WASHINGTON – A White House report concluded Thursday that inexperienced disaster response managers and a lack of planning, discipline and leadership contributed to vast federal failures during Hurricane Katrina.
The 228-page report by White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend urges changes in 11 key areas — mainly in better disaster relief coordination among federal agencies — before the next hurricane season begins June 1.
It also found "significant flaws" in the Homeland Security Department 's national response plan, a blueprint for action the government is supposed to follow during emergencies.
"Hurricane Katrina was a deadly reminder that we can and must do better, and we will," Townsend wrote in a letter to Bush accompanying the report.
"This is the first and foremost lesson we learned from the death and devastation caused by our country's most destructive natural disaster: No matter how prepared we think we are, we must work every day to improve," she said.
Townsend wrote that the changes proposed by the report "will require a sustained commitment over time by the federal government as well as by state and local governments that have essential duties in responding to disasters."
Bush ordered the "lessons learned" review days after the Aug. 29 storm revealed federal disaster response gaps that kept the government from quickly sending relief to the devastated Gulf Coast. More than 1,300 Gulf Coast residents died after Katrina hit, and hundreds of thousands more were forced from their destroyed homes.
The report says that despite people and resources sent to the storm-struck area after it hit, "the response to Hurricane Katrina fell far short of the seamless, coordinated effort that had been envisioned by President Bush" when he ordered the government to craft disaster response plans two years earlier.
"We are not as prepared as we need to be at all levels within the country: federal, state, local and individual," the report said.