Wednesday, September 07, 2005

DHS's National Response Plan

Now, was this actually followed?

Dig it.

11 Thoughts:

Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Hello Doug and friends,
There are some other plans that must be read as well. I have spent many hours over the past three days reading about how all this disaster response stuff works at each level.
Here are some links if you're interested, but they take a LOT of time to get through, especially if you're looking to really see how things run and not just looking for snippets to back up your own political bent. (they have a section on emergency preparedness as well as evacuation)

I'm now seeing pieces of what I've read being used on TV news.
Now, all I need is to know a timeline of what happened.
There's a big deal of change that occurs when the state signs over its authority to the feds, FEMA.
I don't care what blogs say, or what TV anchors say on this matter. I will wait to see what the official report says about who was really calling the shots and when. How long did Blanco retain control and when and what did she ask the feds to take over?
That is when I will be able to properly begin placing blame where it is deserved.
Congress cannot bitch about things they voted to put in place. They have to change things for the better. I want to hear them using "we" instead of "they" for a change.
People who divide this along political lines have lost my respect. Congress voted for a federal Homeland Securtiy including FEMA, so they have to work out and vote on some way they think it can be better organized. Dems and Repubs created it. They can work together to make it better.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 8:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Thanks for those links, Jamie.

Do you have specific links to PDFs or documents that you have been reading for the past three days, such as this preparedness document?

Do you trust Bush, an interested party, to say the least, running an investigation on his own? Wouldn't you prefer an independent investigation -- of all levels of government?

Other questions: When did the President declare this to be a disaster zone? Who requests that? Are you equally disgusted with how the WH has been spinning this disaster, or have you just lost respect for "liberals" like me who just use facts and data to back up our political bent (others: this was an accusation from "Just a Woman" by Jamie)?

Are you happy with the state of what occurred, given that nearly 4 years ago to the day, we would be prepared for another 9/11, and that's why we should vote for Bush?

Would love to see some specific documents or URLs, as you've been going over this with a fine tooth comb.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005 9:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Jamie, did you know that Blanco declared a disaster on 8/26 and requested help on 8/28?

Source 1

Source 2

For your timeline.

Some more information. I reproduce it from here in case you don't want to do a day pass (which requires watching an ad by the ACLU on the Patriot Act, as the ACLU is sponsoring day passes today). If you want to see it, Google the author and title.

Why FEMA failed
Ideologically opposed to a strong federal role in disaster relief and obsessed with terrorism, the Bush administration let a once-admired agency fall apart.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Farhad Manjoo

Sept. 7, 2005 | Days before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the city of Chicago drew up a list of resources it was willing to make available for relief efforts in areas that might be hit by the storm. Chicago told the Federal Emergency Management Agency that in the event of disaster, it could spare more than 100 Chicago police officers, 36 Fire Department personnel, eight emergency medical experts, more than 130 staff from Chicago's Department of Public Health, 140 staff from the Department of Streets & Sanitation, dozens of trucks and two boats. These teams, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley told federal officials, could work in affected areas independently, bringing their own food, water and other supplies with them. But FEMA apparently wasn't interested. Despite the host of resources Chicago offered, and despite the televised lack of resources in New Orleans, as of late last week, FEMA had requested only one thing from Chicago -- a single tanker truck. "I was shocked," Daley said at a news conference on Friday. "We are ready to provide considerably more help than they have requested. We are just waiting for a call."

Daley wasn't the only generous donor to be rebuffed. Throughout last week, various local and state governments, corporations and nonprofit organizations across the nation attempted to help in the relief effort, only to be snubbed by federal officials -- officials who were themselves providing precious little aid to those in need. Citing security concerns, the Department of Homeland Security barred the American Red Cross from entering New Orleans with food. Five hundred Floridian airboaters were ready to rescue people stranded in inundated homes, but FEMA turned them down. Twenty sheriff's deputies from Loudoun County, Va., suffered a similar fate. And Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish, La., said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday that FEMA declined to let him accept three tanker trucks of water donated by Wal-Mart, as well as 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored in a Coast Guard vessel docked in his district.

During the 1990s, FEMA was routinely praised as one of the best-functioning federal agencies. Its response to the Midwestern floods of 1993, the Northridge earthquake of 1994, and 1995's Oklahoma City terrorist attack are considered models of emergency response. By contrast, its performance during Katrina is almost universally acknowledged to have been abysmally poor. At first, FEMA's post-Katrina failure appears baffling: What happened to the once-great FEMA? But George Haddow, who served as the deputy chief of staff at FEMA under James Lee Witt, Bill Clinton's FEMA director, thinks that FEMA's current flaws are all too understandable -- and are a direct consequence of the Bush administration's decision to pull the federal government out of the natural disaster-relief business and turn over more power to state and local officials.

Indeed, the White House's new response to the political disaster prompted by Katrina -- one in which officials are attempting to blame authorities in Louisiana, rather than in Washington, for the slow aid -- underscores the Bush philosophy. According to Haddow, instead of working with local officials to try to minimize the impacts of an impending storm, the White House has decided its best strategy is to keep its distance from people on the ground. That way if anything goes wrong, the White House can "attack, attack, attack."

We began to see some of these attacks over the weekend. Sunday's Washington Post cited an anonymous Bush administration official who explained that one reason that the federal government didn't intervene more quickly in Louisiana was because Kathleen Blanco, the state's Democratic governor, failed to declare a state of emergency there, a necessary step for federal help to flow. An article in Newsweek repeats the same claim.

But there's a problem with the White House's excuse: It's patently false. As Josh Marshall points out, Blanco declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26 -- a day before Bush declared a federal emergency in Louisiana. (You can see Blanco's official declaration in PDF format here; the Washington Post has corrected its article.) On Aug. 28 -- the day before Katrina made landfall -- Blanco followed her declaration with an official letter (PDF) to Bush that requested all manner of emergency supplies her state would need for the aftermath.

Haddow says that these requests should have been enough -- more than enough -- to prompt a full-scale federal response. Under the Clinton administration's FEMA, with Witt as the head, a storm of Katrina's magnitude would have prompted federal and state officials to actually meet in order to coordinate their response. "You were all working together to anticipate needs," Haddow says. "You're all sitting in the same room when the things happened -- the Midwest flood, the Northridge quake, the Oklahoma City bombing and all the disasters we responded to. We were in the same room together and nobody had to point fingers."

Close coordination with state officials was key to the Clinton administration's capacity to act quickly in the heat of a disaster, Haddow says. "We had a really solid partnership, so we received solid, timely information from the ground. Then we managed that information and turned it into a mission assignment." In other words, when people on the ground needed something, they knew who in the federal government to ask, and when the federal government had extra resources at the ready -- cops from Chicago, say, or water from Wal-Mart -- it would know where to send them. Contrast that situation to what happened after Katrina, when both Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, and Michael Brown, the FEMA director, admitted to several reporters that they had no idea that people were starving at the New Orleans Convention Center, even though the grim scene there had been played and replayed on television all day.

The Bush administration's distance from local disaster-relief officials is by design. From the moment Bush stepped into office, he's been determined to move away from the coordinated state/local/federal disaster-relief approach used by Clinton. Instead, as Joe Allbaugh, Bush's first FEMA dirctor, told a congressional panel in 2001, Bush wanted to pull the federal government out of the disaster-relief business and aimed to "restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters." The federal government became even less involved in natural disaster relief after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when FEMA's mission was shifted toward responding to terrorist attacks. In 2002, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA -- which Clinton had elevated to a Cabinet-level agency -- was made one department in the massive bureaucracy. As a result, although George W. Bush has a nickname for FEMA director Brown ("Brownie"), Brown enjoys far less clout under Bush than Witt enjoyed under Clinton, which Haddow says is an "incalculable loss of influence" for FEMA.

State and local disaster-relief officials have been complaining about the lack of federal involvement in emergency response for some time. Trina Sheets, the executive director of the National Emergency Management Association, which represents local emergency personnel, told Salon that "since the Department of Homeland Security was established there has been a steady degradation of the capabilities." Local officials protested earlier this year, when the Department of Homeland Security proposed an internal reorganization that would officially absolve FEMA of its disaster-preparedness functions and instead hand disaster relief to a new agency. Sheets says that her group has expressed its "concern" about the move in a meeting with Chertoff. Other local disaster-relief directors have been more critical. The day after Katrina struck New Orleans, Eric Holdeman, director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management, wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post denouncing the reorganization plan as a "a death blow to an agency that was already on life support." He added: "Those of us in the business of dealing with emergencies find ourselves with no national leadership and no mentors."

Of particular concern to local officials is the administration's increasing focus on terrorism to the exclusion of natural disasters. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office showed that "almost 3 of every 4 grant dollars appropriated to the [Department of Homeland Security] for first responders in fiscal year 2005 were for 3 primary programs that had an explicit focus on terrorism." More than $2 billion in grant money is available to local governments looking to improve the way they respond to terrorist attacks, but only $180 million is available under the main grant program for natural disaster funding, Homeland Security's Emergency Management Performance Grant program. The administration had proposed cutting that amount to $170 million, even though NEMA had identified a $264 million national shortfall in natural-disaster funding.

"We have testified before Congress countless times, we have sent letters to DHS, we have met with Secretary Chertoff as recently as three weeks ago, pleading for a balanced approach between terrorism and natural disasters," Sheets said.

And balance, Haddow agrees, is what's needed. "You gotta do both," he says. "You've got to fight terrorism." But you've got to respond to hurricanes and earthquakes, too. And when Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on the Saturday before Katrina struck the Gulf, he made a promise to residents that he would respond, Haddow says. "People died because they couldn't get it right," he says. "People died because they didn't deliver on their promise."

Additional reporting by Michael Scherer.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

There are hyperlinks in the article; I linked it to the first post for today, Jamie (and others), if you want to see it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

I'll write more later when I have a bit more time.
You really need to read the Red Cross's own website as to why they did not enter New Orleans with food, water supplies earlier. It's right there, and they say they were barred by the STATE Homeland Security Dept.
Let's make that clear.
I found glaring errors at all levels of govt. just by reading their own websites.
Here's the glaring error I found with the feds: It says on their own site that they are responsible for the "seamless" coordination of workiing with various depts. etc.... on and on.
I read this on Monday or Tuesday and I said to myself, "That was a major failure! There was nothing seamless about that transfer of power, etc..." That falls in the federal lap, but the question as to why it wasn't seamless then must be answered.
NOT to place blame, but to FIX THE PROBLEM!!
I saw this very thing on Fox News yesterday afternoon, but I had already found it previously on my own.
It is eye-opening to do my own research, and it frees me to judge each gov't level on my own.
Our country faced 9-11, but it pales in comparison to the devastation of Katrina. This is our nation's worst natural disaster to date. I would expect problems in dealing with something of this magnitude and so I'm not surprised things didn't go perfectly. What will be unacceptable is if no reforms are made by Congress to the current system that they voted into place after 9-11. The goal should be a unified one: to make it better.
When the fed building was bombed in Oklahoma, I do not remember there being an onslaught of attack on Clinton like is happening now to Bush. I certainly didn't think to blame him for it. It never crossed my mind. While bodies were being pulled from the wreckage of that bomb, were Republicans doing what Dems are doing now? Be honest.
I'll be back later tonight if possible.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 2:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

One lone bomber blows up a federal building, causing 180+ deaths, without warning, and you're comparing that to a storm that'll take 10,000 lives for which we had warning?

Needless to say, I do remember Republicans coming down hard (and rightly so) when the links to the Waco standoff became clear.

Jamie, if Bush were CEO of any large corporation (or small) and this happened on his watch, would he or would he not be fired?

Still waiting for specific links and PDFs, etc. Whenever you get a chance.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Jamie: In your research, have you checked out the CVs of the top three federal FEMA people?

You might find it enlightening.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 5:00:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hey, Jamie:

Just to be clear: I do realize you (now) think that all three levels of government were to blame. That's what we think, too -- or at least I do.

The key is the weight of responsibility. I think that's where we differ.

I also think that for many, many people, this is not the last straw with Bush, but the last tree-trunk. I imagine you've been mostly happy with him, so you're naturally willing to give him some slack that I, for one, am not. I think he deserves none, on the face of it.

Anyway, please do post some docs -- don't worry how specific they are. We like specific information, as you can see, even though you think it's all biased. (Check out the links -- we've got all sides represented there.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005 5:07:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Anecdotal evidence: Every single friend of mine who voted for Bush in 2004 is horrified -- here, in the South, etc. -- and furious.

Bush ran on protecting us from threats. This is a massive failure to do so, even if you split the blame in thirds. The executive branch executes the laws made by the legislature. Bush could have vetoed DHS if he didn't like it, but he also could have listened to those (yes, the Clintons) who begged him to keep FEMA separate.

Our system is not, as so many conservatives like to pretend, some hyperfederalist Jeffersonian republic. I know they'd like it to be, but, like every other major country on earth in the 21st century, we have a strong central national government that should take the lead and responsibility for large, national policy. Work with the states, by all means.

But you still can't deny the budget cuts from 2003 to help fund Iraq. I know you think that war is a-OK; many do not, and part of the cost is FEMA's dissolution from an excellent department Clinton rebuilt in the '90s to the disaster and political dumping ground it is today. Arabian horses? If you don't know what I'm talking about, find out. It's the previous job of the current FEMA director. Nice hire. This CEO President is a joke. I'm sorry to disagree with you.

If you're not making over $200,000 a year, then you're being and have been fooled by these people, who could care less about any poor person, who are shackled to a laissez-faire ideology whose results we can see clearly (except in foreign wars -- there, they outstrip Wilson in interventionism), and a cultural set of beliefs that is frankly medieval and scary. It's not Christian at all, as I understand it.

They lie, smear, dodge responsibility, and have shredded civil liberties -- all in the wake of 9/11, which they, again, had advance notice of. But that was "Clinton's obsession" -- remember "Wag the Dog," when we tried to hit Bin Laden in 1998?

I don't really think you'll ever come around, but I am very happy to see others coming around.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 5:15:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

These are links (I have saved) to some of what I've read just regarding FEMA:
(pages 18 & 19 are about effective warnings; page 37 is about preparedness) (I only skimmed this)

I read a lot regarding the National Dept of Homeland Security and the States' Dept of Homeland Security. Beforehand, I must admit, I didn't know the difference or how they operated and under whose authority. Each affected state has their Dept. of Homeland Security and must coordinate with the feds at the governor's discretion. I'm interested in how the governor's of MS and AL worked with the national DHS and FEMA. I've read a varitey of websites just to get an overall knowledge of how these things work. As I said, I was not educated in this area at all prior to this.

I thoroughly read the site as well as the site. I can copy and paste parts that I copied in a word doc that I have saved on my computer, but you can go there yourself and see what was expected and required of the local and state gov't. You decide if they succeeded in their obligations or not? The response to Katrina was very flawed, and a lack of preparation cost many lives. Guilt rests on many levels, as we agree.

President Bush is not to blame for the devastastion caused by Katrina any more than Kerry would have been if he were president. Any federal failures should be exposed and the person's responsible fired, as well as the local and state officials who failed.
If Blanco asked for help and did not receive it, then the feds were at fault. But, if she retained operational authority and therefore tied the feds hands, then she will have to answer for that.
It was the state that barred the Red Cross from bringing in food and water during those highly publicized days. They gave a reason for it, but whether you agree with their reason or not, the decision was made by the state not the feds.
I want to know more things like this. Who made decisions when? That's the only way for me to really assign blame.
The truth and a timeline of what occurred will come out.
I will wait to pass harsh judgements on those who deserve it.

I just started a new school year (homeschool) with my son. I will continue checking in here, but I won't be able to commit as much time as I've been able to do the past few days. I'm glad I was able to read all that I did. I feel like a "good" citizen!

I trust we will find the truth of what happened.

I enjoy these exchanges and will check back often to add my two cents.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 8:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Thanks, Jamie!

We'll check out the sites, but I note they're all FEMA sites...gotta have a spread of sources (old historian's bias, that).

Anyway, that is good citizenship.

On homeschooling, you may be interested in these two sites:

CPB/Annenberg Teacher Resources

Vega Science Trust (Check out especially the "Resources on the Web" links. You may choose to avoid any mention of evolution, if you like.

Check 'em out. There are a ton of good free videos there. Donna and I watch them periodically; they're excellent. You may find the professional development ones on CPB/Annenberg helpful, as you're acting as a teacher.

We're talking hundreds of hours of free courses on both sites. See what you think.

Best, Doug

Thursday, September 08, 2005 9:39:00 PM  

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