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As Long as We Remember...

A Failure To Read

September 12, 2005

There is much talk about who is to blame for the lack of preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina. Many people blame the federal government, and the Karl Rove spin machine is blaming the mayor and governor (both Democrats) of Louisiana. I would suggest that we all read the U.S. Government "National Response Plan" that was published in December 2004 (

The document states that when the U.S. is facing an "Incident of National Significance," then the Director of Homeland Security steps in to take control. Page 33 of this document states: "When an incident or potential incident is of such severity, magnitude, and/or complexity that it is considered an Incident of National Significance according to the criteria established in this plan, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with other Federal departments and agencies, initiates actions to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the incident."

What is an (incident an)"incident of National Significance?" The Plan's glossary (page 81) cites hurricanes as "incidents," and the definition of "Incident of National Significance" is "Based on criteria established in HSPD-5 (paragraph 4), an actual or potential high-impact event that requires a coordinated and effective response by and appropriate combination of Federal, State, local, tribal, nongovernmental, and/or private-sector entities in order to save lives and minimize damage, and provide the basis for long-term community recovery and mitigation activities."

So, here, the plan that a "high impact" event REQUIRES coordination; but, as you will see, the director of Homeland Security was not coordinating!

Today(September 7), I was made aware of a memo from FEMA Director Michael Brown that was sent to Secretary Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security on August 29, (, that clearly states that an Undersecretary was initiating response, not Secretary Chertoff. This seems to be an obvious dereliction of duty by Secretary. Chertoff. And, when you consider that the Brown memo was created the day the hurricane made land-fall, no one at the national level was preparing for this catastrophic incident. As stated in the National Plan, this hurricane – and all storms that threaten more than one state at a time – automatically become an issue for FEMA and The Department of Homeland Security. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge drafted this plan; it's just too bad that neither Brown nor Chertoff bothered to read it.

Tad Janes

(Editor’s Note: The emphasis in boldface and italics is that of the Mr. Janes.)

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