CHRONOLOGY....Here's a timeline that outlines the fate
both FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush
administration. Read it and weep:
2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of
FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.
Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal
of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA
will be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance
may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he
said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved
and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an
FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the
three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."
After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to
start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do
business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy and former college
roommate, Michael Brown, who has no previous experience in disaster
management and was fired
from his previous job for mismanagement.
FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the
Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting
acts of terrorism.
Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and
planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and
Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.
FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says
Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we
would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program
called for. We were more than qualified for it."
The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New
Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter
Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the
president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and
I suppose that's the price we pay."
Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit
areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was
created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson,
Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.
While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs
for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark
Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his
vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the
unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a
flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.
So: A crony with no relevant experience was installed
as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even
though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country.
FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's
conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was
created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.
Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a
size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when
it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of
deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and
partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the
Bush administration in a nutshell.