Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 3, 2005

A split opinion on Katrina in Congress?

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Homeland Defense,Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on December 3, 2005

The National Journal has an article in its issue this week, “Congressional Chronicle: Inside the Katrina Probes” on the separate investigations in the Senate and the House into the response to Katrina, which provides some of the first hints as to their likely findings.

The key passages:

To gather evidence, the investigators are sifting through hundreds of thousands of documents and interviewing hundreds of officials in Washington and the GulfCoast region. The aides believe that the effort is likely to lead to crucial policy changes on several issues dealing with the government’s response to natural disasters or to a terrorist attack.

“I think it will lead to major legislation,” said Michael Bopp, staff director of Collins’s committee in the Senate. “The role of the Department of Defense is likely to be one of the most significant findings of this investigation.”

The Senate report could contradict the positive media attention surrounding the military’s response to the storm, Bopp said. He added that the report may also recommend reorganizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was widely criticized for its sluggish response in the critical days following the hurricane, and tweaking the law governing FEMA relief assistance, known as the Stafford Act.

House investigators said their report could lend weight to President Bush’s argument for a greater military role in domestic crises. “It will crystallize a lot of issues,” said Larry Halloran, deputy counsel on the House select committee. He suggested that Congress might change the 1878 law prohibiting the military from acting as a domestic police force, to allow the activation of troops early in a crisis.

Sounds like a potential split opinion between the House and the Senate on the DOD’s role in responding to Katrina, and by implication, what their role should be in responding to future incidents. Will be interesting to watch what emerges in the coming months.

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Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Homeland defense exercise in Charleston, SC

January 19, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

[…] This issue of military support for civilian incident response is a topic that is likely to arise in the final reports of the Katrina investigations in Congress, as noted in this post from last month. If the simulation is realistic and not overly predictable, then this kind of activity can make a real contribution to improving DOD’s capabilities in this area. […]


Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » DOD and emergency response: an end to dual-hatting?

February 10, 2006 @ 1:53 am

[…] The article goes on to discuss suggestions by Senators during the hearing that the military was slow to respond to Katrina – an area of inquiry that the HSGAC has indicated that it plans to pursue since the late fall. I think we can expect some interesting recommendations on the DOD’s role in emergency response in the Katrina investigation reports, which the statements today by McHale likely try to anticipate. […]

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