King George Is Writing What Secret Disaster Plan? … Ooooh, I Feel Safer Now
Posted by bosskitty on August 8, 2007
By Spencer S. Hsu Washington Post Staff Wednesday, August 8, 2007
A decision by the Bush administration to rewrite in secret the nation’s emergency response blueprint has angered state and local emergency officials, who worry that Washington is repeating a series of mistakes that contributed to its bungled response to Hurricane Katrina nearly two years ago. State and local officials in charge of responding to disasters say that their input in shaping the National Response Plan was ignored in recent months by senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials, despite calls by congressional investigators for a shared overhaul of disaster planning in the United States.
“In my 19 years in emergency management, I have never experienced a more polarized environment between state and federal government,” said Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma‘s emergency management chief and president of a national association of state emergency managers.
The national plan is supposed to guide how federal, state and local governments, along with private and nonprofit groups, work together during emergencies. Critics contend that a unilateral approach by Washington produced an ill-advised response plan at the end of 2004 — an unwieldy, 427-page document that emphasized stopping terrorism at the expense of safeguarding against natural disasters.
Bruce Baughman, Ashwood’s predecessor as president of the National Emergency Management Association and a 32-year veteran of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that a draft of the revised plan released to state officials last week marks a step backward because its authors did not set requirements or consult with field operators nationwide who will use it to request federal aid, adjust state and county plans, and train workers.
The disagreement over the plan comes at a time of increasing mistrust between Washington and state homeland security officials. In recent months, they have sparred over dwindling federal grants, the adequacy of local intelligence-gathering efforts and what states regard as Washington’s reluctance to share information about potential threats.
“Coordination between state and local governments and the feds . . . seems to be getting worse rather than better,” said Timothy Manning, head of emergency management in New Mexico and a member of a DHS-appointed steering committee that initially worked on the emergency plan before being shut out of the deliberations in May.
Testifying before a House panel last week, Ashwood and colleagues openly questioned why the draft was revised behind closed doors. The final document was to be released June 1, at the start of this year’s hurricane season.
Federal officials, Ashwood said, appear to be trying to create a legalistic document to shield themselves from responsibility for future disasters and to shift blame to states. “It seems that the Katrina federal legacy is one of minimizing exposure for the next event and ensuring future focus is centered on state and local preparedness,” he said.
The blunt remarks spotlight a breakdown in joint efforts to fulfill a core recommendation by investigators who examined federal missteps after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in August 2005.
…. a special Republican-led House panel on the Katrina disaster reported. Conflicting command roles under the plan also contributed to a bitter public feud between Chertoff and Michael D. Brown, who resigned as FEMA director in September 2005 after Chertoff relieved him of his on-site relief duties on the Gulf Coast.
“The draft National Response Plan will be presented to the president after an extensive 30-day review period by federal, state and local officials, and we look forward to receiving the draft plan after that review period,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
…. John R. Harrald, a professor at George Washington University‘s Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management, cautioned that shutting out state and local voices during the plan’s preparation would be ill-advised. He said that the administration appears “to be guided by a desire to ensure centralized control of what is an inherently decentralized process. . . . Response to catastrophic events requires collaboration and trust in a broad network of organizations.”
What is so secret about a disaster plan? Why is it so complicated to include the disaster responders in coordinated planning? Didn’t the last disaster plan fail because the first responders and federal responders had no clue what each other were doing? This is another act of ‘weenie wagging’ that this administration is guilty of. They will take every opportunity to show you theirs is bigger than yours and they will remain in control, no matter how bad things turn out. Hiding stuff is what this administration is all about. I could make some really nasty comparisons, but for your sake, I will restrain myself. I have had enough of these guys. I would vote for Larry Flint before I vote for another Republican. Why isn’t Larry running? Past indiscretions are no longer stop signs for politicians. Honesty is too rare and should be embraced where ever it comes from. Kucinich might just fill that void.