August 22, 2006 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense
A year after one of the most devastating storms in American history ravaged the three-state region along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Congress still has not taken some of the most obvious and important steps needed to improve the nation's capacity to respond to catastrophic disasters. When Members of Congress return to Washington, they need to focus on initiatives that will help establish a true national response system to meet disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
The House, the Senate, and the President's Homeland Security Council each produced outstanding reports on the aftermath of Katrina, detailing many of the shortfalls and miscues that led to an inadequate response to the terrible disaster. When it came to trying to improve how the nation reacts to catastrophes, however, many in Congress have fixated on the role of Washington, assuming that more and bigger government and throwing more money at the problem are the best solutions. That is the wrong way to improve the national response.
Dealing with disasters is primarily the responsibility of states and local communities. Empowering them by building an effective national response and providing the right federal resources to back them up when they are overwhelmed by catastrophic disasters requires something more sensible than worrying what's being done inside the Beltway. Here are three reasonable steps for Congress to improve disaster response:
Congress should stop looking to Washington to solve every homeland security problem. Instead, to improve the nation's capacity to respond to catastrophe, Congress should consider modest and commonsense initiatives that would make all Americans safer.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for Defense and Homeland Security in the Sarah and Douglas Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.