I guess Brownie's lost Rupert Murdoch....
Chances are you've seen the AP version of this story, but you might be surprised at the harsh tone of the Post's version (registration required):
FEMA FOOL SAT ON HIS HANDS
The head of FEMA waited a mind-boggling five hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf before even contacting his boss about sending personnel to the area -- then suggested workers be allowed two days to get to the ravaged region, shocking internal documents reveal.
One stunning Aug. 29 memo -- sent from embattled Federal Emergency Management chief Michael Brown to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- called killer Katrina a "near-catastrophic event," but otherwise lacked any other urgent language underlining the potential magnitude of the disaster.
Brown then politely ended his memo with: "Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities."
In another note sent later to FEMA workers, Brown said one of their duties would essentially be to make the agency look good.
"Convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public," he wrote.
In Brown's memo to Chertoff, he proposed sending 1,000 Homeland Security workers within 48 hours and then another 2,000 within seven days.
In explaining the two-day period that workers had to arrive in the disaster area, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said it was to ensure they had adequate training before going down.
The same day Brown wrote his memo to Chertoff, he also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments....
On the subject of "adequate training," chances are you've also seen the St. Lake Tribune story about trained firefighters from around the country cooling their heels in an all-day lecture and being asked to hand out pro-FEMA leaflets instead of saving lives.
And regarding Brown's claim that he had to hold back aid and workers while waiting for an explicit request for help, here's what Daniel Franklin of The Washington Monthly pointed out in a 1995 article about FEMA:
In the fall of 1992, Senator Barbara Mikulski, then the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over FEMA's budget, told the General Accounting Office (GAO) that it had to suggest real improvements for FEMA or else the GAO itself would see its budget slashed.
... Jeffrey Itell, the GAO project manager who conducted the study, [said] the answer was "a no-brainer." FEMA's enabling legislation, the Stafford Act, provided FEMA officials with powers that the bureaucrats didn't exercise. "We found that without state requests, FEMA could assess the catastrophic area, assess what assistance the state needed, start mobilizing that relief, present its recommendations to the governor, and, if necessary--as Andrew Card did--get in the governor's face to force the issue of accepting federal help...."
Andrew Card? Yup -- he was Bush Senior's secretary of transportation in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit; Poppy, criticized for a slow response to Andrew, convened a task force led by Card, and Franklin gives Card credit for breaking the aid logjam in that disaster.
That means that Card, who's now Bush Junior's chief of staff, has some experience in such matters -- yet as the waters rose in New Orleans he wasn't immediately called back from vacation. Stupid.