James Lee Witt

James Lee Witt is a former White House cabinet member and director of FEMA. He currently serves as senior advisor to fortune 500 companies and government leaders around the world. He recently provided strategic counsel to the top European executives of a major multi-national corporation. He is recognized for his leadership and expertise in business continuity as well as crisis and emergency management.

He is held in high esteem by members of Congress on both sides of the isle, who often seek his guidance and counsel on major policy issues. He is known for his ability to plow through the haze and tension and bring people together to develop common sense solutions to the most complex issues.

He has advised many government leaders and chief executive officers for companies large and small around the world. When BP was sinking fast in a sea of discontent and distrust, the newly appointed CEO sought advice from James Lee above all other consultants working with the company during the crisis. He remained BP’s senior advisor as the public opinion slide began to turn.

James Lee is perhaps best known for the credit he received for turning FEMA from an unsuccessful bureaucratic agency to an internationally acclaimed all-hazards disaster management agency. His leadership abilities have been praised by such organizations as the Council for Excellence in Government, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the National Association of Broadcasters.

FEMA has developed a sterling reputation for delivering disaster-relief services, a far cry from its abysmal standing before James Lee Witt took its helm in 1993. How did Witt turn FEMA around so quickly? Well, he is the first director of the agency to have emergency-management experience. He stopped the staffing of the agency by political patronage. He removed layers of bureaucracy. Most important, he instilled in the agency a spirit of preparedness, of service to the customer, of willingness to listen to ideas of local and state officials to make the system work better.
— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As FEMA Director, Mr. Witt coordinated federal disaster response and recovery on behalf of the White House and oversaw more than 350 disasters, some of which were the most devastating disasters of all time. 

Following his service in government, James Lee authored a book titled Stronger in the Broken Places: Nine Lessons for Turning Crisis into Triumph.

James Lee previously served as Chairman of the Board of Witt O’Brien’s providing local governments, the international community, corporations, hospitals, universities, and other non-profit organizations with innovative disaster mitigation solutions.

James Lee is married with two children and three grandchildren. He divides his time between Little Rock, his hometown of Dardenelle, Arkansas and Washington, DC.