With Hurricane Katrina ripping the Gulf Coast of the US to pieces and the Louisiana National Guard deployed to Iraq, the emergency services in New Orleans have been overwhelmed. However, contributing further to the disaster have been the devestating cuts to emergency preparedness that have been proposed by the Bush administration.
Here's some excerpts from articles illustrating the bad planning:
"Until recently, efforts to squeeze coastal protection money out of Washington have met with resistance. The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. Ultimately a deal was struck to steer $540 million to the state over four years. The total coast of repair work is estimated to be $14 billion."
"In its budget, the Bush administration had also proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."
By Bill Walsh, Bruce Alpert and John McQuaid. "Feds' Disaster Planning Shifts Away From Preparedness." Newshouse News Services, August 30, 2005
"Hurricane Katrina is now being called one of the worst, if not the worst, disaster in US history. Instead of focusing on this growing tragedy in the southeast, you are at this moment giving a speech in California about World War II and Iraq. Yes, you devoted one minute of that speech to the hurricane, but now it's been 20 minutes and you are still talking about WWII and Iraq."
From America Blog
In 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked a major hurricane strike on New Orleans as ?among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country,? directly behind a terrorist strike on New York City.
Yesterday, disaster struck. And even as one of the strongest storms in recorded history rocked the Gulf Coast, President Bush decided to continue his vacation, visiting the Pueblo El Mirage RV and Golf Resort in El Mirage, Ariz., to hawk his Medicare drug benefit plan. (Bush will spend one more night in Crawford tonight before flying back to Washington.)
From As Katrina Struck, Bush Vacationed
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming....Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans City Business.
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: ?It appears that the money has been moved in the president?s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that?s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can?t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.?
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for.
Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues
AND AN ARTICLE AHEAD OF THE STORM:
In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.
It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.
I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.
There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.
New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces severe cuts