What Did You Expect?
By: Mark W Adams

Moira Whelan suspects that all is not so peachy with our readiness to respond to Hurricane Gustov, now making a bee-line towards the mouth of the Mississippi and making Senator McCain, already linked to the Katrina Kalamity through his cake-eating moment with Bush, rethink having a nominating comvention at all. (There's democracy in action, or is that inaction?)

The problem is Whelan sees that it's our military, not FEMA taking the lead and briefing the public. To date it seems FEMA is still a disfunctional organization, three long years after "Heckuvajob."

I just noticed that the daily brief customarily done in advance of a hurricane is happening because Gustov is bearing down on the Gulf Coast...but a big shift here: the briefing is being given by NORTHCOM. So what does this tell us and why does it matter? It tells us that things are as broken as they were before Katrina.

The military, like EPA, Commerce, or anyone else, is only involved in emergency management to the point that they are requested to do so by the governor or the FEMA director (who acts on behalf of the President).

When it comes to disasters, the governor is always in charge. At any point, he or she can call in their state's National Guard, and/or ask other governors for their help in augmenting response efforts with their national guard or other resources. If a governor is worried things are getting out of control, they ask the President to provide help through FEMA at any point before or after the incident. FEMA is then in charge of coordinating the resources of the federal government to support the governor and the state. In a sense, when FEMA is working properly--as it did under Clinton--when the FEMA director tells another Federal agency to do something, it's as if the President is calling. The government agency is expected to deliver and cut through red tape to make things happen and happen fast.

There is no allowance or legal authority for the Department of Defense to take any sort of control or command in this scenario. In a hurricane, DoD, like Human Services, Transportation, etc, all work for FEMA and the governor of the impacted state.

When you pour the lion's share of all your resources into the Pentagon for decades, is it really a surprise that the military is the only fully functional government department?