Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 8, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

DHS AND THE PENTAGON....From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

Many months before Hurricane Katrina, senior military officers within the Pentagon's Northern Command formed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to oversee the military contribution to homeland defense and disaster relief complained that they often were hindered from planning and working alongside other key government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security. The commander of the Pentagon's Northern Command reports directly to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Retired Gen. Ralph Eberhart, who was the senior officer in Northern Command until late last year, frequently complained that he had to get approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense before he or his senior staff could work together with the Department of Homeland Security, said military officials who worked with the general.

....About a year ago Gen. Eberhart pitched a solution to senior Pentagon officials, some of his former staffers said. He pushed to create a permanent task force that would include people from Northern Command, the Pentagon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Justice Department, the Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration. The members of the task force would plan and train together and during a crisis would form the core of a headquarters to oversee the relief effort. The task force would be headed by a civilian who would oversee all relief efforts if and when there were a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

Many in the Pentagon thought it a good idea, said one senior military official involved in developing the concept. But other crises such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took precedence and the idea was put on the back burner, this military official said.

UPDATE: Over at The New Republic, Spencer Ackerman provides a rundown of the military response to Katrina:

As [homeland security expert Jim] Carafano laments, "The [Pentagon] system that we have worked as it was designed. It was never designed to get masses of aid into place in 24 hours. And that's the problem."

Read the whole thing.

Kevin Drum 2:14 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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