Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Are Secretary Michael Chertoff's Days Numbered?

Will Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff be fired or "allowed" to resign for failing to act appropriately and quickly in response to Hurricane Katrina? I think there's a good chance he will.

Undersecretary Mike Brown, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was sacrificed as decreed by BOHICA, the Capital Beltway god of executive insulation and plausible deniability. Finally acknowledging the top bureaucrats at FEMA had the collective emergency management skills of Wile E. Coyote, the Bush administration jettisoned Undersecretary "You're doin' a heck of a job, Brownie" Brown and appointed a qualified emergency administrator to replace him.

So why would Chertoff, Brown's boss, get the boot if the FEMA delay-of-game penalty has already been assessed against Brown? Because Chertoff had the authority to initiate a federal response without waiting for requests from state and local governments. That authority is in the National Response Plan which Secretary Chertoff invoked on August 30, 2005, when he designated Hurricane Katrina as an "incident of national significance."

The National Response Plan which Chertoff activated includes a "Catastrophic Incident Annex to the National Response Plan (CIA-NRP)". That annex clearly recognizes that events such as Hurricane Katrina may, "...result in sustained national impacts over a prolonged period of time" that "...almost immediately exceeds resources normally available to State, local, tribal, and private-sector authorities in the impacted area..." The annex goes on to provide that, "Recognizing that Federal and/or national resources are required to augment overwhelmed State, local and tribal response efforts, the CIA-NRP establishes protocols to preidentify and rapidly deploy key essential resources (e.g., medical teams, urban search and rescue teams, transportable shelters, medical equipment caches, etc.) that are expected to be urgently needed/required to save lives and contain incidents." Beyond-the-Beltway translation: When the situation clearly exceeds the locals' resources and abilities, the feds don't need to wait for an invitation from the State, local, or tribal governments.

And here's the clincher: "Only the Secretary of Homeland Security or designee may initiate implementation of the CIA-NRP." (emphasis mine) Translation: Chertoff had full authority to override the delay that has been attributed to Undersecretary Brown's FEMA, and Chertoff didn't do it. In fact, once Chertoff implemented the National Response Plan in Hurricane Katrina, he had an obligation to determine if it was a "catastrophic incident." The circumstances surrounding Katrina clearly met the definition of "catastrophic incident" in the CIA-NRP. Thus, Chertoff was negligent or incompetent in failing to formally make the "catastrophic incident" declaration or in failing to execute after making it. Either way, he was as culpable as the designated sacrificial virgin bureaucrat, Undersecretary Michael Brown.


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