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A report commissioned by the U.S. Defense Department to analyze the problematic relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has found that both a lack of National Guard troops – due to heavy deployment in Iraq – and “corruption and mismanagement” in the New Orleans city government contributed to a lack of federal response effectiveness and to the level of damage the storm caused.
According to the London Independent, which says it has seen a copy of the confidential report, the analysis also talks of how military personnel had to “sneak off post” to help with relief efforts because their commander had refused permission.
The slowness in federal response to Katrina led to the resignation of the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, and has contributed to President Bush’s slipping approval ratings.
“The U.S. military has long planned for war on two fronts. This is as close as we have come to [that] reality since the Second World War; the results have been disastrous,” reads the report, according to the Independent.
The document was compiled by Stephen Henthorne, a former professor of the U.S. Army’s War College and an adviser to the Pentagon who was a deputy director in the Louisiana relief efforts.
The report also faults local officials for diverting money meant to bolster the levee system that protected New Orleans from floodwaters.
It charts how “corruption and mismanagement within the New Orleans city government” had “diverted money earmarked for improving flood protection to other, more vote-getting, projects. Past mayors and governors gambled that the long-expected Big Killer hurricane would never happen. That bet was lost with Hurricane Katrina.”
According to the British paper, the report states that Brig. Gen. Michael D Barbero, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., refused permission for Special Forces units who volunteered to join relief efforts to do so. Barbero also refused to release other troops, the analysis said.
“The same general did take in some families from Hurricane Katrina, but only military families living off the base,” the report says. “He has done a similar thing for military families displaced by Hurricane Rita. However, he declined to share water with the citizens of Leesville, who are out of water, and his civil affairs staff have to sneak off post in civilian clothes to help coordinate relief efforts.”
The report also noted that the since the bulk of Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard personnel had been deployed to Iraq, there were insufficient troops to quickly and adequately respond to post-hurricane needs.
States the report: “Even though all the states have ‘compacts’ with each other, pledging to come to the aid of other states, it takes time, money and effort to activate and deploy National Guard troops from other states to fill in.”
The report concludes: “The one thing this disaster has demonstrated [is] the lack of coordinated, in-depth planning and training on all levels of government, for any/all types of emergency contingencies. September 11 was an exception because the geographical area was small and contained, but these two hurricanes have clearly demonstrated a national response weakness. … Failure to plan and train properly has plagued U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now that failure has come home to roost in the United States.”