WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2005 -- Michael Brown, the outgoing head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said while testifying to a House panel today that local officials were more to blame than he was for a failed relief effort in the days following Hurricane Katrina. He suggested much of the chaos in New Orleans could not have been anticipated.
But a draft of a comprehensive hurricane plan prepared for the United States government foresaw almost everything that happened in Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Katrina. While the plan never became official policy, it surely put everyone on notice at FEMA about what could happen if a big storm hit New Orleans.
Brown lays the blame at the feet of Louisiana local and state officials for being confused and inefficient as Hurricane Katrina hit.
"My biggest regret is not getting the governor [of Louisiana] and the mayor of New Orleans to sit down and iron out their differences," Brown told the panel.
But FEMA has had a catastrophic hurricane plan since January, which warns that local government would not be able to cope with a huge storm.
"The response capabilities and resources of the local jurisdiction may be insufficient and quickly overwhelmed," the document reads.
Brown said it was unclear what Louisiana officials needed.
"I could not find out who was making decisions about what needed to be done," Brown testified.
But FEMA's own plan advises the federal government that if lives are at stake, it should not wait to be asked for help.
"This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested," the plan says.
Brown blamed city and state officials for failing to evacuate nearly 100,000 New Orleans residents.
"FEMA does not evacuate," Brown told the panel.
Evacuation, under the government hurricane plan, was indeed a local function. However, the plan calls for FEMA to have a back-up plan.
It warned that, "the State of Louisiana has identified a shortage in resources required to evacuate and support shelters, including the special needs populations."
That ugly scenario did play out, with FEMA stepping in, but very late.
ABC News' Pierre Thomas filed this report for "World News Tonight."