GENERAL LIBBY TESTIFIES BEFORE SENATOR COLLINS’ COMMITTEE ON CAPITOL HILL
Libby Participates in Hearing to Discuss the Military’s Role in Disaster Response
Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, Chairman and Ranking Member respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today held a hearing to discuss the military’s role in disaster response and progress that has been made since Hurricane Katrina and the committee’s related investigation and report. Participating at today’s hearing was Major General John W. Libby, the Adjutant General for Maine National Guard and Commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.
In her opening statement to the Committee, Senator Collins said that Committee’s investigation into the government’s preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina revealed a lack of coordination among military headquarters in the early stages of response. The Committee’s report on Hurricane Katrina made seven specific recommendations for improving coordination between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, many of which were signed into law.
Senator Collins cited one area of improvement, which was recommended by the Committee, is that each of FEMA’s 10 regional branches now has a Defense Coordinating Officer in that region. During Senator Collins’ recent participation in the New England FEMA exercise, the observed greatly improved operating relationships and communication.
Senator Collins said, “We need not only better contingency planning, but a more aggressive, forward-leaning posture as identifiable threats emerge and requests for civil support can be anticipated. We need better training, exercising, and communication. We also need better protocols for handing Emergency Management Assistance Compact requests among states, better arrangements for federal and state command and coordination of units, and greater clarity on balancing a President’s ability to call on National Guard troops to restore order with preserving the states’ lead role in response.”
In his testimony before the Committee, General Libby explained that all disasters are local, so initial response must be local. He said that it is important to preserve the ability of state Governors to direct emergency response plans within their states. “Interagency coordination during the emergency response to national or manmade disasters at state level is inherent in the Governor’s constitutional roles and responsibilities,” said General Libby.
Also Testifying Before The Homeland Security Committee Today Were; Peter F. Verga, Acting Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Homeland Defense And Americas’ Security Affairs, U.S. Department Of Defense; General Victor E. Renuart Jr., USAF, Commander North American Aerospace Defense Command And U.S. Northern Command; Vice Admiral Roger T. Rufe, USCG (Ret.) Director, Office Of Operations Coordination U.S. Department Of Homeland Security; Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, USA, Chief, National Guard Bureau.