Probe: Katrina Response 'a National Failure'

A Republican-led congressional investigation will brand the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina "a national failure," according to portions of the report obtained by ABC News. The document also warns that the nation is not prepared for another major catastrophe.

The report is only in draft form, but it's hard to imagine the final version could get any worse -- especially considering that it was written by Republicans.

The draft report calls the government's Katrina response "an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare."

The committee does not stop there.

"If this is what happens when we have advance warning," says the report, "we shudder to imagine the consequences when we do not. Four and a half years after 9/11, America is still not ready for prime time."

"The federal government failed to move in a more proactive mode quickly enough," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va. "The fog of war prevailed. The information didn't reach the right people until it was too late, and as a result there were preventable deaths and preventable suffering."

Most disturbing, says the report, was that "this crisis was not only predictable, it was predicted."

Chertoff in the Cross Hairs

The committee points a finger directly at the head of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. As the president's principal disaster adviser, the committee said, Chertoff executed his responsibilities "late, ineffectively, or not at all."

As an example, the report cites comments President Bush made to ABC News days after the levees broke.

"We could not have predicted the levees breaking," he told "Good Morning America" on Sept. 1, 2005.

The report says those comments "do not appear to be consistent with the advice and counsel one would expect to have been provided by a senior disaster professional."

Taken altogether, the report concludes the government's response to Katrina was a "litany of mistakes, misjudgments, lapses and absurdities all cascading together, hobbling any collective effort to respond."

Today Chertoff accepted responsibility for the government response, but he did not address specifics in the report.

"I will certainly listen to all the advice and even all the criticism that is leveled in order to make sure that we get ourselves in as good shape as possible," Chertoff said.

He did, however, announce a major reorganization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency today, which calls for the following:

The addition of a "substantial" number of permanent employees to serve as a core disaster work force

New communications equipment that will still work when power fails

Special teams to coordinate information sharing between agencies

The White House said today it is focusing on the future, not the past. But one of the points this report makes is "the government failed because it did not learn from past experiences."

ABC News' Martha Raddatz filed this report for "World News Tonight."

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...