Sunday, February 19, 2006

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Update

As was pointed out ina previous blog, there was tremendous incompetence at the federal level during and after the whole Hurricane Katrina disaster. While the Bush administration has yet to accept the blame for anything, and President George Bush still can not think of a mistake he has made, the GAO has come out with some findings, that despite what Faux news has to say, shows that the blood of the Hurricane victims lies strictly on George Bush's hands(thank you to the Washington Post and William Branigan).....

GAO Faults Federal Government for Katrina Response By William Branigin The Washington Post
Wednesday 01 February 2006
DHS rejects report while New Orleans mayor backs claims.
Despite plenty of advance disaster warning and decade-old recommendations on preparedness, the federal government failed to exercise adequate leadership in response to Hurricane Katrina and was slow to determine the scope of the catastrophe, the Government Accountability Office reported today.
In a preliminary report submitted to a House committee investigating the hurricane response, Comptroller General David M. Walker pointed to a failure of federal leadership as Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast last year, with neither Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff nor any of his deputies stepping in to lead the relief effort.
The GAO chief indicated that national response planning for major disasters continues to be plagued by "weaknesses."
The Department of Homeland Security rejected the report as "premature and unprofessional" and complained that the findings were riddled with errors.
In the Senate, meanwhile, the mayor of New Orleans appeared to back the main thrust of the GAO report, testifying at a committee hearing that he had been frustrated by the lack of a "clear chain of command" for relief and recovery efforts.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, submitted its report to the House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, chaired by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). The committee plans to include the GAO conclusions in a report scheduled to be released Feb. 15.
Walker's nine-page statement of "preliminary observations" noted that "several federal, state and local agencies were clearly overwhelmed in response to Hurricane Katrina," resulting in "widespread dissatisfaction with the level of preparedness." But he said many of the lessons emerging from the disaster were "similar to those GAO identified more than a decade ago," after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. For example, Walker said, the GAO in 1993 "recommended that the president designate a senior official in the White House to oversee federal preparedness for, and response to, major catastrophic disasters."
He said the GAO continues to believe that a single person accountable to the president must act as "the central focal point" to lead the federal response.
However, Walker said, "Neither the DHS Secretary nor any of his designees, such as the Principal Federal Official (PFO), filled this leadership role during Hurricane Katrina, which serves to underscore the immaturity of and weaknesses relating to the current national response framework." The references were to Chertoff and the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown.
"No one was designated in advance to lead the overall federal response in anticipation of the event despite clear warnings from the National Hurricane Center," Walker said in the statement. In addition, "governmental entities did not act decisively or quickly enough to determine the catastrophic nature of the incident," he said.
Chertoff, for example, designated Katrina as "an incident of national significance" on Aug. 30, the day after the massive storm made landfall. He did not designate it as a "catastrophic event," which would have triggered a "more proactive response" under the National Response Plan, Walker said.
"As a result, the federal posture generally was to wait for the affected states to request assistance," he said.
Because Brown's leadership role was "unclear," Walker said, "the efforts of all federal agencies involved in the response remained disjointed."
As a result, Walker said, "there were multiple chains of command, a myriad of approaches and processes for requesting and providing assistance and confusion about who should be advised of requests and what resources would be provided within specific time frames."
In response, the Department of Homeland Security complained that Walker had publicized an "incomplete" report "without even bothering to talk to the senior leadership" of the department.
"The resulting report is premature and unprofessional," DHS press secretary Russ Knocke said in a statement. "Apart from its obvious errors, it displays a significant misunderstanding of core aspects of the Katrina response that could have easily been corrected in the most basic conversations with DHS leaders."
For example, the report places undue emphasis on designating the hurricane as a catastrophic event, when such designations are for sudden disasters for which no personnel or supplies have been pre-positioned, the statement said. Moreover, the president's emergency declarations during the weekend before Katrina struck activated the National Response Plan and "gave FEMA full authority to coordinate the federal response in the field," it said.
The statement said the GAO report also "falsely implies inaction by DHS and FEMA before landfall," when in fact state officials were satisfied with "the federal government's asset pre-positioning and other pre-hurricane assistance."
The statement said DHS has already acknowledged that "federal, state and local response capabilities were overwhelmed by the size and scope of Hurricane Katrina" and that the storm "revealed problems in national response capabilities," demonstrating the need for more planning.
"For that reason, we are working closely with Congress, the administration and state and local responders to address shortcomings in planning and response," the statement said. It said the department soon will unveil "a comprehensive strategy to improve the nation's capability to manage catastrophic incidents."
In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin was asked about a meeting he attended with President Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) on Sept. 2, four days after the hurricane struck.
"I was specifically asking for a clear chain of command as it related to who had final authority, so that we could get things moving much quicker," Nagin said. "I felt as though ... there was an incredible dance going on between the federal government and the state government on who had final authority. And it was impeding, in my humble opinion, the recovery efforts, and it was very frustrating."
At one point, "I stopped everyone and basically said, 'Mr. President, Madame Governor, if the two of you don't get together on this issue, more people are going to die in this city, and you need to resolve this immediately,'" the New Orleans mayor told the committee.
He said later, "There needed to be more resources that came much quicker and not necessarily a dance on, you know, whether state or federal authority rules. I mean, that's just ridiculous to me."
Five months after the hurricane, the federal government still has not met some of the city's top needs, Nagin said. He said New Orleans has requested more than 45,000 temporary homes, such as trailers, but so far has received fewer than 2,000.
"Since the storm, we have been a financially crippled municipality struggling to bring our city back," Nagin said. "Hurricane Katrina, like 9/11 and other disasters before, has taught us that improvements in planning for disasters must be made at all levels of government."
------- debt consolidation loans