Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 31, 2006

White House Katrina investigation findings previewed

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on January 31, 2006

Newsweek published a story yesterday on the White House’s role in Katrina, adding new details from earlier reports about the timeline by which the White House learned about the evolving situation on the ground.

The last part of the story is the most interesting, providing new details on the expected findings of White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend’s investigation of Katrina, based on notes taken by Congressman Gene Taylor and Charlie Melancon at a meeting last month:

  • “A unified national homeland security planning structure does not exist.”
  • “The National Response Plan did not function as planned.”
  • “The bureaucratic process delayed the Federal response.”
  • “NORTHCOM [the U.S. military command covering the continental USA] was not fully aware of its deployed assets for the first 48 hours after landfall.”
  • “Federal agencies hampered the restoration of goods and services by taking uncoordinated actions without understanding their national impact.”
  • “There was no Federal coordinating entity with a complete understanding of the interdependency of critical infrastructure needs.
  • “Training was designed to respond to WMD [weapons of mass destruction] incidents.”

These findings all seem appropriate, given what we’ve learned to date about the federal response. The real question will be what steps the government is willing to take in order to remedy the deficiencies that these findings expose. Many of them can’t be fixed quickly by bandaid solutions, but only by a large and long-term shift in the organizing principles of preparedness and response.

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