Saturday, September 17, 2005

Military Assistance for Katrina Victims Delayed By Bush Adminstration

Knight Ridder provides more evidence that (while others might have also messed up) the major blame for the inadequate government resonse to Katrina clearly falls on the Bush administration including the Homeland Security secretary. Ultimately when there is such a major failing within the Executive Branch, the buck stops with the President who failed to respond adequately to the crisis.

Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, President Bush went on national television to announce a massive federal rescue and relief effort.

But orders to move didn’t reach key active military units for another three days.

Once they received them, it took just eight hours for 3,600 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., to be on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi with vital search-and-rescue helicopters. Another 2,500 soon followed from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

“If the 1st Cav and 82nd Airborne had gotten there on time, I think we would have saved some lives,” said Gen. Julius Becton Jr., who was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Reagan from 1985 to 1989. “We recognized we had to get people out, and they had helicopters to do that.”

Further in the story:

Several emergency response experts, however, questioned whether Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff understood how much authority they had to tap all the resources of the federal government - including those of the Department of Defense.

“To say I’ve suddenly discovered the military needs to be involved is like saying wheels should be round instead of square,” said Michael Greenberger, a law professor and the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security.

There are also further comments in the story as to how the Bush administration failed to use the authority it had, and needed to use, to send in the military for relief in accordance with the section on responding to catastrophic events of the National Response Plan. The story concludes with:

“They’re trying to say that greater federal authority would have made a difference,” said George Haddow, a former FEMA deputy chief of staff and the co-author of a textbook on emergency management. “The reality is that the feds are the ones that screwed up in the first place. It’s not about authority. It’s about leadership. … They’ve got all the authority already.”


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