Homeland Security the 21st Century Term Paper

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They were mostly former soldiers from Iraq, called in to help with the relief ops. Those supporting the use of the National Guard in these types of actions point out that "the National Guard already has a significant emergency response capability and the Constitution of the United States establishes the authority to employ the National Guard in significant and leading domestic roles against terrorism." (Oates, 2002) on the other hand, however, it can be said that the part time soldiers are stretched beyond their limits and are sometimes forced to work to exhaustion in order to achieve the task they were called in for. This can lead to poor performances, which in turn may cost lives. According to a study conducted in the Atlanta metropolitan area, "among 16 fire departments, an average of 22.2% of employees holds two or more public safety positions. Moreover, a significant percentage of the public safety workforce has commitments to the military reserve or National Guard." (Oates, 2002) Thus, Oates underlines that often double condition of most public safety workers are engaged in more than one job and subsequently it is more difficult to asses the exact number of workers one can rely on in case of natural disasters. Moreover, because of their different specializations, it is hard to establish a professional system of intervention, seeing that there are little and limited training courses.

Another issue somewhat important in assessing the failure to manage the Katrina crisis in a more professional manner and with fewer human losses is the plan that was set in place for intervention. The traditional response to storms in the U.S. is usually drafted in general action plans, which include evacuation of the possibly affected population, providing shelter and basic needs, assuring permanent medical assistance. However, as specialists have agreed, the Katrina case differed largely from any traditional storm alerts. Because of the magnitude of its development and the particularities of the area, it became more than just an average storm. This is why it would have been essential for the authorities to provide a more elaborated plan for rescue; this would have had in mind the exact necessities of the population affected and with due regard to the elements of novelty engaged in the situation. Howitt and Leonard conclude, "Katrina was a crisis primarily because of its scale and the mixture of challenges that it posed, not least the failure of the levees in New Orleans. Because of the novelty of a crisis, predetermined emergency plans and response behavior that function quite well in dealing with "routine" emergencies are frequently grossly inadequate or even counterproductive. "Crises" therefore require quite different capabilities from "routine" emergencies." (Howitt & Leonard, 2005)

Finally, the most important aspect of the post Katrina analysis is the role FEMA was supposed to play in organizing and coordinating the relief operations. Generally speaking, people tend to search for the guilt inside the authority chain and to consider them responsible for every major negative event. However, in this particular case, FEMA had been especially designed for emergency cases such as Katrina; it may be that no one could have been aware of the magnitude of the disaster to come, but the slow response from this specialized agency is yet to find an excuse. The 2006 report analyzing its activities during the hurricane pointed out that the agency had "lacked clear leadership between FEMA headquarters and the disaster sites, had operated under outdated or inadequate response plans, had needed better-trained or more experienced employees, and was unable to get a clear picture of emergencies as they unfolded." (Associated Press, 2006) Therefore, the blame fell on the authorities, but, even so, little can be done today to bring back what was destroyed in the floods.

A possible solution for avoiding in the future such tragedies can be the creation of a regular intervention force that would be especially trained and prepared for emergency situation such as the Katrina disaster. Moreover, the authorities should be made aware of the fact that indeed, any major rescue and intervention operation requires important human and financial resources, and therefore, measures need to be taken in order to insure that these funds are available at all times. Finally, although the base for a specialized agency that would deal primarily with this sorts of situation was established, more needs to be done to ensure that the structures involved in decision making can respond to any challenge. They must be able to take immediate and coherent actions. At the same time, the chain of command must be clearly specified in order to allow the implementation of the measures decided upon to be made without any doubt over their legitimacy. These sort of ideas must quickly find a practical correspondent as it became obvious that the U.S. is still unable to properly respond to an emergency, which, given the volatile security situation in the world, may take its toll.


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Oates, P. (2002) Supporting the National Strategy for Homeland Security. The role of the National Guard. Perspectives on preparedness. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Retrieved 17 January 2007, at http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/BCSIA_content/documents/Role_of_the_National_Guard.pdf

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