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Katrina: The First Draft of History II

When they do write the history of this thing, FEMA will be proven to be a complete debacle. It has been in the news for days that they literally turned way trucks with fuel and water. Now this:

Navy ship nearby underused
Craft with food, water, doctors needed orders

ON THE USS BATAAN -- While federal and state emergency planners scramble to get more military relief to Gulf Coast communities stricken by Hurricane Katrina, a massive naval goodwill station has been cruising offshore, underused and waiting for a larger role in the effort.

The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore.

The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents.

But now the Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty. A good share of its 1,200 sailors could also go ashore to help with the relief effort, but they haven't been asked. The Bataan has been in the stricken region the longest of any military unit, but federal authorities have yet to fully utilize the ship.

Captain ready, waiting

"Could we do more?" said Capt. Nora Tyson, commander of the Bataan. "Sure. I've got sailors who could be on the beach plucking through garbage or distributing water and food and stuff. But I can't force myself on people.

"We're doing everything we can to contribute right now, and we're ready. If someone says you need to take on people, we're ready. If they say hospitals on the beach can't handle it ... if they need to send the overflow out here, we're ready. We've got lots of room."

I forget the guys name who is the head of FEMA but if Bush does not fire the idiot, I'll lose 25% of my respect for Bush right there on the spot. (with more pending) I fully understand the bureaucracy is -well- bureaucracy but this is beyond stupid. FEMA has been worthless.

There has been much speculation what Bush meant when he said the efforts were "unacceptable," I hope he is bright enough to be talking about FEMA. I won't mind if the FEMA idiot suddenly "resigns" citing the old standby that he wants to spend more time with his family... I'd prefer Bush fire him in a public humiliating way, but I really don't care. Bottom line, he needs to be gone.

Let's review, it is the Federal Emergency MANAGEMENT Agency. It is a misnomer to be sure... You can't manage the emergency, you can only manage your response to it. But the management of the response was, in many people's mind, criminal.


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Comments (27)

I agree. Moroever, Bush sai... (Below threshold)
Barry Dauphin:

I agree. Moroever, Bush said bureaucracy wasn't going to stand in the way.

Resource utilization? I su... (Below threshold)

Resource utilization? I suspect it's a bit easier, and more time efficient to send helicopters to the triage set up at the airport than offshore to a heli-pad on a moving ship.

But letting the ships personal sit idly is a misuse of resources.

If you read the whol... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

If you read the whole article, it sounds like the ship has been fairly busy, perhaps the reporter could have been a little more specific in how he determined it was "underused".

"FEMA has been worthless."<... (Below threshold)

"FEMA has been worthless."

Does anyone here actually *know* what FEMA does?

They don't ship stuff around, for the most part. That's Department of Transportation and the various Guard units. They've been doing that pretty well, by the way.

They don't feed refugees. That's up to the various humanitarian groups like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

...and they *don't*, by any stretch, do anything even vaguely like first response to a disaster. That's the job of the people on the ground in the states and cities that are first hit.

About ninety percent of what FEMA does is... write checks. And they've been doing a heckuva job doing that, this week.

I have not had the answer t... (Below threshold)

I have not had the answer to this question yet:

What has FEMA done or what did they not do that they should not have done or should have done?

There is a lot of carping about Brown's ability to manage a news conference, but no one has answered that question.

I don't know what the ship has been doing, but I got a different read here. You can go to the ship's web site here. The only people I am going to blame for this fiasco are the people that I know did not do what they were supposed to do. So far that is the Mayor of NOLA and the Gov of LA.

I don't know what FEMA or DHS have the legal authority to do, what they are tasked to do or who has authority over the ship's Captain. I don't know those things.

Three points, Paul:<p... (Below threshold)

Three points, Paul:

1. Disaster relief in a given area is first planned by, and coordinated by, local officials. As has been stated both here and other places in the Blogosphere, Nagin and Blanco failed to follow their own plans (e.g., Nagin's failure to use the 260 school buses to evacuate people; also Nagin's decision to use the Superdome as a refuge, when according to their evacuation plans, it was NOT to be used as a hurricane refuge for a storm rated higher than Cat III)

2. Remember that the USS Bataan is a Marine ship, meaning that the CINC cannot direct its deployment among civilian areas without the agreement of the State Governor (as CINC of that state's National Guard forces).

3. Blanco has STILL refused to cede control of the LANG to the President. Without this agreement, Bush can only work on the sidelines.

I realize you are in a mess there (yes, I have several family members caught up in it too, living in Chalmette, Kenner, Algiers, Jefferson, Slidell, and lower St. Bernard). At the same time, I am getting more and more pissed that Nagin, Blanco, and the local Parish Presidents are passing the buck on this one to the Feds. That isn't helping anyone.

Once more thing, about the ... (Below threshold)

Once more thing, about the Bataan:

"If they say hospitals on the beach can't handle it ... if they need to send the overflow out here, we're ready. We've got lots of room."

Guess what? They don't need it. All of the land-based hospitals were evacuated already (the New Orleans hospitals finished two days ago), and mobile field hospitals are doing what's needed for the workers and survivors left in the area.

Since the Bataan, like all of the other large ships, is sitting a fair distance from the action, it doesn't make much sense to send people on a copter flight when they can put them in an ambulance and send them to a ground-based facility. The sailors on board, while good at their jobs, aren't really useful for what's going on right now (armed urban search and rescue, albeit with small boats).

The Bataan is yet another of those cases where it's nice to have as a backup, but for day to day operations, it's just not effective. if something had happened to stop all of the other agencies, it would have been absolutely vital.

The thing is that due to the timelines and distances moved, everything pretty much got into the area at once, and we're on the verge of having too much capacity in many areas, and no way to readily get those resources to the fringes where they're certainly still needed. It's the 90/10 issue - once you get things in place, 90% of the problem goes away really fast, and then the other ten percent takes the rest of your life.

Umm...It is almost... (Below threshold)


It is almost the anniversary of 9/11. We had recent attacks in England. And I guess the chatter has been suggesting something may be up for this anniversary or around this time.

Add to that Dick Cheney is in Northern Alberta of all places right not. What's so important there?

Anyway, I know its conjecture. But, there is a big picture and there might be good reason that ship just happens to be in the area and perfect for such an operation. It may not be coincidence.

I know emotions are running high but don't start a good old fashion lynching until all the facts are in.

QandO have details of the P... (Below threshold)

QandO have details of the Post Hurricane relief efforts of the Bataan


Northern Alberta has oil sa... (Below threshold)

Northern Alberta has oil sands. Very very important.

Uh, Paul, I think your post... (Below threshold)

Uh, Paul, I think your post has some problems.

You stated:

"Let's review, it is the Federal Emergency MANAGEMENT Agency."

Perhaps a better post might have been:

"Let's review, it is the FEDERAL Emergency Management Agency."

In a great many ways, the Feds are powerless to act until the governor of a state makes a formal request. (The LA governor stalled POTUS and FEMA and then asked for money and non-physical assets aid, fearful of handing POTUS and the Republicans a political victory.) The exception, IIRC, is if the POTUS declares a state in rebellion, or something. The ROE between States and FEMA is that federal assets should not be planned for any quicker than 72 - 96 hours after the formal request for "boots-on-the-ground" aid.

Another news story on CNN in the last 24 hours had a DHS-created mobile hospital out of NC being declined by both Mississippi and LA and stopped at their borders, absent permission to cross the state lines.

It may well be that the reason that not a lot of the governor's performance and that of NO's mayor have been in MSM news stories is their political party affiliation.

If I had to guess right now, I'd apportion the blame at 90 - 10, State/Local - Federal, though perhaps the feds deserve more blame for not having done something extreme to get the LA/NO politicos out of the way, though the Constitution of the United States may have been a more formidable barrier than any of the levees were.

Paul: I'm not a la... (Below threshold)


I'm not a lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt.

Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (18 U.S.Code, Section 1385), the federal government is pretty much prohibited from moving in and taking over law enforcement and peace keeping operations within any state for any reason. This would, I suspect, include NG troops from other states, though NOT LANG troops, which are under the direct control of Governor Blanco.

There are exceptions, of course. Under the Stafford Act (42 U.S.Code, Section 5121) POTUS can order troops into an area struck by a natural disaster (like Katrina) IF the governor of the state formally requests such aid. The Civil Disturbance Statutes (10 U.S.Code, sections 331-334) allow POTUS to order persons engaged in a civil disturbance to disperse; if they don't, then the troops move in and engage in law enforcement. But while the statutes do allow for such actions unilaterally if the state can no longer protect civil rights or property, AGAIN the governor of the state usually (not always) has to formally request such help. (You might be able to justify such an action in light of the looting and violence by roving gangs; like I said, I'm not a lawyer.)

Then there's the Insurrection Act (10 U.S.Code, Sections 331-335) which allows POTUS to declare a state to be in "revolt" and order the troops in. That would seem to be a real stretch, IMO, but...see the first sentence in this comment. (Google *Journal of Homeland Security, The Myth of Posse Comitatus*; I'm useless at cut-and-paste, and every time I try to copy a URL by hand I screw it up.)

Now you may be right; maybe FEMA director Michael D. Brown IS an empty suit with an empty head to match. But consider this: If Mississipi is having the same problems, I haven't heard of them. Are the FEMA people in Mississipi THAT much better than the ones in Louisiana? Or could it be that Governor Blanco is dragging her feet in order to a) maintain her grip on power, or b) out of fear that someone will figure out that SHE'S primarily to blame for the debacle to date, or c) to deny the Republicans a public relations victory?

I should also add that, acc... (Below threshold)

I should also add that, according to the article cited above ^^, a number of court decisions have allowed a limited use of federal troops in passive law enforcement roles as opposed to active roles. This would include "providing supplies, equipment, training, facilities and certain types of intelligence information." It would NOT include conducting investigations and making arrests.

Hmmm."2. Remember ... (Below threshold)


"2. Remember that the USS Bataan is a Marine ship, meaning that the CINC cannot direct its deployment among civilian areas without the agreement of the State Governor (as CINC of that state's National Guard forces)."

Sorry but you're actually wrong on this one. The USS Bataan is a *Navy* ship and as such is generally not covered by the Posse Comitatus Act. The Army, Marines and federalised National Guard units are covered by Posse Comitatus, but the Navy actually has a number of exemptions.

So the USS Bataan could have been used right from the beginning without, I *think*, the permission of Gov Blanco. Of course she could scream bloody hell over it, but that's doubtful.

I'll try to dig up the necessary references and links to support this. Until then, which may be later on today, take this with a grain of salt.

Add to that Dick Cheney ... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

Add to that Dick Cheney is in Northern Alberta of all places right not. What's so important there?

Actually, he cancelled that trip.

Or could it be that Governor Blanco is dragging her feet in order to a) maintain her grip on power, or b) out of fear that someone will figure out that SHE'S primarily to blame for the debacle to date, or c) to deny the Republicans a public relations victory?

An article quoted on this very blog over the weekend stated that she was hesitant to accept help out of fear that it would be a political opportunity for her to be made to look bad.

She didn't need any help with *that*.

Hmmmm."So the USS ... (Below threshold)


"So the USS Bataan could have been used right from the beginning without, I *think*, the permission of Gov Blanco. Of course she could scream bloody hell over it, but that's doubtful."

Sorry I was kinda wrong. There is an exemption in the Posse Comitatus Act for the Navy, but a DOD regulation forces the application of the Posse Comitatus Act on both the Navy and the USMC. So while the letter of the Act doesn't necessarily apply, DOD regulations extends the Act to cover both the Navy and the USMC.

The key difference is the exact wording of the Act which mentions "Army" and, by extension since it was derived from the former US Army Air Force, the USAF.

The most bizzare thing IMHO about blogs and debating on blogs is that it feels like I'm approaching a law education from the wrong side.


Dumb post. Ugh.... (Below threshold)

Dumb post. Ugh.

Speaking of boats: I heard... (Below threshold)

Speaking of boats: I heard that actor sean penn was spotted 'going down' in a sinking rowboat. Oh wait...he was there for the gay weekend anyway...

This post is in serious nee... (Below threshold)

This post is in serious need of an update.

Powerline has news on the Bataan.

krugman is so devoid of any... (Below threshold)

krugman is so devoid of any concept of reality that I am amazed he finds his way to work in the morning....

Actually, the USS Bataan ha... (Below threshold)

Actually, the USS Bataan has been operational and on site since the beginning of the rescue/relief effort:


Paul Krugman tried to perpetuate what the guys at Powerline have appropriately called a rumor:


The Bataan has been operating off the coast of Gulfport, MS and has been actively engaged for the last week....

to date...
“We've been extremely busy this past week with more tasks than there are hours in a day,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Bocchicchio, Bataan 's Air Boss. “The shortest day the department has had was 16 hours long, but they understand that everything we do is critical to the mission.”

"All of the divisions and Combat Cargo working together allows the ship to have a 24-hour flight deck with the manning for 10-hour days,” said Bocchicchio. “Military units are the nation's biggest assets and what better use for them than to save our own people.”

To date, the two squadrons have transported 1,613 displaced people and delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo. Bataan also provided 8,000 gallons of fresh drinking water to the ravished Gulfport, Mississippi area. Sailors filled eight 500-gallon water bladders with the ship's potable water and HM 15's MH-53 helicopters transported them from the flight deck of Bataan to land.


I have had the personal dis... (Below threshold)

I have had the personal displeasure of
dealing with FEMA. Complete waste of
people and money, just as bad as the
EPA (worked with them too). FEMA got
"famous" after 9/11 when the Exempt
Media played them up as the greatest
relief organization ever (no, no, no!)

Watch for the fraud to show up. In the past
the Fed disaster recovery people (remember
Camille?) have handed out checks to anyone
who claimed they had lost something in the
storm. No checking, no audit, no nothing.

bullwinkle and mark are rig... (Below threshold)

bullwinkle and mark are right. Check out Powerline. You really need to retract and stop believing all the crap you read and armchair quarterbacking.

I can't remember being so pissed at conservative bloggers in my life as I've been this past week.

DId you know that black hurricane victims are feasting on the bloating and rotting corpses in New Orleans? I read it in an article online it must be true.

I love your blog, I really REALLY do. But the way people are freaking out and losing perspective all over this country is making Ex-Patriatism look more and more appealing once my kids are raised and out.

"Watch for the fraud to sho... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"Watch for the fraud to show up. In the past
the Fed disaster recovery people (remember
Camille?) have handed out checks to anyone
who claimed they had lost something in the
storm. No checking, no audit, no nothing."

Guaranteed. And if the gov't does any checking or auditing this time, watch for the cries of 'racism!' and 'Bush is being stingy!' and 'Oh, the feds are screwing up!'.
I'm not sure how the gov't can weed out the carpetbagging frauds and hustlers from the citizens who truly deserve to be compensated, but when the billions are handed out there will be massive cheating because this Admin will be too cowed by partisans in the MSM to do the proper checking. Later on, the same MSM will excoriate the feds for handing out too much money.

This WILL happen.

Yes, this post needs an upd... (Below threshold)

Yes, this post needs an update. The Bataan is doing a great many things, and started soon after the storm hit. It was one of the first units to survey the damage and then went in for rescues. The doctors on the ships were flown to where the sick and injured were instead of making the victims come to the ship. They did valiant work - Mr. Krugman as usual just forgot to actually research the issue he was writing about.

Paul,Imagine ridin... (Below threshold)


Imagine riding a military chopper over 35-100 miles of rough ocean due to turbulent weather. It's like riding a Ferarri across a gravel pit. (Try weather.com for a basic radar over the last few hours. It hasn't been any better over the last few days.)

Unless they could levitate the Baatan over your bayou of choice, more victims would have been fatally injured moving them out to the Baatan than would have been saved.

That's why they flew the Meds onto the beach, not the other way around.

Take a deep breath dude. They're doing the best they can.

I call BS on this story. Vi... (Below threshold)
Mrs. Davis:

I call BS on this story. Visit the Bataan's website and read about what the crew was doing on September 1. The levee broke August 31. This story has a date line of September 4. They may well have goten hung up in the Governor Blanco line of command circus, but it sure looks like they were saving lives ASAP.






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