Embattled federal emergency management chief Michael Brown has been relieved of his duties managing the massive hurricane relief effort along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff Friday in Baton Rouge said Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen will take charge of federal operations in the region. Admiral Allen has been overseeing the rescue and recovery efforts in the devastated city of New Orleans.

Mr. Chertoff said Mr. Brown will return to Washington to oversee the Federal Emergency Management Agency's operations nationwide.

A number of congressional leaders and Louisiana officials have fiercely criticized the federal government's initial response to the disaster and have called on President Bush to fire Mr. Brown.

Several Democratic Senators said recalling Mr. Brown to oversee the emergency management agency in Washington is a bad decision. They say his continued presence in the critical position endangers the success of recovery efforts.