STATEMENT OF SENATOR CONRAD
NOMINATION OF MIKE ARMSTRONG
JUNE 4, 1997

It's really an honor to be here today to say a word about Michael Armstrong. Let me just say that as Region VIII Director for FEMA, we know consider Mike to be an honorary North Dakotan because he has been involved in six major Presidential disaster declarations in the State of North Dakota since 1993, two this year.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, we have experienced the most extraordinary weather pattern in our history -- first of all, the worst winter ever, 10 feet of snow, followed in the first week of April by the most powerful winter storm in 50 years that wiped out the electrical grid of 80,000 people -- they did not have power for an entire week -- followed by flooding on the Red River that was the 500 year flood that devastated a city of 50,000 -- 98 percent of the city of 50,000 was evacuated. Many of those people are not back in their homes yet, and in the midst of all that we had a fire break out in downtown Grand Forks that burned three blocks of downtown, most of the business district destroyed.

This is an extraordinary set of disasters, and I can say to you that Michael Armstrong has been superb. Not only has he dealt with those disasters but we also have another disaster in North Dakota -- we have Devil's Lake, one of only two major lakes in the United States that is a completely closed basin, no inlet and no outlet, and the lake has been rising dramatically. It has tripled in volume and doubled in size in just the last three years. You've never seen anything quite like this, and this is a huge lake, more than 20 miles long, and it is rising inexorably.

Michael has been in charge of the Federal task force to deal with this disaster, and he has done an absolutely outstanding job.

I think all of us know that James Lee Witt has really transformed FEMA. Many have said to me that the single best appointment that Bill Clinton made was James Lee Witt. One of the reasons James Lee Witt has been successful in changing that agency -- and I think all of us remember the days when after a disaster, if FEMA came, the joke was that that was the next disaster because, frankly, FEMA did not respond well. That has not been the case under James Lee Witt and one of the reasons is he surrounded himself with people of the quality of Mike Armstrong.

So I am very pleased to be here to recommend him to you, and to wish him the best.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.