The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Brad Gair is a marathon runner in both the literal and figurative sense. He has an uncommon determination and fortitude that allows him to overcome virtually any challenge, whether it’s actually running 26.2 miles, rebuilding Midwest communities devastated by tornadoes or leading the federal recovery efforts in New York City after the September 11 attacks.
During his tenure at FEMA, Gair has consistently distinguished himself, but nowhere more so than through his work after 9/11. Gair led FEMA’s long-term recovery work in New York, which meant that he was in charge of delivering $8.8 billion in aid and coordinating the efforts of all other federal agencies. Gair delivered results ahead of schedule and under budget. It was originally estimated that removing the debris generated by the collapse of the towers would take two years and cost $7 billion. With Gair’s help and oversight, the job took six months and cost $1.7 billion.
Facilitating the most expensive recovery effort in FEMA history would be enough of a challenge for most, but Gair felt that he could be doing more to serve his country and he did. Even while still heading the World Trade Center recovery efforts, a full-time job for anyone, Gair volunteered to assist communities in Missouri that had been hit by tornados. For three months he split time between Missouri and New York, leaving the day-to-day work in New York in the hands of the staff that he developed. The recovery plan Gair developed and executed in Missouri is now being used in other areas devastated by natural disasters.
Gair’s expertise not only carried him to the Midwest but to the Middle East. As his job in New York neared completion, he was asked to assist the Defense Department in rebuilding Iraq. While there, he helped shut down the troubled United Nations’ Oil for Food Program and transfer its operations and responsibilities to the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Emergency responders have to spend weeks, months, and sometimes years to rebuild what disasters destroy in seconds. Gair is currently overseeing tornado and flooding recovery efforts in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. It takes a special person to constantly confront loss and remain hopeful and willing to persevere to make things right. Brad Gair has that optimism and determination, but the one trait that appears to best enable him to excel in his job is his utter belief in FEMA’s mission.
When he came to FEMA, Gair did not want a nice office. He actually moved all of the furniture out of his office because he felt working on a mission like FEMA’s shouldn’t be comfortable. Gair himself downplays his achievements, saying, “I was given an opportunity…I was honored to have the chance to serve our country.” Those are the words of a public servant in the truest sense, and it is our country that is honored by Brad Gair’s service.
This medalist was the recipient of the Homeland Security Medal. This medal was combined with the Justice and Law Enforcement category in 2013, and renamed the Safety, Security and International Affairs Medal in 2020.