WASHINGTON -- Hurricane Harvey is the first natural disaster that President Trump has faced. The president plans to visit Texas next week and his team wants to avoid the mistakes of the past.
As floodwater and desperation engulfed New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the inept federal response was encapsulated in the now infamous remark from President George W. Bush to then-FEMA Director Michael Brown.
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. My FEMA director has been going 24/7," Mr. Bush said September 2, 2005.
The failures of Katrina haunt emergency planners to this day, so much so, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert felt compelled to say "now is not the time to lose faith in your government institutions."
Mr. Trump confronts his first emergency management test without a permanent Homeland Security secretary. John Kelly vacated the post to become the president's chief of staff.
Earlier this month, the president toured FEMA headquarters for a hurricane preparedness briefing.
"We are very strong with respect to FEMA," Mr. Trump said.
"All the mayors and governors saw what happened at Katrina and they're not gonna let that happen," says David Paulison, who headed FEMA after Katrina and until 2009. He says that storm changed management procedures.
"Before we waited for the local community to become overwhelmed before the state stepped in, and waited for the state to become overwhelmed before the federal government stepped in," Paulison says.
The fastest way for the federal government to step in is for the president to sign a major disaster declaration that would release reconstruction funds even before damage occurs.
The Texas governor has asked for this, as has Texas' two Republican senators. The president, monitoring the storm from Camp David, is still reviewing that request.