Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Walker Blames Chertoff for Slow Response to Katrina

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff underestimated the scope of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and didn't offer federal assistance quickly enough to the Gulf Coast region, the head of the Government Accountability Office said.

Comptroller General David Walker said today that Chertoff should have appointed an official to direct the federal response before the storm hit Aug. 29 because the National Hurricane Center had forecast that Katrina would be powerful.

After the hurricane made landfall, Chertoff failed to label it a ``catastrophic event,'' which would have required a faster and more comprehensive federal effort to help overwhelmed state and local governments, he said in Washington.

Federal officials, including Chertoff, ``did not act decisively or quickly enough to determine the catastrophic nature of the incident,'' he said in prepared remarks. ``The federal posture was generally to wait for the affected states to request assistance.''

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