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Retired Navy captain takes helm of embattled HI-EMA

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The state has appointed Thomas Travis, a retired U.S. Navy captain, as administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, with today marking his first official day in the position.

The beleaguered Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has hired a new administrator, as state officials try to restore public confidence in the agency responsible for the Jan. 13 false missile alert.

Retired U.S. Navy Captain Thomas Travis was selected from 10 applicants, who were winnowed down to four by HI-EMA’s human resources department, HI-EMA spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Anthony said today. State Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Joe Logan selected Travis, who received Gov. David Ige’s approval earlier this week, Anthony said. Today is Travis’ first day on the job.

Travis, who has ties to Hawaii, is a former national security analyst and the contributing author and senior editor of studies on Operation Iraqi Freedom and the U.S. government response to Hurricane Katrina.

Maj. Gen. Arthur J. Logan, director of emergency management, said in a statement that Travis is a strategic thinker and has been a strong leader throughout his career, both military and civilian.

“I am pleased and honored to accept the position of administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency,” said Travis in a news release, “and grateful to Maj. Gen. Logan and Gov. Ige for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to guiding the agency in building our capacity to respond to disasters and enhancing public trust. I also want to acknowledge the hard work of those who came before me in fostering an agency with great people and strong potential.”

Travis replaces Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi, director of joint staff of the Hawaii National Guard, who was appointed interim administrator of HI-EMA, after Maj. Gen. Vern Miyagi’s resignation from the position was announced on Jan. 30. Miyagi and HI-EMA’s executive officer Toby Clairmont, who resigned Jan. 26, left the agency as part of the fall-out following investigations into what caused the agency to transmit a false alert and why they left some Hawaii residents believing that a nuclear ballistic missile threat was imminent for 38 minutes.

The incident, which became an international news story, has been the subject of a Federal Communications Commission investigation, a Federal Emergency Management Agency review, and a state inquiry and action plan.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Travis most recently resided in Tucson, Ariz., but lived in Kapoho, Hawaii, from 2011 to 2016. He also served on various submarines at Pearl Harbor from 1977 to 1991. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, Travis worked as an assistant director at the Joint Advanced Warfighting Program, Institute for Defense Analyses and most recently as the studies director, Joint Center for Operational Analysis, U.S. Joint Staff.

The administrator job vacancy announcement, which was open from Feb. 1-16, advertised a salary of $10,689 a month, or $128,268 annually, for the at-will, non-civil service position. Advertised duties include:

>> Coordinating the activities of all organizations for civil defense within the state and to cooperate with other civil defense agencies;

>> Developing emergency plans and the capability to manage the total state resources;

>> Formulate and carry out a disaster relief program.

In addition to those tasks, the new administrator will be involved in filling other agency vacancies.

Anthony said 11 candidates have applied for the executive officer position left vacant by Clairmont’s resignation. A short-list of four candidates will soon be vetted by Travis. The pay range for the executive officer is about $80,000 annually, Anthony said.

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