Michael Grunwald of the Washington Post asks some good questions in his story yesterday on the Army Corps of Engineers (emphasis added):
Then the Corps failed to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, despite spending more in Louisiana than in any other state. Last month, the Corps commander acknowledged that his agency’s “design failure” led to the floodwall collapses that drowned New Orleans. So why isn’t everyone asking questions about the Corps and its patrons in Congress?
Somehow, America has concluded that the scandal of Katrina was the government’s response to the disaster, not the government’s contribution to the disaster. The Corps has eluded the public’s outrage — even though a useless Corps shipping canal intensified Katrina’s surge, even though poorly designed Corps floodwalls collapsed just a few feet from an unnecessary $750 million Corps navigation project , even though the Corps had promoted development in dangerously low-lying New Orleans floodplains and had helped destroy the vast marshes that once provided the city’s natural flood protection.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s failures didn’t inundate a city, kill 1,000 residents and inflict $100 billion in damages. Yet FEMA is justifiably disgraced, while Congress keeps giving the Corps more money and more power. A new 185-point Senate report on what went wrong during Katrina waits until point No. 65 to mention the Corps “design and construction deficiencies” that left New Orleans underwater. Meanwhile, a new multibillion-dollar potpourri of Corps projects is nearing approval on Capitol Hill.
These are good questions. As he notes, they don’t absolve FEMA, but they certainly suggest a much more complex picture of responsibility then the one that has emerged as the public consensus in recent months. Grunwald goes on to suggests answers to some of these questions in his piece, building off of his longstanding record of writing about the Army Corps. And see also John Barry’s companion article in the Outlook section which offers suggestions for how to fix the Army Corps of Engineers.