Now Cough

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Amateur Presidency

Is it just me, or did we all think the 9/11 attacks were our generation's Pearl Harbor? The awful day galvanized us, right? Pearl Harbor? Pretty soon there was the 'no-expenses spared' Manhattan Project.

9/11? We attack a country that had NO connection to the attacks. And, despite a quick war in Afghanistan, US forces actually pulled back just as they were closing in on Osama bin Laden.

But, let's skip forward 5 years. Congress and the White House create the Department of Homeland Security. Ok, so they wasted a lot of time on color terror alerts. And, oookay, DHS completely screwed up the one national disaster they did have experience with, hurricanes.

Still, didn't we think, nay hope, even BELIEVE, that of all federal agencies DHS 'got religion' about the lessons from 9/11?

Huh---guess not:

U.S. Report Faults Nation's Preparedness for Disaster

By ERIC LIPTON/ New York Times
WASHINGTON, June 16 — States and cities in hurricane zones generally have better plans to deal with disaster than do other regions, but the nation's overall level of preparedness is still far from sufficient, a new report by the Department of Homeland Security says.

For the nation as a whole, the report rates only a quarter of state emergency operations plans and 10 percent of municipal plans as "sufficient" to cope with a natural disaster or a terrorist attack... (See the DHS report)

How bad is it? Well, this White House likes to berate Democrats for their "pre-9/11 mindset." But a glance at this study shows the Bush administration has a "post-9/11 play set" at best:

While most areas of the country are well prepared to handle standard disaster situations, the National Plan Review findings demonstrate the need for all levels of government across the country to improve emergency operations plans for catastrophic events such as a major terrorist attack or category-five hurricane strike. Several areas, including evacuation, attention to populations with special needs, command structure, and resource management, were areas needing significant attention.

I'm sorry, but after we give 'special attention' to those areas...what's left?? Isn't that the whole ball of wax? "Command structure" makes me laugh---wasn't that what the creation of DHS and all this talk about 'coordination' supposed to FIX?

On the list of to-dos, here's a corker:

The Federal Government should provide the leadership, doctrine, policies, guidance, standards, and resources necessary to build a shared national homeland security planning system.

Duuuhhhhhhh! Maybe after the next disaster.

Or as The New York Times put it:

...Despite the billions of dollars in federal grants disbursed to cities and states since the 2001 terrorist attacks to improve preparations for catastrophe, officials at the Homeland Security Department said they were not surprised by the results.

"It is a natural evolution towards working together as a nation to implement the lessons from seminal events such as the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina," said George W. Foresman, the department's under secretary for preparedness.
(See full article registration required)

Of course Mr. Foreman doesn't even hint at when it is reasonable to expect those lessons to be implemented. One musn't be hasty, I guess.

Florida and South Carolina came out with the best preparedness scores, but they have been clobbered so often by hurricanes that's to be expected.

How did the two cities clobbered by the 9/11 attacks do?

...New York City and Washington, the two targets of the 2001 attacks, each received mixed reviews, with New York still needing to work on preparations for mass care, communications[if this is about those police and fire radios again, well, someone is in big trouble...], basic direction and control. The Washington area has to work on some of the same, the report said, and its medical and health plans are clearly not sufficient. Over all, New York City was rated partially sufficient, and the Washington area not sufficient.

Ok, five years after 9/11 New York City gets a "C" and Washington, DC gets an "F." And DC is the home of the federal government where you would think enlightened self interest is an art form.

I'm sure the White House gives this all a big shrug. "Hey, it's the states and the cities who have to get their act together," Roveristas would say. Too cynical? Check what they were saying in the middle of the New Orleans disaster about Louisiana, New Orleans and Mississippi.


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