- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

FEMA and New Orleans

The Washington Times’ March 14 editorial “Cutting Gulf Coast bureaucracy” fails to mention the many recent actions Louisiana and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have taken to expedite recovery. FEMA and the state of Louisiana held a partnership meeting last month that addressed many of Mayor Ray Nagin’s concerns. We agreed that bureaucracy needs to be cut at all levels of government, and we have acted.

In Orleans Parish, FEMA has obligated more than $2.3 billion for eligible infrastructure and publicly owned buildings for repair or replacement. FEMA has extended the deadline to pay for the demolition of eligible structures, and, with the state, improved the public-assistance appeals process. The state has initiated its Express Pay System to streamline payouts for FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, cutting the wait time for local applicants to between 10 and 14 days versus 60 days.

FEMA and the state jointly shared information to expedite Road Home funding to residents living in travel trailers. We also designed an efficient approach to conducting environmental and historical property reviews. Additionally, FEMA funded a technical expert to help the city design a 21st-century, state-of-the-art criminal justice complex. Unfortunately, FEMA dollars cannot fund the entire project, but the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is committed to working with the city to find an alternate funding source. It takes all of us, city, state and federal partners, working together to fund complex projects such as this.

New Orleans is the only municipality where the LRA has embedded two staff members to quickly solve problems as the city moves through its recovery.

We share Mr. Nagin’s concern for the pace of the recovery in New Orleans, and we remain committed to working with the mayor and leaders across Louisiana to facilitate rebuilding. As we stated when we announced our renewed partnership, FEMA and the state will continue to focus our efforts with the city to identify problems and attack them together.

JIM STARK

Director

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Gulf Coast Recovery Office

New Orleans

PAUL RAINWATER

Director

Louisiana Recovery Authority

Baton Rouge

‘Laissez-faire’ begat Katrina

I am by no means a conservative politically, but it’s nice to have a newspaper such as The Washington Times do the kind of objective reporting found in Christina Bellantoni’s article “Katrina victims ‘pray’ for help” (Page 1, Thursday). Unfortunately, the Bush administration’s laissez-faire philosophy of not allowing government to take a proactive stance results in this type of failure when a tragedy occurs.

It took far too long for the president to finally visit the flooded area after Hurricane Katrina damaged New Orleans. The government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers — no one had any power to prevent or try to fix the mess in New Orleans. Why? Because under this administration, government is best when it governs least.

Judeo-Christian thought says the powers that be are supposed to make the world a better place — known as “tikkun olam” in Hebrew. Yes, voluntary and private groups are doing a lot to repair the gutted homes and infrastructure. But what about the government, with all its expertise and brainpower? I guess we’ll have to wait for the next administration to figure that out, hopefully with a president who gets the job done as the crisis is occurring rather than waiting until five days later, to the consternation of the American people.

SAUL SCHILDHORN

Delray Beach, Fla.

Fallon’s fall

Michael Barone demonstrates a profound ignorance of the U.S. military officer corps and a shallow inability to get beyond the trite civil-military platitudes of the past (“Importance of Fallon’s fall,” Commentary, Tuesday).

First, his oblique claim that military officers, possessed of graduate degrees from liberal (by definition) educational institutions, have thereby become increasingly liberal is preposterous on its face. Anyone who has spent appreciable time around military officers today, especially those of senior rank, knows how nearly universal their conservative and Republican preferences are.

More to the point, in characterizing Adm. William Fallon’s infelicitous outspokenness as insubordination, Mr. Barone overlooks the hidden quid pro quo of civilian control and political neutrality: In return for their silent compliance, those in uniform have every right to receive (and even demand) strategically sound direction (unsullied by ulterior partisan political motives) from strategically literate civilian overlords. Absent such strategic competence, the tacit social contract has been broken — by the civilians. That should call into play the other imperative for the military, almost totally ignored by the self-proclaimed experts on civil-military relations who presume to dispense canonical wisdom: The military should be expected to serve as an institutional check and balance to counter strategic illiteracy and incompetence as well as militaristic impetuosity from their civilian masters. GREGORY D. FOSTER

Professor

National Defense University

Washington

Archbishop Wuerl and illegal immigration

In his interview, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl made the following innocuous comments about illegal immigration: “… they are here, their children are American citizens, and they are part of our family,” he said. “Is the next step some sort of regularizing of their situation or a collection of these people to deport them? Those are questions to be resolved by people we elect. But while they are resolving them, we have to keep in mind that these are human beings. If you say, should we round up all 10 to 12 million people simply because they are here and deport them? I do not think that is a humane answer” (“Wuerl eyes humanity for illegals,” Nation, March 14).

Yet, he was vilified in letters (“The archbishop and illegals,” Tuesday) even to the point of one writer drawing an analogy between the Nazi invasion of Poland and Hispanic immigrants. Another writer, claiming to be Roman Catholic but ignoring the charity required by the Gospels, through some illogic had the Vatican trying to run our affairs. Then he blamed the archbishop for immigration problems.

The archbishop didn’t cause this decades-old problem. Politicians did so by failing to maintain the integrity of our border, which is an invitation to enter the United States illegally. The archbishop correctly states that the children of illegal immigrants are U.S. citizens. They can’t be deported. Trying to deport more than 10 million noncitizens, whose presence here we bear some responsibility for, would be chaotic for the United States. It is not practical, and our government — which so far can’t even control the border — is incapable of effecting such a massive deportation.

The archbishop is a pastor. He is following God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and his neighbor is anyone he can help with spiritual and material nourishment. Our elected representatives must secure our borders and leave law-abiding immigrants alone, allowing them to assimilate over time as other immigrants have.

JOHN NAUGHTON

Silver Spring

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