Sunday, February 19, 2006

Katrina Report Spreads Blame, Part 3

More by Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post:

The report puts the government response in a larger context and offers a few new details. In months of hearings, House and Senate investigative committees have already revealed the lack of White House awareness of events on the ground, political infighting between federal and state leaders, delays in ordering evacuations and the meltdown of FEMA operations.

The review, launched Sept. 15, suggests that federal funding be used to update state evacuation studies. It proposes making commercial airliners available in an emergency and creating a database to provide a national clearinghouse of shelter data. It also suggests naming a professional disaster adviser to the president, akin to the military's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Democrats, whose leaders considered the investigation a partisan whitewash and boycotted it, called for Chertoff's removal. Reps. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) and William J. Jefferson (D-La.),who informally participated in the inquiry, renewed calls for an independent commission styled after the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that the investigation, while comprehensive, was rushed, failed to compel the White House to turn over documents and held no administration officials accountable.

House investigators acknowledge that after reviewing nine hearings, scores of interviews and 500,000 pages of documents, they "will never know" what would have happened had federal, Louisiana and New Orleans officials activated plans and called on the military before the storm, and evacuated the city sooner than Aug. 28. However, the committee found U.S. disaster preparedness -- individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental -- remains dangerously inadequate.

"All the little pigs built houses of straw," it wrote. "Katrina was a national failure, an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare."

The report reconstructs a chronology of events over a three-week span from Aug. 22 to Sept. 12. It focuses primarily on failures by Chertoff and the rest of the administration to execute a year-old National Response Plan and set up a related command structure, designed to marshal resources in the critical first 72 hours after a catastrophe.

More next time ...


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