Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 23, 2006

White House Katrina report now out

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on February 23, 2006

Fran Townsend’s report on “The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned” is now available here (3MB PDF)on the White House website. The White House also released a summary fact sheet about the report.

At first glance, the high-profile recommendations look familiar, and it also looks like there are some interesting items buried in the weeds of it. For example, the set of recommendations on “Homeland Security Professional Development and Education” are definitely worth a closer look, and seem closely aligned with the bill introduced by Sens. Collins and Lieberman to create a National Homeland Security Academy. And the recommendations on public communications, critical infrastructure protection, and citizen preparedness are all solid and forward-looking.

My overall impression is that the report seems relatively solid, and many of its recommendations are things that the federal government should do. The essential question is whether the Administration is willing to both find the resources and push on the key agencies to turn these recommendations into reality.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 23, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

Many of the concepts underlying the recommendations in the report have previously been rejected by both OMB and various Congressional committees. One interesting concept is that instead of reconsituting State government or helping to make it more effective and efficient once reestablished after being overwhelmed, the feds are going to design a system to run State and local activities indefinitely and DOD is spurred on to not even wait for State and local requests for assistance. Nonetheless the report does summarize many of the “wish-lists” of emergency planners and preparedness experts from the past. Question? Why does the Homeland Security Council’s role get enhanced in the recommendations (noting that its staffing is already larger than that of the National Security Council staff)! Also, many of the recommendations are in fact restatement of prior “requirements” in published Executive Orders, statutes, and HSPDs. Are those requirements now modified and only recommendations. The report could really have helped if it stated specifically what the recommendation was based on, e.g. Katrina events, analysis by the authors, prior requirements, prior analysis or afteraction reports. Very little is new. Always there is the question of “will” as in what will the federal bureaucratic and political appointee response be and what will the Congressional response be.
The real history of the U.S. is lack of preparedness rather than preparedness. How will organizations that are understaffed and underfunded for their day-to-day missions decide to prioritize for low-probability high consequence events. After all maybe the administration was just unlucky. Or perhaps nature will continue to not grant variances or a new more capable generation of terrorist or rogue nation state leaders will appear on the scene.
Again the recommendations are useful even if not original. Also a brief biography of the authors would be of assistance to those looking for evidence of bias or real expertise based on training, education, or experience. The report itself concludes that preparedness is not just intuitive but requires technical expertise.


Comment by William R. Cumming

March 8, 2006 @ 4:57 am

It would be a useful analysis if some person or organization, preferably the authors, would identify which of the recommendations can be implemented administratively and those requiring legislation.

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