In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, two phrases come to mind. One is the Boy Scouts' motto: Be prepared. The other is snafu.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, two phrases with different connotations come to mind. One is the Boy Scouts' motto: Be prepared. The other, an acronym originating in the military, is snafu. The clean version is "situation normal, all fouled up." Unfortunately, it is difficult to come up with another term that could better fit the response to the horrifying destruction along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.
In response to criticism, Bush administration officials said Katrina was unprecedented. That may be true, but more unprecedented events are bound to come.
Hurricane Katrina struck close to the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks that wreaked havoc in New York City and Washington, D.C. And the timing has many people concerned that the response to Katrina is a demonstration of the state of preparations for other catastrophic events.
"As a test of the homeland security system, this was a failure," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
The Homeland Security Department was supposed to create a single organization that would coordinate homeland protection and emergency response. To the contrary, it appears there was a total breakdown of command and control operations. On CNN Sept. 1, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA had just learned that thousands of people were stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center without food or water.
"The federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today," he told CNN's Paula Zahn.
Although we credit him for his candor, it is important to assess how to fix the situation.
Some would argue that FEMA should not be part of DHS. To the contrary, emergency management is an essential role for the department, and FEMA should be given greater visibility and priority within DHS.
The New York Daily News' Sept. 2 editorial was headlined, "Shame of a nation." We hope an independent panel, similar to the 9/11 Commission, will examine the issues surrounding Katrina and propose the necessary fixes.
Christopher J. Dorobek
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