MSNBC: Chair of Senate Homeland Security panel: ‘Sluggish initial response’

WASHINGTON - Post-9/11 reforms to respond to catastrophic disasters failed their first major test in Hurricane Katrina’s wake, the Republican chairwoman of a Senate committee said Wednesday as the panel opened its inquiry of the government’s response to the storm.

Despite billions of dollars to boost disaster preparedness at all levels of government, the response to Katrina was plagued by confusion, communication failures and widespread lack of coordination, said Senate Homeland Security Committee chair Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“At this point, we would have expected a sharp, crisp response to this terrible tragedy,” Collins said. “Instead, we witnessed what appeared to be a sluggish initial response.”

The hearing marked Congress’ first step in investigating major gaps in the country’s readiness and response systems that Katrina exposed. It comes as Republican and Democrats continue debate over whether to appoint an unusual House-Senate panel to investigate the matter, or to create an independent commission much like the one that examined government missteps that led to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the committee, said the response to Katrina “has shaken the public’s confidence in the ability of government at all levels to protect them in a crisis.”

Lawmakers said they did not ask officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Homeland Security Department to appear at the hearing out of fear that would disrupt the ongoing recovery process in the battered Gulf Coast. Instead, a slew of former city and state officials testified about their experiences in facing faced major disasters in their communities.

Calling Katrina a “national tragedy,” former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial put the primary responsibility for disaster response squarely on the federal government’s shoulders. Morial, president of the National Urban League, was New Orleans’ mayor from 1994 to 2004.

“This tragedy requires a concerted, dedicated and wholehearted response from our federal government,” Morial said in prepared testimony.

“In responding to this crisis, our government’s number one priority must be to help protect and restore the lives of the hundreds of thousands of citizens whose worlds have been disrupted and destroyed,” he said. “We must every day and in every way put the people first.”

Oh boy, another 9/11 Commission....

Yep! That will get to the bottom of the facts! Yessir!


Mr. Morial must think no one in the Big Easy remembers him and what corruption was wrought under "His Watch", that ulimately contributed to the disaster.

Point blank? Morial ignored the plight of the poor in his city, preferring to "wine and dine" the rich and wealthy, his "friends and cronies".

Former Mayors should neither be seen nor heard.

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