Bush Calls for Broader Military Disaster Response Role
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
"It was not a normal hurricane -- and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it," Bush said. "Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions."
Today, Defense Department officials reported 61,719 active duty and National Guard personnel on the ground or aboard ships supporting relief operations in the Gulf Coast region. Active duty forces now number 14,321, and 45,004 National Guard members are on hand. Another 2,394 personnel are outside the area and ready to assist.
But the president said in retrospect, the response in the hurricane's immediate aftermath would have gone better had the federal government in general and the military services in particular been able to be more deeply involved at the outset.
"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice," he said.
"Four years after the frightening experience of September the 11th," the president noted, "Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency."
Cities must have clear, up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters, disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks, he said. That includes the ability to evacuate large numbers of people in an emergency, and to provide needed food, water and security.
"In a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction," Bush said, "the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain. I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority."
The president said he's ordered all Cabinet secretaries to participate in a comprehensive review of the government's response to the disaster. "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina," he said. "We're going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people."
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