Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Bureaucratic Bungling Continues

I'm watching CNN right now. There is a reporter interviewing Mayor Johnny DuPree, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which is situated over 40 miles inland from the devastation along the coast:

Reporter: Have you been coordinating with F.E.M.A.? (Federal Emergency Management Administration)

Mayor DuPree: Who's FEMA?

Reporter: You don't know what FEMA is?!?

Mayor DuPree: Who's FEMA?

Reporter: You know, the government agency that is ____

Mayor DuPree: (interrupting) I'm being facetious. I asked that because we didn't see any of them for five days after the hurricane.

Reporter: Oh... you didn't?

Mayor DuPree: Right at this moment there are fifty trucks just sitting at a nearby military base. According to the plan, they're supposed to be bringing ice and water into our city every day, and they're just sitting because some person in FEMA won't sign a form and release these trucks. They're just sitting there!

DuPree went on to say that FEMA has been all but useless in helping his city to cope with the disaster.

Here is some more about how Johnny DuPree feels about the federal government's response to the disaster and FEMA in particular. Right here, read more about FEMA's poor coordination of the relief effort in Hattiesburg.

Heh. The U.S. Department Of Homeland Security would like to remind everyone that September is "National Preparedness Month." As a classroom teacher serving students in a California public school, I find it disturbing that the first I heard of this pronouncement from the folks entrusted with our security was in an email which lead me to this post.

Ed's Note: Not only do the victims of Hurricane Katrina have to contend with the effects of the storm's fury, they also have to contend with the effects of an obviously incompetent federal bureaucracy that's so hidebound by rules and regulations that no one is in a position to actually make a decision and get something done quickly.

Considering that it has been nearly four years since 9/11, there is simply no excuse for this bureaucratic inertia.

Prediction: Right now, people are saying that this isn't the time to "point fingers," and there will be plenty of time for that later on...

"Later on" these same people will be saying that we have to "move forward" and not spend our time dwelling on a past that can't be changed.

As it is only classroom teachers and school principals who are being held "accountable" for student success under NCLB, it is probable that there will only be a few low-level officials who will be held "accountable" for the mess that has been the federal response to Katrina.

Following a well-established pattern, few, if any, high-level bureaucrats will be held "accountable," while nearly all will keep their jobs. In today's new governmental paradigm of accountability, it has become the custom to punish the tribe's braves while allowing the chiefs at the top to get-off scot-free.

Oh, I am certain that there will be commissions, blue-ribbon panels, meetings, and hearings ad nauseum. As with 9/11 and Katrina, none of these will make a difference during the next major disaster, after which we will be hearing these very same laments.

What we will probably get (as with 9/11) is the creation of yet another federal bureaucracy, (along with fifty state bureaucracies mirroring the federal one) that will oversee a reshuffling of current governmental agencies.

You can probably take that one to the bank.

If there is one lesson that can be drawn from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, it's that government at all levels has become so bloated with competing bureaucracies (all of which jealously guard their turf and prerogatives) that nothing can actually seem to get done in anything like the short time-frame needed in order to effectively respond to an unexpected catastrophe.
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