February 14, 2006 – The White House is on the defensive again following the release of a draft report by a Republican-only House Committee investigating the government’s response to the storm. “Our investigation revealed that Katrina was a national failure, an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare,” said the draft report. “At every level – individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental – we failed to meet the challenge that was Katrina.” The full report is scheduled for release Wednesday, February 15, 2006.
Passive reactions and misjudgments by President Bush’s top aides, including DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, the White House Homeland Security Council and the Homeland Security Operations Center are singled out in the report as the primary reasons for the massive failure. Originally, the White House claimed it didn’t learn of the levee breaches until the day after the storm hit and the delay did not affect evacuation efforts. But testimony revealed that a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff member confirmed the breaches and his reports reached the White House and DHS the night the storm hit New Orleans.
The draft report also detailed poor planning by DHS and the White House and knocks a huge hole in the President’s claim that his administration is the best choice to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. “If this is what happens when we have advance warning, we shudder to imagine the consequences when we do not,” the report says. “Four and one half years after 9/11, America is still not ready for prime time.”