Here we go:
The morning Hurricane Katrina thundered ashore, Louisiana National Guard commanders thought they were prepared to save their state. But when 15-foot floodwaters swept into their headquarters, cut their communications and disabled their high-water trucks, they had their hands full just saving themselves.
For a crucial 24 hours after landfall on Aug. 29, Guard officers said, they were preoccupied with protecting their nerve center from the waves topping the windows at Jackson Barracks and rescuing soldiers who could not swim. The next morning, they had to evacuate their entire headquarters force of 375 guardsmen by boat and helicopter to the Superdome.
It was an inauspicious start to the National Guard’s hurricane response, which fell so short that it has set off a national debate about whether in the future the Pentagon should take charge immediately after catastrophes. President Bush has asked Congress to study the question, and top Defense Department and Guard officials are scheduled to testify on the response before a House panel today.
Personally, I take this as more evidence that FEMA and the Pentagon should have pre-positioned more troops in the path of the storm.
In all seriousness, though, themagnitude of this storm just overwhelmed everything at every level, and the appropriate response is not to simply federalize everything. But they will try.