WASHINGTON—Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Friday hailed the confirmation of four committee nominees by the Senate.  Kelvin Cochran, nominated as Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration; Anthony Garza, nominated as Assistant Secretary and Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Julia Akins Clark, nominated as General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority; and Ernest DuBester, nominated to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority were all approved by unanimous consent.

“Chief Cochran, Dr. Garza, Ms. Clark and Mr. DuBester are all outstanding public servants,” Lieberman said.  “Chief Cochran and Dr. Garza, in particular, must begin their work immediately so that DHS can continue its critical work of protecting the American people at home.  Chief Cochran’s leadership of city fire departments and his role in national fire organizations give him valuable perspective on the needs of firefighters. Dr. Garza is needed at this critical time, as the Department prepares for a resurgence of the H1N1 flu virus. I wish both of them the best of luck and look forward to working with them to ensure our continued safety and security.”

Collins applauded the confirmation of Cochran, noting an impressive career that ranged from a rank-and-file post in Shreveport, La., to chief of the department in Atlanta, Ga.  “He also has attained positions of national leadership in the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association and I am pleased to see his endorsement by the International Association of Fire Fighters,” she said.

In addition, Collins noted the importance of the Chief Medical Officer for the DHS, which was established in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, authored by Lieberman and Collins. 

“The CMO’s responsibilities are significant,” Collins said.  “They include ensuring the safety of first responders who operate in disaster areas; overseeing the development and deployment of new technology placed in large population areas to detect the release of a biological agent; coordinating with other federal departments and agencies on medical and public health matters such as the H1N1 pandemic; and taking action to ensure that we have plans in place to surge our nation’s medical resources in the event of a disaster.  In the coming months, the Chief Medical Officer will play a critical advisory role as the Secretary leads our nation’s efforts to deal with the H1N1 outbreak.  Some experts fear that H1N1 could return in the fall and winter with higher rates of infection and increased severity.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid also filed for cloture on the nomination of Cass Sunstein to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget.  A vote is expected in September.