- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday delivered a back-handed slap at one of his own agencies, warning it should not allow bureaucratic red tape to tie up emergency victims.

Mr. Chertoff, who listed the department’s response to Hurricane Katrina as one of the “transformative experiences” for the agency, said that while the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been “retooled,” there is “a lot more work to do.”

The secretary noted that there are still “tens of thousands of people suffering the lingering effects” of the hurricane, and added that FEMA must take care not to “become so enmeshed in its own bureaucratic processes” that it ignores the needs of those victims.

A federal judge in the District on Wednesday called the Bush administration’s handling of a Katrina housing program “a legal disaster.” Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that FEMA mishandled the program, violating the constitutional rights of as many as 5,500 storm victims.

Mr. Chertoff told George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute he wanted to sum up lessons learned and to look forward to the next two years.

Mr. Chertoff listed his broad goals and priorities for the coming year as: protecting America against dangerous people and things; making sure critical infrastructure is “sufficiently hardened” to reduce vulnerability; building 21st century response capabilities, and unifying his department “into a seamless whole.”

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi promised that Democrats in the new year will take even stronger steps on homeland security.

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