A decision by the Bush administration to rewrite in secret the nation’s emergency response blueprint has angered state and local emergency officials, who worry that Washington is repeating a series of mistakes that contributed to its bungled response to Hurricane Katrina nearly two years ago.
State and local officials in charge of responding to disasters say that their input in shaping the National Response Plan was ignored in recent months by senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials, despite calls by congressional investigators for a shared overhaul of disaster planning in the United States.
“In my 19 years in emergency management, I have never experienced a more polarized environment between state and federal government,” said Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma‘s emergency management chief and president of a national association of state emergency managers.
The national plan is supposed to guide how federal, state and local governments, along with private and nonprofit groups, work together during emergencies. Critics contend that a unilateral approach by Washington produced an ill-advised response plan at the end of 2004 — an unwieldy, 427-page document that emphasized stopping terrorism at the expense of safeguarding against natural disasters.