Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Accusation, Revealed


Over on Polipundit, I promised to name the culprit most responsible for the absolute Cluster-Fudge that was New Orleans between August 29th and September 1st. For four days, it seemed that no one was in charge, knew what to do, or cared about the more than a million people affected by Hurricane Katrina in the Southeast Louisiana area. To be sure, there were conditions no one could control, and also there is no question that certain individuals set themselves apart, but in dishonor and personal disgrace. But when one starts to sift the facts out, one man becomes clearly involved in every major blunder, every key decision involving New Orleans, and one man who had contact with every decision-maker, in many cases the man expected to tell them the conditions, needs, and options. That man did so horrible a job, that in any just universe he will face criminal charges. That man is Major General Bennett C. Landreneau, who is also the head of Louisiana's Department of Homeland Security.

As many people know, the City of New Orleans did have a hurricane preparation and response plan. The plan is aligned with the official "State of Louisiana Emergency Operations Plan, Supplement 1A".

Unfortunately, the City of New Orleans did not train for it, nor did they follow its provisions when the event happened. But that part can be discussed in another article.

The plans specified state and local actions which simply did not happen, including (City and State use identical plan references)

D1b. The Governor will, after declaring a State of Emergency, "Issue supplemental declarations and orders", to address specific needs not covered by the initial declaration. That is the part where the Governor needed to ask for troops from out-of-state, rather than assume they would just show up.

D1c. "Authorize and direct the use of State government personnel and other resources to deal with the emergency."

D1d. "Authorize and direct the authorities of non-risk parishes to coordinate the opening and operation of shelters with DSS in conjunction with ARC, and to lend all possible assistance to the evacuation and shelter effort." (DSS is the Department of Social Services, ARC is American Red Cross)

D1e. "Request federal government assistance as needed."

The Adjutant General/Director of the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP) is charged in section D2 with the coordination of the Governor's actions and declarations, and to "keep the Governor and the Legislature informed of progress and problems in dealing with the disaster."

The Louisiana State Police are charged in D3. to "maintain order on State highways and expedite the flow of traffic from the risk to the host parishes"

The Department of Social Services is charged in D5 to "coordinate the opening of shelters in conjunction with the ARC for evacuees from the risk area."

The Department of Health and Hospitals is charged in D6 to "coordinate the evacuation and sheltering of people who have special medical and health needs".

The New Orleans plan, in section E, says that "direction and control is specified in the State Emergency Operations Plan".

That puts us back the matter of coordination. What happens, essentially, is that the Adjutant General of LouisianaƂ‘s Department of Homeland Security (not to be confused with the U.S. DHS) is responsible for telling the Governor what ia happening and what needs to be done next. The same man is responsible for coordinating state agencies with the parishes which need help, in this case most critically with Mayor Nagin. That same man is also responsible for telling FEMA where the people fleeing the storm are going, and making sure they get the water, food, medicine, and other supplies they need. As we have seen in the actual event, none of those things were done, and they all depended on General Landreneau. It is clear from the evidence, that the man had no idea what he was doing, and lacked the sense to get out of the way until President replaced him with General Honore on Wednesday. The timeline shows that once Landreneau was replaced, the system began to work.

FEMA coordinates the actions of twenty-seven federal agencies, as explained briefly here, and in depth here.

In Section III, Roles and Responsibilities (pdf page 28 of 426), FEMA explains that the Federal government may coordinate multiple agencies under the provisions of the Stafford Act. FEMA, as its name suggests, is a Manager of Agencies, responsible for coordination, and totally dependent on information from and cooperation with local and state agencies.

The Stafford Act, in essence, manages relief resources supplied by the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Mennonite Disaster Service, "and any other relief or disaster assistance organizations" operating to assist in relief efforts. That is, FEMA's first actions are to coordinate the supplies and aid being brought in by the extant relief groups. FEMA does not establish shelters or perform evacuations, does not command police or armed forces, and must depend on the information and cooperation received from the stateƂ’s authorized commander for disaster relief. In other states, FEMA was relatively swift and effective, but in Louisiana, FEMA was obstructed by the LDHS.

Now, about General Landreneau. The first words from the General were in an August 29th press conference, where he assured the press that 200 boats were positioned to go in to rescue stranded victims, "as soon as the winds decrease". In the actual fact, far fewer boats weravailablele, and they went out much later.

On that same date, Landreneau downplayed the initial effects of Katrina, as his agency suggested the hurricane had already done its worst. "Officials originally were concerned that hurricane protection levees would be topped, but Katrina's drift to the east apparently kept that from occurring" said an article interviewing the general.

That same article quoted Landreneau as saying "there was a report that there was a breech or overtopping of a levee on the 17th Street Canal, which divides Jefferson and Orleans. Some areas had been flooded, perhaps in the Lakeview section of New Orleans." Landreneau did not understand the importance of his own information.

Confusion was evident sometimes in the very same statement. In one place, "Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general for the Louisiana National Guard, said that the number of people taking shelter in the Superdome has risen to around 15,000 to 20,000 as search and rescue teams bring more people to the Superdome from areas hit hard by the flooding."

But the same article noted that Mayor Nagin had declared the Superdome to be a "refuge of last resort, that no food, water, or supplies would be provided. Residents who evacuated to the Superdome were warned to bring their own supplies." In this statement, the Mayor was correct under the plan described by the State, but General Landreneau appeared to be unaware of the terms of the plan, and what this meant to the people there.

This is a worrisome indicator that Landreneau underestimated the danger from Katrina, and directed his force to keep people from entering New Orleans, rather than focusing on getting people out, or making sure the people at shelters had needed supplies. This attitude also explains the reports from Major Garrett that State DHS forces commanded by Landreneau had prevented the Red Cross and Salvation Army from delivering food and water to the Superdome.

Garret said the Red Cross quoted a State official as saying to them "look, we do not want to create a magnet for more people to come to the Superdome or the convention center. We want to get them out." In plain English, Landreneau failed to tell his own agency that the Superdome, originally designated a Shelter of Last Resort, which by design do not receive food or water, had been redesignated as a major relief shelter. Small wonder; Landreneau never did any of the paperwork necessary to order that change, and did not even announce to his own deputies the change in plan.

Landreneau was mentioned in an August 31 report about a controversy around who would use a new planned airport. Landreneau's reluctance to make a clear decision, as highlighted in the article, indicates an indecision which may have played a role in the disaster response.

A Boston Globe report on August 30 noted that there was a great deal of confusion in the State response, even to the details about numbers of victims and locations of focus. Landreneau appeared to be one of many chiefs, rather than the man in charge.

Although the Shreveport Times reports that Landreneau was keeping Governor Blanco informed of events and needs, it appears that Blanco was not being told about the numbers in shelters without food or water, and was not told about the need to ask for additional National Guard support.

While it seems peculiar that Governor Blanco would not understand that her Declaration of a State of Emergency did not satisfy the conditions under Posse Comitatus necessary for out-of-state forces to assist in forceful restoration of order, it should be noted that General Landreneau never explained the requirement to her; if a State Executives should understand this, certainly her military adjutant in charge of disaster response should suggest the action. But General Landreneau never briefed Governor Blanco on Posse Comitatus, or suggested the request for federal troops in support of the LNG.

On August 30, even as the world at large began to know about the terrible conditions in the Superdome, Landreneau continued to instruct rescuers to move victims there.

"Rescue teams were still picking up people throughout the city Tuesday, leaving them on island-like highway overpasses and on a levee to wait to be moved again. Eventually, they will end up in the Superdome, where 15,000 to 20,000 people have taken already refuge, said Louisiana National Guard Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau."

Mayor Nagin depended on Landreneau to move and feed and protect the citizens of New Orleans. That did not happen. Nagin depended on Landreneau to give people good answers on how to find shelter and food. That did not happen. Governor Blanco depended on Landreneau to keep her informed on the next step to restore order and help the victims. That did not happen. Blanco depended on Landreneau to coordinate with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to get people what they needed. That did not happen. President Bush depended on Landreneau to do his job. That did not happen.

Landreneau should be fired, demoted, then arrested.


Anonymous said...

So we have one incompetent individual, who has no clue of what is going on, and both Blaco and Nagin never call him on his actions or statements.

Giving him sole responsibility is unfair. Blanco bears the responsibility for not nailing this guy's hide to the wall; and she and Nagin should be ashamed that they blamed Brown for their own guy's stupidity.

Brown resigned even though FEMA was doing the best they could, under the restrictions they were under; while Landreneau will keep his job and probably even get praised by the MSM.

RattlerGator said...

It is largely irrelevant, is it not, if we focus on the Governor, the Mayor or the Louisiana General.

This was clearly a Louisiana failure, of that I'm sure.

And President Bush has taken serious action in the aftermath, including accepting Brown's resignation [I don't think Brown should have been fired].

There has been absolutely no accountability by anyone at the state or local level in Louisiana. None.

Allow me one 2008 prediction resulting from this -- Jeb Bush is going to come out smelling like a rose and when the juxtaposition is finally made between Florida and Louisiana regarding state and local level disaster management via the coordinated operation of an Emergency Operations Center, more people are going to take a shine to him. If no one takes early control of the Republican imagination re the 2008 Presidential primaries, keep an eye on Jeb.

G-man said...

What exactly did Landreneau DO to get his job? Or did he fudge his resume' like Michael Brown apparently did?

This is mind-blowing. The storm itself was bad enough, but to have a total moron in charge of coordinating the state and local response plus advising the Governor (who didn't even know her own role in the emergency plan) is too pathetic for words.

THEY SHOULD BOTH BE FIRED and then left to fend for themselves on a desert island -- so they're not a threat to anyone's safety ever again. But, I guess that's probably too much to hope for!

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice how James Lee Witt went AWOL on Sept 5th.

Once he was appointed "LA DIRECTOR OF FEMA" he was on every Left Stream show for lengthy interviews with leading softball questions that allowed him to tell how wonderful he and Billy were - then the truth began to come out and he is gone
from the TV screens.

Billy's off to China and Hillary doesn't get memo and calls for hearings.

Then Pelosi and Reid present an argument that nothing can be legitimate in the U S Congress unless the voters have selected 50% Dems to 50% Republicans.
So next step is to go thru all legislation to save what is legitimate and void the rest.

And it was reported tonight that Nagin has purchased a home in Texas, where he has already moved his family.

Guess he would rather live in a state controlled by a
Republican. It's safer.

Bruce Hayden said...

When I first read your last line, I thought it said "shot", fired, and then arrested. Maybe that was wishful thinking.

Andrew Graff said...

"What exactly did Landreneau DO to get his job?"

Having read the above sober and convincing assessment, I set out to answer that question for myself. There isn't a simple answer. He doesn't seem to be a particularly political appointment. He's a career military bureaucrat with some combat experience who originally got the job under Mike Foster (R) because he was the commander of the LA national guard, and who was reappointed to the job by Kathleen Blanco (D) in 2003.


Reading his resume, you are stuck by how much of his background is in agriculture, which makes since given that in an agrian state like LA most of the time the guy in charge of disaster management is working with farmers.

He seems to be rather highly respected in state government, which isn't in any way a ringing endorcement if you know anything about LA state government, and as the following article makes clear he had one of the few jobs that didn't go to a Blanco croney during the transition of power.


Whatever his merits on paper, its clear that he was way in over his head in this situation.

Anonymous said...

As we learn (re-learn) from Katrina, a disaster plan that relies on magnificent performances by a large number of key actors isn't very good.

In the face of incompetent and borderline performances by the NOLA mayor, LA gov, Adj. Gen, and FEMA director, a well-laid-out and rehearsed plan would have failed "gracefully."

This one didn't.

Tom Grey said...

So many terrible things. Yes, he should be fired.
As I said on my blog Invisible Commander of LA Homeland Security

I got there from Blanco's State of Emergency declaration, putting him in command (without naming him). I wish he was a Dem, but suspect he's a Rep, and thus deliberately out of the Dem intra-party loops.

He's the single biggest blame target; or second after Dem Mayor Nagin (NOT ordering use of the busses he had).

The axe is too good for him.

Tom Grey said...

Oh yeah, this was a GREAT list of his errors!