You're going to need a map and a large sheet of paper to follow the article "Conflicting accounts from top on Katrina response", which tries to figure out who exactly dropped the ball (if any), and whether it was DHS head Chertoff.
Apparently it happened like this:
- On the night of Aug. 27, the White House issued a statement on Katrina [That's the same statement discussed and linked in "Some LA counties missing from White House emergency declaration"].
That did several things:
- it initiated the National Response Plan..
- it authorized DHS and FEMA "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts" under the Stafford Act...
- the NRP says that if the Stafford Act is used, the incident is a matter of "national significance".
- The NRP references a "principal federal official" who will lead the federal government's response, and the Stafford Act requires a "federal coordinating officer". (I'm confused over what they do, but apparently those aren't the same roles.) Sometime on Aug. 27, Bush named William Lokey as the FCO. In any case, Bush did not name Brown of FEMA as the PFO or the FCO.
- Aug. 29: Katrina hits
- Aug. 30: Chertoff names Brown as the PFO and declares Katrina an "incident of national significance".
The latter had apparently already been done three days prior by the White House, and perhaps Brown should have been the PFO from the beginning...
Can someone check these acronyms please?
At first it was Brown who took the brunt of the criticism for the federal response to Katrina and he resigned under pressure on Monday.
But some congressional aides involved in the investigation are now questioning why Chertoff waited until Aug. 30 to designate Brown as the "principal federal official" and to declare the storm an "incident of national significance."
...But it is unclear why Chertoff did not immediately designate Brown as the "principal federal official" with oversight over Lokey and other federal and state officials...
...But under the National Response Plan, Chertoff could hold off. "Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, a principal federal official may not always be designated, in which case the federal coordinating officer will provide the federal lead," the plan says.
Knocke said Chertoff did not hold off designating Brown as the "principal federal official" because he doubted the severity of the storm. Chertoff was working from home on Aug. 27 and kept in touch with officials by phone, he said.
Knocke said Brown already "was in fact the lead federal official in the field before and after (Chertoff's) declaration. ... Everyone knew their roles and responsibilities."