Bush Forgets Lessons of Hurricane Katrina

In the wake of the federal government’s ineptly-administered response to Katrina, President Bush pledged, “This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.

One of the key lessons learned was that the Department of Homeland Security needed to better balance its spending between being better prepared for natural disasters and preventing potential future terrorist attacks. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

[T]he country’s obsession with terrorism has left it vulnerable to other disasters“¦ many believe that unreasonable fears borne from the Sept. 11 attacks drove the country, and its leaders, to overreact to the terrorist threat and divert precious resources from the near-certain catastrophes of nature.

The criticism prompted Secretary Chertoff to respond: “I’ll tell you my philosophy, since I guess it’s my responsibility now. I think we have to plan for both, because I think they’re both mutually reinforcing.” [CNN, 9/3/05]

President Bush missed an opportunity yesterday to demonstrate a renewed commitment to both priorities. In remarks after signing the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Bush made not even a single mention of the administration’s commitment to being better prepared for a natural disaster (read his full statement here).

The White House fact sheet distributed along with the President’s remarks demonstrate clearly that the administration was most concerned with demonstrating its commitment to defending the homeland and trumpeting its efforts on immigration. (Recall, immigration was also Bush’s topic of conservation in his call to Chertoff while Katrina was making landfall).

It appears the government still hasn’t learned the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.