Thursday, September 8, 2005

Here’s A Plan

In the post below, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) said “the emergency response system was set up to work from the bottom up,” and squarely laid the blame for the slow response to Katrina on the shoulders of local and state authorities who just happen to be Democrats (but no finger-pointing there. No siree…)

But Mr. DeLay is wrong. In December 2004 the Department of Homeland Security, which is the home of FEMA, issued the National Response Plan (PDF) which states:

The National Response Plan (NRP) is an all-discipline, all-hazards plan that establishes a single, comprehensive framework for the management of domestic incidents. It provides the structure and mechanisms for the coordination of Federal support to State, local, and tribal incident managers and for exercising direct Federal authorities and responsibilities. The NRP assists in the important homeland security mission of preventing terrorist attacks within the United States; reducing the vulnerability to all natural and manmade hazards; and minimizing the damage and assisting in the recovery from any type of incident that occurs.

By signing this letter of agreement, Federal departments and agencies and other organizations commit to:

■ Supporting NRP concepts, processes, and structures and carrying out their assigned functional responsibilities to ensure effective and efficient incident management, including designating representatives to staff interagency coordinating structures, as required;

■ Agreeing to the terms and conditions, as if separately signed, in the “Memorandum of Agreement: Mutual Aid for Incidents of National Significance (non-Stafford Act),” set forth in the Financial Management Support Annex, Attachment 3, December 2004, in the NRP (this provision is applicable only to Federal departments and agencies);

■ Providing cooperation, resources, and support to the Secretary of Homeland Security in the implementation of the NRP, as appropriate and consistent with their own authorities and responsibilities;

■ Cooperating with appropriate Federal incident management leadership including the Principal Federal Official, Federal Coordinating Officer, and Federal Resource Coordinator, as appropriate and consistent with their own authorities and responsibilities, in order to enable effective and efficient incident management;

■ Modifying existing interagency and agency incident management and emergency response plans to facilitate compliance with the NRP;

■ Forming and maintaining incident management partnerships with State, local, tribal, and regional entities, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations;

■ Utilizing department- and agency-specific authorities, resources, and programs to facilitate incident management activities in accordance with the NRP; and

■ Developing, exercising, and refining headquarters and regional capabilities to ensure sustained operational readiness in support of the NRP.

Signatory departments and agencies follow.

Every cabinet member signed, from Donald Rumsfeld to John E. Potter, the Postmaster. So clearly the Federal Government had a plan to deal with “any type of incident that occurs,” and it goes into effect when the president declares a state of emergency. Hurricane Katrina hit South Florida on Thursday, August 25 (I know… I was there) then headed for the Gulf Coast the next day. Gov. Blanco declared a state of emergency on Saturday, August 27, and requested the president declare a federal state of emerency, which he did on that day. The hurricane made landfall on Monday, August 29, and New Orleans went under the next day, Tuesday, August 30.

So…where was the NRP? Why did it take Michael Brown and FEMA until that Tuesday to call in his team and give them 48 hours to get there? Why did the city officials of New Orleans, who by this time were operating basically out of a treehouse above the water, have to beg for someone to do something? That’s not the blame-game; that’s looking for answers.

(HT to Larry Johnson at TPMCafe)