Thursday, September 08, 2005

Expert: Bush administration took ownership of Katrina's response.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged in interviews Sunday that Washington was insufficiently prepared for the hurricane that laid waste to New Orleans and surrounding areas. But he defended its performance by arguing that the size of the storm was beyond anything his department could have anticipated and that primary responsibility for handling emergencies rested with state and local, not federal, officials.

"Before this happened, I said … we need to build a preparedness capacity going forward," Chertoff told NBC's "Meet the Press." He added that that was something "we have not yet succeeded in doing."

Under the law, Chertoff said, state and local officials must direct initial emergency operations. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials," he said.

Chertoff's remarks, which echoed earlier statements by President Bush, prompted withering rebukes both from former senior FEMA staffers and outside experts.

"They can't do that," former agency chief of staff Jane Bullock said of Bush administration efforts to shift responsibility away from Washington. "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…. The federal government took ownership over the response," she said. Bush declared a disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi when the storm hit a week ago.*

Yet this kind of real analysis is mostly missing from articles about the tragedy of New Orleans which often focus on what Kanye said.

BTW, Read analysis questioning whether Kanye was right. (We've got a picture that puts the matter to rest.) And yes, we do it too.

Analysis of whose responsibility the rescue effort was: Why FEMA Was Missing in Action

See copy of Bush's declaration of federal emergency.

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