WASHINGTON -- The new acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, R. David Paulison, pledged yesterday to intensify efforts to find more permanent housing for the tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors now in shelters.
''We're going to get those people out of the shelters, and we're going to move and get them the help they need," Paulison said in his first public comments since taking the job.
The Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, introduced Paulison as the Bush administration tried to deflect criticism for the initial federal response to the hurricane and its aftermath. President Bush plans to address the nation tomorrow evening from Louisiana, where he will observe recovery efforts, the White House said yesterday.
Chertoff said that while cleanup, relief, and reconstruction from Katrina is now the government's priority, the administration sought not to play down other dangers.
''The world is not going to stop moving because we are very focused on Katrina," Chertoff said.
Paulison, who was named to the post on Monday, said he was busy ''getting brought up to speed." He replaced Michael Brown, who resigned on Monday, three days after he was removed from being the official in charge of the federal response.
A Miami native who formerly was head of the US Fire Administration, part of FEMA, Paulison responded to Hurricane Andrew when it hit South Florida in 1992.
Chertoff said that the relief operation had entered a new phase.
Initially, he said, the priority was evacuating people, getting them to safety, and providing food, water, and medical care.
Chertoff said the federal government would now look increasingly to state and local officials for guidance on rebuilding the devastated communities along the Gulf Coast, and on looking for shelter.
''We're going to cut through red tape," he said, ''but we're not going to cut through laws and rules that govern ethics."