Brian Kamoie, 41, will oversee a vast portfolio of federal grants used by states and cities to prevent and respond to terrorism and other disasters, the White House said. Kamoie was most recently senior director for preparedness policy on the White House national security staff.
Kamoie takes control of the FEMA grant program as the Obama administration pursues a controversial consolidation of $2 billion in preparedness funding it says will streamline a system that grew unwieldy following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Some local officials, including many in Maryland, are concerned that the overhaul will make less money available for homeland security.
In a statement, Kamoie said he looks forward "to working closely with our partners across the nation to enhance our preparedness."
The Pennsylvania native earned a bachelor's degree at Dickinson College and a law degree at George Washington University. He later taught public health law and homeland security at the school. He also taught health care law at the University of Baltimore law school from 1997 to 1998.
He is married to Laura Kamoie, a history professor at the Naval Academy and popular romance novelist who writes under the name Laura Kaye. They have two daughters.
Kamoie was a lead strategist in the Obama administration's response to the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill a year later and the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.
Before serving on the White House staff he worked at the Department of Health and Human Services as deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response.
Kamoie's appointment does not require Senate confirmation. He is expected to begin the new job in a few weeks.