[See correction below]
The 9/11 Commission bears some responsibility for the disaster that American disaster relief has become.
As the nation and its politicians and media machers rushed to embrace and enforce the findings and instructions of the commission, I was one of the few who resisted because I feared that due diligence would not be excercised. That is what happened and I believe we are seeing the fruits of it now: The Homeland Security department was formed and huge pieces of the government were reorganized around one goal: terrorism. Of course, that’s a good goal but it’s not the only one and I fear that other jobs of government — such as keeping us safe from and recovering from natural disasters — got short shrift. Indeed, FEMA was demoted and denuded of power, talent, and resources. And, because it was no longer a cabinet-level agency, it could be headed up by a doofus of a political crony.
I’ve been trying to find how exactly FEMA’s reorganization plan came: Were the details laid out by the commission or by Congress? Doesn’t matter, really. Both bear responsibility. And in July, Chertoff announced plans to reorganized and cut up FEMA yet again.
There’s a reason that legislation and politics take time. The deliberative process can be frustrating but it tends to extrude the wisdom of the public if we give it a chance and if it is not overtaken by political urgency. But there was no deliberation after the commission issues its report and browbeat Washington into doing what they said. So Washington did. And FEMA is a mess. And New Orleans is a mess.
Among the lessons we need to learn from the tragedy of Katrina, this is one.
: CORRECTION: I got this wrong, as commenters have been nice (and not nice) to point out: Fema wasintegrated into DHS before the 9/11 Commission report. Wrong is wrong. I wrote the post from memory, which was clearly wrong, and when I tried to find links to the details and couldn’t find them, I stupidly thought it was because I was looking in the wrong places. No, I was just wrong and I should not have gone ahead with the post or should have been making a broader point about the prioritization of DHS under Congress — but I didn’t and now I’ve messed that up. So I’m just wrong. I apologize. (I killed the comments by those masquerading as others.)
: I tried to confess my error under the Kos post that properly if enthusiastically took me to task but their comment system is harder to get into than New Orleans for FEMA.