held somebody accountable for something. They didn't fire him outright, but it is a start. I would not still have my job after having botched it so badly.
Will, Seattle, USA
Mr Brown was in no way qualified to be employed at FEMA let alone the director. A good question is who in the White House said he was. More Bush cronyism. In the light of democracy and open government this is the most frightening government administration in our history.
Bert Sulcer, Arlington, VA USA
While FEMA isn't solely to blame for the situation, Mr Brown was in a position to make a difference. He proved unwilling or simply incapable of doing so. FEMA, having conducted a study concluding a hurricane strike at New Orleans would be comparable to a terrorist act in New York, knew better than most governmental agencies the consequences of a category 4/5 hurricane bearing down on Louisiana.
Brian, NC, USA
Removing Brown from his position is more symbolic than anything. He appeared to be very incompetent and removing will renew the faith in FEMA and give more credibility to the relief efforts from here on out.
Scott E, San Diego, CA
Brown should have never have been hired in the first place. As it is, he should be summarily fired with prejudice.
Don Wilcox, Winter Springs, FL USA
It was good that they have sidelined Mr Brown. Everyone has made mistakes on every level: local, state and federal. But for those who put all of the blame on the New Orleans Mayor and State Governor, instead of Bush, why don't you also criticize the Republican governor of Mississippi for all the lack of preparation as well?
Cynthia, New York, USA
I agree with the removal of Brown from running the relief effort. But, unfortunately, he isn't the only one to blame. This was a total failure of government. From the local, state, and federal levels. And both parties are to blame as well. This catastrophe had been predicted with hard science for at least 30 years; if not more. But that's how America is. Why be proactive when reactive cost twice as much. I just pray for the day when our leaders grow a backbone.
Jamie Mott, Tulsa, OK USA
I trust Secretary Chertoff and President Bush on this decision. It makes sense in order to stem the criticism of the federal government. However, much of that criticism is simply repellent. Chertoff seems to have gotten it when he located problems in the early response phase to 'cascading failures' at city and state levels.
Brooks Prouty, New Haven, CT
One can't help suspecting that Brown has been nominated as the fall-guy to deflect attention away from more senior figures in the Bush administration. It is almost impossible to say at this stage whether Brown was incompetent or whether Fema was prevented from responding effectively to the disaster by federal, state and local bureaucracy.
Andrew B, Vancouver, Canada
While we might criticize how the city and state governments handled the evacuation before the city flooded, it's obvious they could not have handled it after the waters rose above hip level. Only the federal government with its superior resources is equipped to handle the logistics of such a huge catastrophe. Mr. Brown's response was inadequate and slow, but we would be foolish to lay the blame on him alone.
Stacey Capps, New York, NY, US
I think the Fema boss is doing a good job. I think Fema has handled the situation well. It was the mayor of New Orleans who didn't use school buses and ship out thousands of citizens.
Wayne Sanford, Georgia, U.S.A.
My father was a life long member of the American Red Cross disaster relief team. For many years, he served as the liaison between the Red Cross and Fema for the New England region. As events have unfolded over the last few weeks, I can only say it's a good thing my father did not live to see this totally botched operation. My only concern is that the head of Fema will be used as a scapegoat to shield others.
William Connors, Wisconsin, USA
Heads had to roll, for the sake of appearances if nothing else. Whether he was truly to blame for the government's poor response will not be known for some time.
Brian, Kansas City, USA
I think Washington did what it had to do in order to take some of the pressure off. Clearly all levels of government dropped the ball on this one. It's terrible to see one of the richest nations in the world treat their poor in such a manner. It's a sad state of affairs, my heart goes out to all the victims of these tragic events.
No, it wasn't right to sideline him. He needs to be sacked, not sidelined.
Josh, Hamden CT
In the UK, there used to be the concept of ministerial accountability. When things went disastrously wrong, the head at the top usually rolled. This is a start, though there are other heads equally, or more, guilty of incompetence than Brown. What about the persons responsible for the levees, for example?
Ed, Rome, Italy
Of course it was right to remove him, because he certainly has appeared incompetent. However, there are many who share blame for the problems in the initial phase of the crisis, particularly the governor of LA and the mayor of New Orleans.
John C, New York, USA
The buck does not, obviously, stop with this President. I'm sure that the way the US political system is set-up is the biggest cause of the failings (devolving so much power to state level causes problems with situations on this scale), and that Mr Brown's hands were tied by this system.
Karl Johnson, Norfolk, UK
Ninety nine years ago the government in Washington responded to the San Francisco earthquake with massive (for the time) help in less than 24 hours. It would have been nice to have assumed that there had been a century of progress in taking responsibility and acting efficiently. Our government's performance in this crisis has been shameful. Sidelining Brown is the correct move for the moment.
Richard Van Berg, Springfield, Pa USA
Finally, our voices have been heard. America has spoken and we have finally shaken up the Bush administration. He may not be fired but the demotion is a start of things to come. Since we are under an administration that takes no responsibility for their actions, we have to take our victories where we can get them. America, I'm proud of you.
Shelly Branch, USA
It's hard to know the facts in such a short time, but recent revelations about his CV are worrying. That said, Michael Brown was tried and convicted by the media, aided perhaps by his own woeful efforts.
I don't' think that he is solely to blame, the shortcomings of the rescue effort after Katrina are a result of an entire system that is faulty. It is geared toward corporations, the wealthy and self-serving politicians, rarely the people. Most people in this country have a lot of integrity which can be seen by how many have opened their hearts, wallets and homes to help out. It's the government that needs to change in favour of us.
Erica Johnson, NJ, USA
He was doing a good job. The problem we have is the main stream media and the Democrats are determined to destroy President Bush. It is all politics.
Thomas Sheppard, West Bend WI USA
This disaster area is greater then the size of Britain and is the largest in US history. I agree the response was slow, but I don't think anyone expected such damage over such a wide area. I lay blame with those in Washington who refused to fix the levees year after year, now we must really pay in lives and money.
Timothy Beaulieu, Boston USA
Fema has done their job according to protocols, if somewhat slowly. Primary fault, however, still lies with the local and state governments who, ignoring their own emergency preparedness procedures, greatly exacerbated the results of such a wicked storm.
Stephen, Akron, Ohio, USA