Government bureaucracy moves slower than molasses in January. That kills people. The elected Democrats have an opportunity to change that right now if they could only agree to an immediate paradigm shift. I doubt they will, but I have some suggestions for how they can right now – perhaps saving lives as a result of the process.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, beltway politicians are squabbling about who will investigate the massive failure of the federal, state and local governments and how those investigations will proceed. That is not acceptable. Both sides are wrong here as they snipe at each other while avoiding the real problem: what’s the fastest way to change the systems that could not respond those suffering and who died as a result?

Now is not the time for business as usual. Any further delay in fixing those systems places more American lives in jeopardy. That must be the prime motive in taking appropriate action immediately and you can’t wait for old, broken processes that take months and years when the next catastrophe could take place tomorrow.

There are two issues to consider now: how did the system fail and what can the politicians and civil servants do to change it? The first will take longer to plough through. The second can be addressed now.

Drawing from my experience on boards and committees, what I would like the Democrats to do (and you can call me naive or simplistic if you like) is this:

  1. Set up an informal meeting of Democratic representatives and security experts (like Richard Clarke), chosen by Harry Reid, to examine the situation ie. a brainstorming session. I don’t care if they meet in a basement in DC, in a Las Vegas casino or in somebody’s family room. Just meet.
  2. Assign tasks ie. have 2 or 3 look at the fed’s emergency plan, the responsibilities of each agency and report back to the committee quickly
  3. Upon receiving summaries of what’s already in place, look for deficits in those plans according to an overview of the timeline of the response to Katrina (they don’t need every last detail for that investigation)
  4. Suggest changes that can be implemented immediately ie. things that would not require an act of congress or major gov’t/agency restructuring
  5. Suggest action items that will require more formal action in the long term
  6. Publicize, publicize, publicize. That accomplishes two things: putting pressure on the Republicans to make immediate changes instead of stalling in the name of formal hearings and showing Americans that the Democrats have a tangible strategy for keeping them safe and sound.

You may be looking at that list thinking it’s a massive undertaking that could take months. I disagree. If done efficiently, such an investigation could be wrapped up in a month or so. The reason I believe this is that there are already emergency protocols in place. According to many experts, the bureaucracy failed more than the plans. It would not take much, in my opinion, to correct both of those aspects in a very short period of time. The ideas and opinions are already out there. We’ve all heard and seen the reaction. It can only serve your country well to gather them quickly – sidestepping formal investigative processes – in order to remedy them ASAP. The Republicans in power would ignore such remedies to their own detriment if presented with a clear plan of action that they could not shove aside.

I think such a plan of action is viable and workable and, for once, I’d like to see the elected Democrats step outside of the restraints that keep them from doing what their job is: securing the life and liberty of all Americans.

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