Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report today on the 7,500 records they forced the DHS to turn over in a FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit. Will anyone be surprised to learn this is the same song, new verse, on the amazing incompetence of business folks trying to run government?
The Best Laid Plans: The Story of How the Government Ignored Its Own Gulf Coast Hurricane Plan (or go here for the executive summary.) Seriously, there was a “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Plan” (SLCHP), which was not initiated when Katrina started heading to that part of the coast.
You want to know why?
On August 28, 2005, the day before Katrina hit, FEMA Deputy Director Patrick Rhode sent an email to Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks Altshuler and Michael Heath, Special Assistant to FEMA Director Michael Brown, with the subject line, “copy of New Orleans cat plan” stating, “I never got one – I think Brown got my copy – did you get one?”
Are these the guys the first FEMA responders couldn’t reach to yell SEND HELP NOW? They couldn’t find a copy of the plan, so they sat on their hands and just waited until some kind of response was unavoidable? Maybe there are some sane reasons all that Government paperwork is in triplicate? Musta gotten rid of the triplicators? Outsourced it? Or it went through Rummy’s office.
I repeat this whenever the opportunity arises. Earlier verse of this song from Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow. America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq:
A full year before the invasion of Iraq, the State Department had launched an ambitious project called “Future of Iraq,” which was aimed at finding ways to establish security and begin the transition to democracy after Saddam was gone. Large teams of experts, including more than 200 Iraqis representing almost every ethnic and political group in the country, produced thirteen volumes of recommendations about how to rebuild everything from the country’s oil industry to the criminal justice system. They brought their recommendations to the Pentagon, along with a list of seventy-five Arabic speaking specialists who were ready to go to Iraq as soon as Saddam was gone. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld summarily rejected them and their ideas. pp.314
CREW found the FEMA Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Plan,
which forecast a range of specific consequences, including:
New Orleans would be flooded with 14-17 feet of water, the levee system inundated with at least 10 feet of water and the hurricane would move into Mississippi;
One million people would evacuate, but flooding would trap at least 250-350,000 ; and
Each hurricane victim would require a minimum of two Meals Ready to Eat, one gallon of water and eight pounds of ice per day.
The SLCHP included plans to:
Evacuate residents and position resources pre-hurricane;
Provide power, water and ice to hurricane victims; and
Provide short-term shelter and longer-term temporary housing.
Nevertheless, despite the comprehensive SLCHP, post-Katrina FEMA documents demonstrate that the plan was never implemented.
also found that the catastrophe was impacted by:
Significant funding cuts to federal flood control and the Army Corps of Engineers budget for hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain region;
Communications problems between key personnel that impeded coordination of overall relief efforts; and
Lack of a mechanism for fielding and distributing donations and offers of assistance.
I remember that last problem spilled over into the State Department with offers of assistance from other countries. Interference was from high priority shoe shopping reminiscent of the Imelda Marcos days. The level of incompetence and insensitivity to the plight of victims will never cease to blow my mind. It’s hard not to think the Girl Scouts could have done a better job.
This is what feeding the military pork, while cutting essential fatty acids from all other programs, will do to a country. The people who know how to run government, who are dedicated and experienced civil servants leave, in droves. The ones who stay in their appointee jobs try to pretend they know how to do a heckuva job. Failing that, they move on to new jobs, leaving the victims to suffer their bitter losses as best they can.
This is not the America I grew up believing in. It is not an America I will ever accept.