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The Failure of FEMA

09.01.2005 13:26 | DISPATCHES

The national government's response to New Orleans has been appalling. I copy here from Brad Delong's web page. He has scanned the blogosphere and assembled the roll call of incompetence:

Laura Rozen is surprised:

War and Piece: My lord, the guy heading FEMA has no qualifications. What was he doing before getting pulled into FEMA by the Bush administration in 2003? He was an estate planning lawyer in Colorado and of counsel for the International Arabian Horse Association Legal Department. And yes, it is the same Michael D. Brown.
Why? It is well known that the Bush administration is worse than you can imagine, even after taking account of the fact that it is worse than you can imagine.

Others pick up the scent:

Fables of the reconstruction: Supreme Incompetence: Experts, including a former Bush administration disaster-response manager, said that the government was not prepared, had scrimped on storm spending, and had shifted its attention from dealing with natural disasters to the global fight against terrorism.... "What you're seeing is revealing weaknesses in the state, local and federal levels," said Eric Tolbert, who until February was FEMA's chief of disaster response. "All three levels have been weakened. They've been weakened by diversion into terrorism."

How Fast Can You Identify A Source For Really Big Helicopters?: Corante > Between Lawyers > : Posted by Marty Schwimmer: After CNN reported today that helicopters were diverted from plugging the levee breach on Tuesday, in order to rescue individuals on rooftops, I wondered what is involved in securing sufficient helicopters in a national emergency. It took me two minutes of Googling to identify the Erickson Air Crane Company and obtain their email address and phone number. The Air Crane is one of the most powerful helicopters in the world (used for lifting trucks and putting out fires, for example). I emailed them today asking if anyone had contacted them about the levee. They replied immediately that while they had put out the word to government entities, and while they are a DOD-listed contractor, they had not been contacted by any Government entity as of Wednesday evening. The levee broke on Monday night. I assume that a governor, or a general, or maybe a President would have gotten the CEO of this company (and other companies like them) on the phone and said "get over there ASAP."

The Washington Note Archives: New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA. Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers... spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations.... Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars. Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming..."

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: August 28, 2005 - September 03, 2005 Archives: "I'm not saying it wouldn't still be flooded, but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have," said Michael Parker, a former Republican Mississippi congressman who headed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from October 2001 until March 2002, when he was ousted after publicly criticizing a Bush administration proposal to cut the corps' budget.

The Left Coaster: The "Nobody Could Have Anticipated" Defense Returns: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."--Bush, on ABC's Good Morning America, this morning.

Kevin Drum comments:
The Washington Monthly: I swear, this is the Bush administration in a microcosm. Everyone was anticipating a breach of the levees before Katrina hit. In fact, Katrina changed course the night before it made landfall and then weakened a bit right at the moment it hit New Orleans. If it had continued along its previous path and hit about 30 miles west as a full Category 5, the levees would have been instantly overrun and possibly breached within hours instead of days. Does Bush genuinely not know this? Or is he just so comfortable lying about stuff like this that he doesn't give it a second thought? And which is worse?
James Lee Witt, Director of FEMA under Clinton, is quoted:
Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: August 28, 2005 - September 03, 2005 Archives: Being prepared for a disaster is basic emergency management, disaster experts say. For example, in the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and have hospital ships nearby, said James Lee Witt, who was FEMA director under President Clinton.

Federal officials said a hospital ship would leave from Baltimore on Friday. "These things need to be planned and prepared for; it just doesn't look like it was," said Witt, a former Arkansas disaster chief who won bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill during his tenure.

FEMA said some of its response teams were prepared...

And Belle Waring points out:
John & Belle Have A Blog: This Is Not Good: Say what you like about casting blame for the unfolding tragedy in NO, the bare facts of the matter are these: America suffered a serious attack on Sept. 11, 2001. That was four years ago. I think we had all assumed that in the meantime a lot of wargaming and disaster-mitigation planning and homeland security gearup had been going on. If this is what the Federal and State governments are going to come up with when the suitcase nuke goes off in D.C., then we are well and truly f-----.


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