While information about getting aid to New Orleans and having teams on site were passed along to the public, "we never explained to the people that it's not coming as fast as we want it to, that it's not enough, because of the number of people that were left behind in the aftermath of the storm," former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told CNN Thursday.
Not making that clear was a "fatal mistake," said Brown said of the George W. Bush administration's response that was widely criticized as woefully inadequate.
Speaking five years after the storm, Brown criticized former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff's handling of the situation, noting Chertoff attended an avian flu convention in the first few days of the disaster.
"Here is why that's so important. In the middle of any crisis," Brown said, "whether it's a natural disaster or man-made disaster, you need to have one person in charge. And that person needs to be on the ground with the team, understanding what's going on."
Brown also CNN he cringed when Bush uttered, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," because he knew "the media and everybody else would see a disconnect between what he was saying and what I was witnessing on the ground."
Brown led FEMA during the Bush administration and resigned in September 2005, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.
The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making Louisiana landfall is Sunday.
Brown, now a personality on KOA-AM in Denver, was in New Orleans this week to broadcast his radio show.
Jessica Simpson shares three-way kiss with friends in photo
Scarlett Johansson steps out with fiance after pregnancy reveal