Following is a statement issued Thursday by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., in response to the Frances Townsend report on Katrina failures.
“The White House has produced what appears to be a thoughtful report that recognizes the manifold failures in the government’s response to Katrina and recommends significant changes in the way we respond to future disasters. I agree with many of its recommendations, but take issue with others. “For example, I don’t know that the recommendation for retooling the Homeland Security Department’s preparedness and response capabilities are bold enough or sufficiently recognize the massive failures by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security during and after Katrina. “The report recommends a review of and improvement to communications equipment used during a catastrophe. I couldn’t agree more. However, the Administration’s rhetoric does not match its reality. Since 2004, the Administration has cut grants to first responders – the primary funding source for state and locals to purchase interoperable communications equipment – by a whopping 50 percent. “Similarly, the Administration has cut a program that gives state and local officials on-site technical expertise to help them achieve interoperability from $20 million in Fiscal Year 2004 to $5 million in Fiscal Year 2007. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be providing more of this type of assistance, not less. Chairman Collins and I have passed such legislation out of our Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and we urge the Administration to support it. “Finally, a report that only makes future recommendations and does not assess responsibility for past failures is, by its nature, incomplete. Only a full understanding of what went wrong and who was responsible will enable us to correct our path for the future. That is what I expect the Senate report to do. I look forward to working with Fran Townsend and the Administration to make our homeland security as good as we need it to be.”