A former Navy officer has been tapped to revamp the federal government's small-business disaster assistance program.

Retired Rear Admiral Steven G. Smith will lead the Small Business Administration's Executive Office of Disaster Strategic Planning and Operations, agency officials announced this week.

"Steve's broad background in small business and military planning and operations will allow him to build the progress we've made in the agency's disaster loan program and help drive additional initiatives forward,” Jovita Carranza, the agency's acting administrator, said in a statement.

The SBA was widely criticized for its slow response to Hurricane Katrina, with many local small-business owners saying they waited months for emergency loans.

Smith, who takes over the post next week with a visit to the Gulf Coast region, served in the U.S Navy for 34 years.