Your e-mails: After Katrina
CNN.com users on what's next for government
(CNN) -- Government response to Hurricane Katrina was sharply criticized at all levels. CNN.com asked readers whether government -- at any level -- should be restructured to respond better to the next disaster. Here is a sampling of those responses, some of which have been edited:
The IRS should allow donations for hurricane relief to be deducted as an adjustment to income, not as an itemized deduction. Don't think of it as $25 the government didn't collect. Think of it as $75 the government didn't have to spend.
We need a semi-mandatory national and international peace corps with a minimum membership of 500,000 that has one year of training and 18 months of service. The corps should have rapid response capabilities that could respond to five disasters ... within 24 hours .... The response team departments should include medical, food, water, housing, engineering & infrastructure, security police, relocation and special services. The goodwill created at home and abroad with a successful program like this, plus the attributes gained by our youth could only reinforce our position as the good American with pride! Let's set the standard again!
Enable the president to take the National Guard out of a state only as part of a declaration of war by Congress, AND when both senators from that state have voted for the war declaration.
Restructuring government will not solve this problem. The only way to avoid problems like this is to restructure human nature, and to move New Orleans several hundred feet up hill.
National emergency responsibilities should be vested in the Department of Defense. The military are extremely good at emergency planning and moving out swiftly when emergencies occur, planned or otherwise. FEMA is ineffective. Allowing state governors to control the National Guard obviously does not work and use of Reservists is limited by law. Mayors should not make significant decisions like emergency planning when they are ill qualified to do so. The ineptness of FEMA, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans in responding to Hurricane Katrina is proof of the desperate need to overhaul all of the emergency planning operations within the United States. Let's put emergency planning in the hands of the military. They'll get it right.
Government does not need to be restructured. FEMA needs to develop and put in place a disaster plan, not just on paper, but the ground. My idea is to break up the United States into zones (Atlantic Cost Zones, Gulf of Mexico Zones, Mississippi River Valley Zones, Ohio River Valley Zones, California Earthquake Zones, etc.) Each Zone should house a certain amount of Disaster Distribution Centers. Each Center would contain all the major supplies required to respond to a major crisis, i.e. portable shelters, portable medical facilities, large generators, portable field kitchens, showers, lavatories, etc, etc. These centers should have enough supplies to sustain operations for 120 days to the affected region they are responsible for ... If planned out and agreed upon, these centers can be a joint venture between FEMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and be able to receive support from other charity organizations that wish to supply goods or donations. Also, FEMA should have in place standing contract/agreement and operating procedure with hotels, or other companies and organizations that provide shelter and transportation, that in the event of an emergency evacuated and dislocated families have a place to stay during the period they cannot be at their primary residence. Once the disaster zone is safe to return to, those without a home to return to would have a temporary mobile home to utilize while permanent housing is re-established.
No, the government shouldn't be restructured -- and New Orleans shouldn't be reconstructed. Nature did what it's been doing for centuries in that area and other natural prone areas. To rebuild in those area "known waiting for natural disaster areas" is stupid and foolish. To make the rest of America pay for it isn't fair. The Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of that state should be brought up for neglect of people in need and for their unwillingness to take the steps needed within a 24 to 48 hour response after the disaster. ... The mayor and the governor were like a cart being pushed down a one way street going downhill, by the time the federal government and Bush were allowed in (by law), the cart was so far down no one could stop the total mess New Orleans now finds itself in.
[The federal government] was heavily restructured by the Bush administration already. Through threats and coercion, anyone who actually was responsible for important issues like the environment or FEMA left. The people really to blame are the irresponsible and incompetent bullies within the White House. How can these federal agencies exist and do their job when they can't even use scientific evidence without being pressured by the administration?
Yes! We need another department on top of Department of Homeland Security. They should call it Department Government Administration. More bureaucracy is the answer.
There are too many people in the U.S. spread over too wide a space. The states need to have a much bigger piece of the taxes generated within their borders to be able to build quick and effective disaster response.
Should the government be reorganized? Absolutely. Get rid of the suits and career politicians kludging up the system. What does a lawyer know about repairing infrastructure? What does an MBA know about triage and sanitation for millions of displaced refugees? Strip away the bureaucrats and put real people into the roles that their skills and training suit them for. Make FEMA's chief a firefighter, or a doctor with trauma experience. Make the Homeland Security secretary a cop...or a soldier. These are the people we're entrusting with our safety before a disaster happens, and our recovery after a disaster happens.
If you consider hiring qualified managers and funding a government entity "restructuring", then I am for restructuring FEMA. The fact that five of the top eight directors had no experience whatsoever with emergency management (note that those are two of the most important words in the name "FEMA") is mind-boggling ... The second half of the problem is the amount of budget-cutting at FEMA in recent years, resulting in key, experienced personnel leaving or being laid off at that agency. If the tradeoff for the conservatives' version of "smaller" government is less effective government, I say it's not worth it, and will vote accordingly.
It seems to me the first major failing for the people of New Orleans was their city government. Perhaps if the city had a better response to the disaster in the first place things might have been better. Given the location of the city and the forecast for more destructive storms over the next several years, a centralized disaster center might be in order for the city. And the mayor should be out there helping his city instead of ranting about it on TV and radio.
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