White House Study Cites Katrina Errors

Homeland Security Advisor, Fran Townsend listens to questions as she briefed reporters at the White House, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006, about the results and recommendations of the Hurricane Katrina lessons-learned review process that she led. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
A White House report released Thursday concluded that inexperienced disaster response managers and a lack of planning, discipline and leadership contributed to vast federal failures during Hurricane Katrina.

The 228-page report by White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend urges changes in 11 key areas — mainly in better disaster relief coordination among federal agencies — before the next hurricane season begins June 1. The White House study took a softer approach than a scathing House report issued last week, focusing on proposals to fix problems without singling out any individuals for blame.

"We will learn from the lessons of the past to better protect the American people," President Bush said Thursday at the end of a Cabinet meeting at which the report was released.

"I wasn't satisfied with the federal response," Mr. Bush said. .

Read the White House Katrina report (.pdf)

Townsend, speaking to reporters later, said the White House fell short in cutting through bureaucratic red tape and quickly settling disputes among response agencies.

Her review also cites failures at a half-dozen federal agencies. It singles out the Homeland Security Department for lacking fast communication with emergency responders and the public, and an inadequate system for stockpiling supplies before a disaster hits.

"In the end, we must do a much better job at preparation, at planning, and improve out response," Townsend said.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff commended the White House's 125 recommendations, which he said were aided by his department.

"We have already begun to take action to address many of the issues raised in the report, particularly those areas we need to improve before the start of the 2006 hurricane season," Chertoff said in a statement. He called the report consistent with internal changes already under way at Homeland Security.

The report does not call for any resignations, despite recent demands – mostly by Democrats – for Chertoff to step down.

The White House review comes a week after the special Republican-dominated House committee investigating the slow response found fault at every level of government — including the president and Chertoff.