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Rumsfeld wants own levee probe

From Rumsfeld Orders Independent Levee Probe:

Rumsfeld directed Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey to form a panel of engineering and atmospheric experts under the direction of the National Academy of Sciences, the Pentagon said in a statement Wednesday.
The corps will continue its own investigation alongside a probe also under way by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Bush, Warner, Rumsfeld, Pentagon want bigger military role; "very archaic laws"

From "Military May Play Bigger Relief Role":

President Bush's push to give the military a bigger role in responding to major disasters like Hurricane Katrina could lead to a loosening of legal limits on the use of federal troops on U.S. soil.
...Bush did not define the wider role he envisions for the military...
At question, however, is how far to push the military role, which by law may not include actions that can be defined as law enforcement _ stopping traffic, searching people, seizing property or making arrests. That prohibition is spelled out in the Posse Comitatus Act of enacted after the Civil War mainly to prevent federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states.
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "I believe the time has come that we reflect on the Posse Comitatus Act." He advocated giving the president and the secretary of defense "correct standby authorities" to manage disasters.
...Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is reviewing a wide range of possible changes in the way the military could be used in domestic emergencies, spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday. He said these included possible changes in the relationship between federal and state military authorities.
Under the existing relationship, a state's governor is chiefly responsible for disaster preparedness and response.
Governors can request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If federal armed forces are brought in to help, they do so in support of FEMA...
Di Rita said Rumsfeld has not made recommendations to Bush, but among the issues he is examining is the viability of the Posse Comitatus Act. Di Rita called it one of the "very archaic laws" from a different era in U.S. history that limits the Pentagon's flexibility in responding to 21st century domestic crises.
Another such law, Di Rita said, is the Civil War-era Insurrection Act, which Bush could have invoked to waive the law enforcement restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act. That would have enabled him to use either National Guard soldiers or active-duty troops _ or both _ to quell the looting and other lawlessness that broke out in New Orleans.
The Insurrection Act lets the president call troops into federal action inside the United States whenever "unlawful obstructions, combinations or assemblages _ or rebellion against the authority of the United States _ make it impracticable to enforce the laws" in any state.
The political problem in Katrina was that Bush would have had to impose federal command over the wishes of two governors _ Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi _ who made it clear they wanted to retain state control...

Now, see "Experts: Bush already has enough military powers, he just failed to use them".

Newsweek: "How Bush Blew It"

The Newsweek article How Bush Blew It accuses our leader of having surrounded himself with sycophantic slags, among other sins:

...When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.
...this time "Rummy" opposed sending in active-duty troops as cops. Dick Cheney, who was vacationing in Wyoming when the storm hit, characteristically kept his counsel on videoconferences; his private advice is not known.
Liberals will say they were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate....

Insert our standard Welfare State discussion here.

...But on Saturday night, as Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Nagin talked to Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center. "Max Mayfield has scared me to death," Nagin told City Councilwoman Cynthia Morrell early Sunday morning. "If you're scared, I'm scared," responded Morrell, and the mandatory order went out to evacuate the city-about a day later than for most other cities and counties along the Gulf Coast...
...At dusk [Monday Aug 29], on the ninth floor of city hall, the mayor and the city council had their first encounter with the federal government. A man in a blue FEMA windbreaker arrived to brief them on his helicopter flyover of the city. He seemed unfamiliar with the city's geography, but he did have a sense of urgency. "Water as far as the eye can see," he said. It was worse than Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969. "I need to call Washington," he said. "Do you have a conference-call line?" According to an aide to the mayor, he seemed a little taken aback when the answer was no. Long neglected in the city budget, communications within the New Orleans city government were poor, and eventually almost nonexistent when the batteries on the few old satellite phones died. The FEMA man found a phone, but he had trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally got someone on the line, the city officials kept hearing him say, "You don't understand, you don't understand."

This first encounter is also described in another article; if someone has the link please post it.

...At about 8 p.m. [Monday Aug 29], [Blanco] spoke to Bush. "Mr. President," she said, "we need your help. We need everything you've got."
Bush, the governor later recalled, was reassuring. But the conversation was all a little vague. Blanco did not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military...
...There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed...

Hit those talking points!

...By the predawn hours [of Tuesday Aug 30], most state and federal officials finally realized that the 17th Street Canal levee had been breached, and that the city was in serious trouble. Bush was told at 5 a.m. Pacific Coast time and immediately decided to cut his vacation short. To his senior advisers, living in the insular presidential bubble, the mere act of lopping off a couple of presidential vacation days counts as a major event. They could see pitfalls in sending Bush to New Orleans immediately. His presence would create a security nightmare and get in the way of the relief effort. Bush blithely proceeded with the rest of his schedule for the day, accepting a gift guitar at one event and pretending to riff like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."

Of course, this is one of the things that the "liberals" have harped on, including faulting him for not rushing there immediately. Then, after he went there they harped on how the necessary security for his visit had delayed evacuations. Those wacky "liberals".

[...only "28 or 30" cops were available out of 120 who were summoned to the Second District...]
...New Orleans had no real evacuation plan, save to tell people to go to the Superdome and wait for buses. On Tuesday, the state was rounding up buses; no, FEMA was; no, FEMA's buses would take too long to get there ... and so on...
...Early Wednesday morning [Aug 31], Blanco tried to call Bush. She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics. Hours later, Blanco called back and insisted on speaking to the president. When he came on the line, the governor recalled, "I just asked him for help, 'whatever you have'." She asked for 40,000 troops. "I just pulled a number out of the sky," she later told NEWSWEEK.

Clearly, she was in very very far over her head.

The Pentagon was not sitting idly. By Tuesday morning (and even before the storm) the military was moving supplies, ships, boats, helicopters and troops toward the Gulf Coast. But, ironically, the scale of the effort slowed it. TV viewers had difficulty understanding why TV crews seemed to move in and out of New Orleans while the military was nowhere to be seen. But a TV crew is five people in an RV. Before the military can send in convoys of trucks, it has to clear broken and flooded highways. The military took over the shattered New Orleans airport for emergency airlifts, but special teams of Air Force operators had to be sent in to make it ready. By the week after the storm, the military had mobilized some 70,000 troops and hundreds of helicopters-but it took at least two days and usually four and five to get them into the disaster area. Looters and well-armed gangs, like TV crews, moved faster.

Yet another "liberal" talking point, including something that Nagin said over and over, was that we could send all this aid to tsunami victims, but we can't immediately send in the military. The preceding paragraph does help explain why.

In the inner councils of the Bush administration, there was some talk of gingerly pushing aside the overwhelmed "first responders," the state and local emergency forces, and sending in active-duty troops. But under an 1868 law, federal troops are not allowed to get involved in local law enforcement. The president, it's true, could have invoked the Insurrections Act, the so-called Riot Act. But Rumsfeld's aides say the secretary of Defense was leery of sending in 19-year-old soldiers trained to shoot people in combat to play policemen in an American city, and he believed that National Guardsmen trained as MPs were on the way.
...Once a kind of petty-cash drawer for congressmen to quickly hand out aid after floods and storms, FEMA had improved in the 1990s in the Clinton administration...

Everything improved on Bubba's watch!

...Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.
The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."

If true, that would tend to place Bush in a somewhat better light than our "liberal" friends have painted him.

According to Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, the meeting came to a head when Mayor Nagin blew up during a fraught discussion of "who's in charge?" Nagin slammed his hand down on the table and told Bush, "We just need to cut through this and do what it takes to have a more-controlled command structure. If that means federalizing it, let's do it."
A debate over "federalizing" the National Guard had been rattling in Washington for the previous three days. Normally, the Guard is under the control of the state governor, but the Feds can take over-if the governor asks them to. Nagin suggested that Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the Pentagon's on-scene commander, be put in charge. According to Senator Vitter, Bush turned to Governor Blanco and said, "Well, what do you think of that, Governor?" Blanco told Bush, "I'd rather talk to you about that privately." To which Nagin responded, "Well, why don't you do that now?"
The meeting broke up. Bush and Blanco disappeared to talk. More than a week later, there was still no agreement. Blanco didn't want to give up her authority, and Bush didn't press...

Well, I guess that's not a good appraisal of Blanco's leadership abilities then.
Some of the claims in this article are countered here, and please leave more in the comments.

"Some Urge Greater Use of Troops in Major Disasters"

Always keep a watchful eye out for those "some" people:

...National plans developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks rest on the notion that police, fire and other emergency groups are best positioned to serve as first responders. Federal agencies are supposed to function as backup to state and local ones, and military forces are meant to play a largely supporting role to civilian authorities.
But Katrina showed what can happen when the foundation of this organizational structure is quickly overwhelmed and disintegrates, according to government officials and independent analysts...
[Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld] said the government would likely address again the question of "lead responsibility" for the Defense Department in disaster response. He noted that the issue was critical not only in responding to a natural catastrophe but also to a terrorist attack, because reliance on local authorities has been the basis of emergency planning in both cases.
Some homeland defense specialists have argued since Katrina struck that national plans must be revised to provide for a bigger and faster federalized effort, particularly in large-scale disasters.
"Only the federal government can mobilize a national response to catastrophic disasters," said James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "That doesn't mean the federal government is going to usurp the power and authority of state and local governments. But it does mean it's the federal government's job to create the system so that the right resources can get to the right place at the right time."
There is no guarantee that a greater federal role would improve response. Both the Pentagon and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been widely faulted for not grasping quickly enough the scope of Katrina's damage and not committing sufficient people, supplies and equipment early on.
Historically, practical as well as legal considerations have favored relying on leadership at the grass-roots level.
"The police and fire departments and local emergency-service people are, by definition, the first ones on the scene," said H.K. Park, a former defense official who worked on homeland security issues during the Clinton administration. "And they have the advantage of knowing their communities.
"There's also a legal dimension," he added, "involving states' rights versus federal rights."
Further, military forces remain constrained from a domestic law enforcement role by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. Though the Pentagon has committed more than 8,000 active-duty Army and Marine troops and about 10,000 sailors, it has made it clear that these forces will not perform police functions.
National Guard troops, now numbering more than 46,000, constitute a far larger share of the military presence in the disaster area. They bring two main advantages. First, they possess medical, engineering, communication and logistical skills required in relief work. Second, Guard units, when operating under the command of state governors, are not limited by Posse Comitatus.
Any move to assign greater responsibility to the Pentagon for domestic emergency management is likely to face resistance, particularly since the armed forces are already strained by the conflict in Iraq. Commanders remain sensitive to the notion of U.S. troops becoming an occupying force in their own country...

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