WASHINGTON – Craig Fugate, Florida’s top emergency manager, sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday with no sign of opposition to his nomination to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A vote to recommend his confirmation is expected as early as next week by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“This is a skilled and experienced professional,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., while introducing Fugate to the committee. Senators on the panel said they were encouraged by Fugate’s long experience with disasters and his backing in Florida.

Fugate spent 10 years as emergency manager in Alachua County before becoming chief of the Florida Bureau of Preparedness and Response in 1997. In 2001 he was appointed director of the state Division of Emergency Management.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, urged Fugate to keep a close watch on disaster aid to prevent wasteful spending. She noted that FEMA had sent widespread aid to Miami residents in 2004 in the wake of Hurricane Frances, even though Miami-Dade County was spared the worst of the storm.

Fugate promised to prepare FEMA to deal with a wide range of disasters, including potential “cyber attacks” on public utilities. He noted that hurricane season begins in just 40 days.

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