Friday, September 02, 2005

More on the Logistics of the Situation

An e-mailer to The Corner writes:

I am seeing and reading all the commentary about the "slow" Federal response
to Katrina and, perhaps its my background as a military logistician (retired
now for a number of years), but I'd like to offer a few observations. While the shameless mayor of New
Orleans sounds off like an aggrieved pimp on the radio, a military
operation, involving both Guard and active duty, that dwarfs our invasion of
Panama has been gathering and underway since Tuesday. I saw the first alert
orders go out Tuesday. (The President, BTW, issued disaster emergency
declarations even before Katrina made landfall.
) The first order of
business for any operation, relief or military, is assess needs, routes of
ingress and egress, etc. We're looking at a disaster area covering 90,000
square miles--this is not just New Orleans.
Moving the right supplies and
people to the right area in the right order is complex, even with a fully
functioning communications net and an intact road network. Here we are, 96
hours after landfall, and thousands of troops, tons and tons of supplies,
and a fleet of warships are there or due to arrive shortly. This is no
small feat.

It should be noted that Gov Blanco was slow to ramp up the LA Guard--you
don't simply call a Guardsman and tell him to report in two hours. By law,
they can take as much as 72 hours to report so that they can get their
affairs in order. If they show up sooner, great, but the point is, while
all media--and some at the Corner--obsess over the Fed's performance, the
flaccid response of local and state authorities in Louisiana made a daunting
task even tougher.
The Guard and military, for example, rely on local
authorities to provide some idea of where victims are, and, as we have
heard, Nagin's office didn't bother telling FEMA that Nagin had directed
people to the NO Convention Center. Likewise, CSAR and medical units are
not combat outfits. Having to bring in more troops to quell the animalistic
behavior of some (and that behavior, BTW, broke out before the rains even
stopped, though Blanco and Nagin didn't seem to care) means the flow of
supplies and evacuees is slowed.

In any event, I hear a lot of people talking about the unprecedented scope
and scale of the disaster, and, in the next breath, wonder what's taking so
long. There is always room for improvement and this is not to say the Feds
shouldn't take their share of knocks, but I've spoken with a number of
military officers from other nations, including Third World states, who are
studying here, and they are bemused by the spectacle of hand wringing and
media panic.

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