From the OPC email forum, an email (reprinted with permission) from a chaplain in the Army:
Regarding the slow response by the Fed. govt in New Orleans, I think it is important to remember that the Fed. Govt took the unprecidented step of declaring the region a disaster area prior to the hurricane. That allowed FEMA to preposition and it released money to local govts in advance as well. Monday the hurricane hit, no action was possible. Tuesday, New Orleans seemed to have missed the worst of it and attention shifted to Gulfport and Biloxi. Ntl Guard troops and local law enforcement went into New Orleans as they usually do after a hurricane. Wednesday, New Orleans was clearly flooding and the situation was worsening. Typically, this is when the governor of the state calls up additional Ntl guard troops. It is not typical for Federal troops to become involved in state disasters. There are all kinds of issues with Federal Troops taking arms or action within the boarders. National Guard is what Governors use in their own states. By Thursday it was clear to the world that the relief efforts were in chaos. The police force in New Orleans had basicly entered a self defense mode and the Ntl Guard was not able to get the job done. Federal assests were moving toward the disaster area. Friday, the first hint of improvement came as First Army assests began to become involved.
It is easy to blame the Federal Government for this but the Feds have typically played a financial role while the local and state governments provided the physical assests. This is different and the President has shifted to this new need but it has crossed over several taboos to do so.
In SC, when Hugo hit, the SC ntl guard did the work. FEMA helped with those who needed $ for recovery. The same happend with the hurricanes in Florida.
None of this helps with the suffering of those in New Orleans but it is important to know who failed in what roles when the blame begins.
Just for clarificaton. The Ntl Guard troops are indeed under the control of the state government. No one could have anticipated the desertion of the local police in the face of dangerous looters and the difficulty the Ntl guard had getting in to the people of New Orleans. We sent a small group of regular Army folks to Mobile to help coordinate with FEMA. Two days ago they received a change of mission and are now in Gulfport. They certainly did not pack for that since this sort of support has never been needed before. Personally, I think the President is moving effeciently. Every hour of suffering is terrible but the book for disaster relief is being rewritten with this hurricane.
Michael E. Cannon
CHAPLAIN (MAJ) USAR
5/87th DIV (TS)