Having watched Bush officials, particularly Chertoff, try to pretend this event caught them off guard with no way of anticipating what would happen, my bullshit alert went off. Here’s my take on why they deserve a beating.

“This is a case of negligence and incompetence that cannot and should not be forgiven,” Johnson writes below the fold.


by Larry C. Johnson

Homeland Security has published a National Response Plan for dealing with disasters like Katrina. Unfortunately, nobody in a position of leadership in the Bush Administration appears to have read or understood this document. When the “hotwash” comes somebody better learn something. We can’t afford another disaster like this.

What’s a hotwash? After the military conducts a training exercise they carry out a “hotwash”. A hotwash is shorthand for an after action evaluation of the exercise. The hotwash is supposed to provide a chance to discuss the problems and shortfalls identified during the exercise. This process is supposed to lead to “lessons learned”, which, in a perfect world, means that actual learning takes place and we avoid committing the same errors when the real thing happens.

Having spent the last 11 years designing and executing counter terrorism exercises for the US military’s special operations forces, I have had a front row seat for watching how we are prepared to deal with the entire spectrum of terrorist threats.

Intelligence: The Human Factor (Securing Our Nation)
By Patrick Lang
Editor: Larry C. Johnson

Exercises are not just for the military. FEMA and Homeland Security have participated in dozens of exercises. The purpose of a Homeland Security exercise, for example, is to test the decision making and communication procedures that would use in response to say, a category 5 hurricane. The exercise would include making actual contact with State and local officials threatened by the hurricane. Well, guess what? We are not talking hypothetical, there actually was an exercise within the last year that involved Homeland Security and FEMA, which tested the very scenario of a hurricane hitting New Orleans and causing a breach in the levees. It looks like that instead of a ‘hotwash” we got a whitewash. Apparently nobody learned anything.

I don’t know if the Congress will let the President and the heads of Homeland Security and FEMA off the hook, but the media should not let any Administration official offer the lame excuse that this was unexpected or unprecedented disaster. The Administration’s own documents condemn them. Take a look at the Department of Homeland Security’s website. There is a National Response Plan that is supposed to be the guide for responding to disasters like Katrina. Why didn’t they use it?

BELOW: National Response Plan
National Response Plan

“One team, one goal…a safer, more secure America”

The National Response Plan establishes a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents. The plan incorporates best practices and procedures from incident management disciplines—homeland security, emergency management, law enforcement, firefighting, public works, public health, responder and recovery worker health and safety, emergency medical services, and the private sector—and integrates them into a unified structure. It forms the basis of how the federal government coordinates with state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector during incidents. It establishes protocols to help

This document contains the claim that, “The National Response Plan provides mechanisms for expedited and proactive Federal support”. Where in the name of God was the expedited and proactive support?

This is a case of negligence and incompetence that cannot and should not be forgiven. Al Qaeda operatives around the world have watched our bumbling, incompetent response to the hurricane. They have already determined that they can fight us on the ground in Iraq. They may decide that the time has come to bring the war back to our homeland.

Take a look at the section of the National Response Plan below that covers response strategies and coordination with local authorities. The only possible excuse is that the Federal officials forgot to read their own damn report!


(Excerpt of Report)

Planning & Prevention

National Response Plan: Local/Federal Response Strategies & Coordination Structures

National Response Plan Main Page >> Local/Federal Response Strategies & Coordination Structures

Emphasis on Local Response

All incidents are handled at the lowest possible organizational and jurisdictional level. Police, fire, public health and medical, emergency management, and other personnel are responsible for incident management at the local level. For those events that rise to the level of an Incident of National Significance, the Department of Homeland Security provides operational and/or resource coordination for Federal support to on-scene incident command structures.

Proactive Federal Response to Catastrophic Events

The National Response Plan provides mechanisms for expedited and proactive Federal support to ensure critical life-saving assistance and incident containment capabilities are in place to respond quickly and efficiently to catastrophic incidents. These are high-impact, low-probability incidents, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks that result in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, and/or government functions.

Multi-Agency Coordination Structures

The National Response Plan establishes multi-agency coordinating structures at the field, regional and headquarters levels. These structures:

Enable the execution of the responsibilities of the President through the appropriate Federal department and agencies;

Integrate Federal, State, local, tribal, nongovernmental Organization, and private-sector efforts; and

Provide a national capability that addresses both site-specific incident management activities and broader regional or national issues, such as impacts to the rest of the country, immediate regional or national actions required to avert or prepare for potential subsequent events, and the management of multiple incidents.

New Coordinating Mechanisms Include

Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC)

The HSOC serves as the primary national-level multi-agency situational awareness and operational coordination center. The HSOC includes elements of the Department of Homeland Security and other Federal departments and agencies.

National Response Coordination Center (NRCC)

The NRCC, a functional component of the HSOC, is a multi-agency center that provides overall Federal response coordination.

Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC)

At the regional level, the RRCC coordinates regional response efforts and implements local Federal program support until a Joint Field Office is established.

Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG)

A tailored group of senior level Federal interagency representatives who provide strategic advice to the Secretary of Homeland Security during an actual or potential Incident of National Significance.

Joint Field Office (JFO)

A temporary Federal facility established locally to provide a central point for Federal, State, local, and tribal representatives with responsibility for incident support and coordination.

Principal Federal Official (PFO)

A PFO may be designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security during a potential or actual Incident of National Significance. While individual Federal officials retain their authorities pertaining to specific aspects of incident management, the PFO works in conjunction with these officials to coordinate overall Federal incident management efforts.

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