What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 28, 2005

The Politics of Hurricane Katrina

"OH GEEEZ!" I can hear some of you thinking now, "Everything is not political -- hurricanes have no politics!"

And you're right, acts of nature aren't political and even Pat Robertson has no control over the path they may take despite what he has claimed in the past.

That said, the resources to combat the effects of hurricanes is ALL about politics. So consider the following:

1. The National Guard is typically used to assist during catastrophic events (their website states: "In times of emergency, whether it be flood or fire, our commitment to the residents of Louisiana remains a top priority." However, as KWTX notes:

The Louisiana National Guard is on alert, but thousands of guard troops from the state are now serving in Iraq.

Nagin (Mayor of New Orleans) said 1,500 troops are immediately available, however, and another 2,500 have been mobilized.

2. From WGNO from the August 1, 2005:

LA National Guard Wants Equipment to Come Back From Iraq

When members of the Louisiana National Guard left for Iraq in October, they took a lot equipment with them. Dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators are now abroad, and in the event of a major natural disaster that, could be a problem.

"The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," said Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard.


"You've got combatant commanders over there who need it they say they need it, they don't want to lose what they have, and we certainly understand that it's a matter it's a matter of us educating that combatant commander, we need it back here as well," Col. Schneider said.
3. And to add insult to injury, from a June 2005 article in New Orleans CityBusiness:

New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces (cuts)

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.

Money is so tight the New Orleans district, which employs 1,300 people, instituted a hiring freeze last month on all positions. The freeze is the first of its kind in about 10 years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps' Programs Management Branch.

(Hat Tip to the following Daily Kos stories here and here.)

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